New Partnership to Improve Health of People with Disabilities

BLOOMINGTON — Forty-one McLean County residents with developmental disabilities have an opportunity to improve their health because of an innovative partnership of the McLean County Health Department, Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center and Marcfirst.

The one-year pilot program covers the cost of health assessments, customized training plans and guidance for 41 Marcfirst clients with disabilities at Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center in the Center for Integrated Wellness, 1111 Trinity Lane, Bloomington.

Since the program opened April 1 with individual health assessments, 40 of 41 adults eligible to participate in the pilot have enrolled.

“This is an amazing opportunity for people with disabilities to take ownership of their well-being,” said Laura Furlong, CEO of Marcfirst, which has programs for people with disabilities.

The health department and the McLean County Board for Care and Treatment of Persons with a Developmental Disability (377 Board) have been exploring wellness opportunities for people with developmental disabilities because research shows they are three times more likely to have heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer than people without disabilities, said Laura Beavers, health department behavioral health division manager.

In addition, people with a developmental disability die, on average, 25 years earlier than people without disabilities, Beavers said.

Many Marcfirst clients don’t have money to afford fitness center membership, Furlong said. So they need health assessments before they get their exercise prescriptions, training on equipment use and ongoing coaching, she said.

The health department decided to pilot a program with Marcfirst clients and approached Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center, which develops individualized, medically monitored fitness programs. Advocate BroMenn agreed, health assessments and fitness plans have been completed for 40 individuals and some have begun their workouts, Beavers and Furlong said.

Marcfirst staff, for now, are accompanying individuals to their workouts.

There is no charge to the individuals. For the first year, the 377 board is spending $40,339 from a tax levy designed for individuals with disabilities, Beavers said. In addition, Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center and Advocate Charitable Foundation “designed a program for us at an affordable cost,” Beavers said.

“We are so fortunate to have been selected to be a partner and provide services to Marcfirst residents,” said Center for Integrated Wellness Executive Director Catherine Porter. “This opportunity allows us to provide services that will truly affect the health and wellness of a special group of individuals in our community.”

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