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Public forum seeking input on independent living plan will be today

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North country residents will have the opportunity this week to provide input for the state’s 2014-16 independent living plan.

The forum will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Thursday outside the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living office at 210 Court St.

“It’s like a big brain-storming session,” said Suzanne M. Morrow, NRCIL independent living advocate. “The more ideas they’re provided with,the more information they take back and make decisions about what the needs are.”

Representatives from the state Independent Living Council will listen to the discussion and needs of the north country, she said, to help the state put together its independent living plan for 2014-16. The public hearing is one of four the state council is hosting throughout the state this month.

“With the right input, it could put more dollars in the local communities and the independent living center to provide more services here in Jefferson County,” Ms. Morrow said.

Brenda S. Campany, NRCIL executive director, said the state plan for independent living is a document that gets submitted to the federal government for funding. Once approved, money is eventually filtered down to independent living centers to help put on programs and services, or purchase supplies and materials.

Ms. Morrow said often there is a lot of input from larger cities, but “there is also a need in more rural areas that don’t always get addressed at these larger forums.”

Such needs throughout the north country include general accessibility and transportation, among others.

“One of the issues I’d like to address at the meeting would maybe be if we can’t transport people to the center here, say for support group meetings, to send someone from our center into the community so people are able to attend and get the support that they need,” she said. “Some other issues that’ll probably be addressed are housing — affordable housing for people with disabilities. People with disabilities are on a fixed income, usually.”

Mrs. Campany said it’s important for the general public to attend the meeting, not just people with disabilities, so the council can have a well-rounded idea of what’s here and needed in the north country.

“Everyone is going to come in contact at some point in their life with someone that has a disability,” she said. “It’s good business because we live among people with disabilities. It gives a more valid basis, we hope, for ideas that go into this plan.”

She said a sign language interpreter will be available at the meeting.

Once all input is received by the council, it will work on a formal 2014-16 state independent living plan. Mrs. Campany said the document is expected late next year.

For more information, visit the council’s website at www.nysilc.org.

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