New Path to Empowerment Program Focuses on Independent Living

LivAbility Magazine

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New Path to Empowerment Program Focuses on Independent Living

By Gus LaZear

Path to Empowerment, a new program developed by Ability360 and supported by the Nielsen Foundation and the National Council on Independent Living, will focus on helping youth and adults living with spinal cord injury transition into employment and independent living.

Any person with a spinal cord injury that has received services in a rehabilitation setting or clinic within the last 24 months and is in need of transitional services is
eligible to apply for the Path to Empowerment Program.

The program is comprised of three major services: Youth Transition, Reintegration from Nursing Home and Transition from Rehabilitation to Community Services.

The Transition from Rehabilitation to Community service offers both general resources and fitness and health-related resources. The program was created to help anyone struggling through a transition, as many with disabilities do at one point or another. The program is also directed toward those with a newer injury who are adjusting to a different lifestyle.

The Youth Transition service will focus on promoting employment for up to 30 youth who are currently receiving Social Security Disability benefits. Ten of these will be provided funds to help them with transportation or clothing costs that would assist them in finding employment.

The Reintegration from Nursing Home service will provide funds to consumers looking to transition into independent living or transitional homes from nursing homes. Monetary support would cover household goods and any other costs related to furnishing a residence. Ability360 offers its own transitional home, Mast
House, which is also included in the transitional home options.


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The final transition service, Transition from Rehabilitation to Community, provides peer counseling, survival guides, and other resources to newlyinjured consumers transitioning from rehabilitation back into the community. A subset of this service
will focus on teaching consumers how to stay active safely while reducing the chances of secondary conditions and re-entry into rehabilitation. Scholarships, transportation vouchers, fitness orientations and two personal training sessions are all included in the service.

We want people to be as independent as possible. This program will look at the barriers that anyone with an SCI going through a transition is facing, and will address those.

To apply for services listed above, contact:

Youth Transition Services (Benefits 2 Work)
Nicholas Love
(602) 443-0705
nicholasl@ability360.org

Reintegration from Nursing Home Services
Stacey Zimmerman
(602) 296-0534
staceyz@ability360.org

Mast House/Transition from Rehabilitation to Community (Early Intervention Program)
Don Price
(602) 443-0726
donp@ability360.org

Transition from Rehabilitation to Community (Sports & Fitness Center)
Brielle Carter
602-626-7250
briellec@ability360.org


Portrait: Gus LaZear

Gus LaZear
VP & General Manager,
Ability360 Sports & Fitness Center

LaZear’s background includes more than 18 years of experience managing major programs and initiatives in rehabilitative medicine, recreational therapy, outdoor adventures and other adaptive programming for people with disabilities. For the last six years, LaZear handled responsibilities as lead therapeutic recreational therapist at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix. LaZear earned a master’s of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Health Systems Management, from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation from California State University Northridge.