Harison Heights Celebrates 15 Years of Assisted Living for People With Disabilities

IMG_9167For the past 15 years, Mike Stahl has called Harison Heights home.

The traumatic brain injury survivor spends his days enjoying time with his friends, taking walks, playing pool and going on outings. His family enjoys the fact that Mike can lead an independent life but with medical and other support available should he require it. “My mother and I had looked at Harison Heights when it was just opening, and it was just an ideal situation,” said Barbara Kiernan, Mike’s sister.

Mike is one of the facility’s longest residents–but Harison Heights, which is celebrating 15 years this year, remains the only place in the CSRA that offers assisted living designed specifically for people with disabilities.

“In the framework of long-term living, our society has made arrangements for people who are aging or for people who have mental health disabilities, but there’s often not anything specific for people with physical disabilities,” said Beth Miller, Vice President of Harison Heights and Walton Community Services, part of the Walton Foundation for Independence.  “Harison Heights bridges that gap by providing independent living for people with disabilities but also staff with the specific knowledge, oversight and interventions to support this population.”

Licensed as a personal care home, Harison Heights has 15 supported living suites as well as 9 independent living apartments. Care is tailored to each individual resident, who can choose the amount of assistance needed.

Community support, though, continues to be a need. Harison Heights is funded through resident fees as well as monies raised through the Walton Foundation for Independence. Donations ensure that the facility is maintained; support daily activities of the residents, including recreational therapy staff, equipment and more; and help the facility grow. Miller’s future plans include expansion of the facility as well as growing the adaptive recreation program from  five to seven days a week. “It’s all about improving quality of life,” said Miller, “and for the people that live here, Harison Heights increases their quality of life.”

However, those with disabilities in the state of Georgia face a major challenge due to changes in regulations that have limited funding available for this population to get assistance at facilities like Harison Heights. “Through the years, we’ve had a lot of hoops we’ve had to jump through to continue treating this population,” said Miller. She is hopeful that one day, with the help of private donors, the facility might be able to offer a scholarship program to provide some assistance.

In the meantime, she and her staff continue to work diligently to lobby for the best care for people with physical disabilities. Mike, for example, had surgery last year due to breathing issues, and limitations in his insurance meant that he would have to go to a nursing home after his discharge. Miller and her team negotiated with his insurance company and made the provisions to bring him back home to Harison Heights. “Let me tell you, it was awesome,” said Kiernan. “I just can’t thank them enough. With a week of being back at Harison Heights, he was eating again and just his old self. What wonderful people—they love Mike and they wanted him back.”

“I can’t say enough about Harison Heights,” Kiernan added. “It’s done wonders for our family.”

 

For more information about living at Harison Heights, call 706-733-9557. To make a donation to support Harison Heights’ 15th anniversary, visit www.waltonfoundation.net or call 706-826-5809.