JESPY House, a nonprofit organization that enables adults with learning and developmental disabilities to lead independent lives, received a grant of $193,388 from The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey for its Aging in Place Initiative.

This new grant will help strengthen, expand, and integrate services and supports for older adults with learning and developmental disabilities to enable them to age in place within JESPY House’s client-centered, community-based setting in South Orange, NJ.  Dedicated resources provided by this grant will help JESPY to address the changing health and wellness needs of men and women ages 45 and older by:

  • increasing awareness about potential age-related health issues and the importance of healthy behaviors;

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  • improving the timeliness and responsiveness of interventions, especially for those with dual diagnoses (learning/developmental disabilities and mental illness);

  • reducing the frequency of crisis situations and minimizing hospital visits and stays;

  • increasing physical activity and mobility; and

  • encouraging greater social interaction and community engagement

Adults with learning and intellectual disabilities are living significantly longer than in previous generations.  Yet they are more likely to experience poorer health and earlier onset of age-related conditions (e.g., osteoporosis, diabetes) than non-disabled adults.  

These adults are also at high risk (an estimated 30+%) of co-occurring mental illness – or ‘dual  diagnosis’ – likely caused or aggravated by biological factors related to their disability and social factors like exclusion and isolation. However, many caregivers and direct service staff and professionals lack knowledge and experience in dual diagnoses, and behavioral and communication challenges that can hinder proper diagnosis and treatment.

At JESPY House, 40% of clients are 45-70 years old, two-thirds of whom have been at JESPY for 15+ years.  The organization has made a strong commitment to meeting the population’s changing needs in a community setting and to reaching new clients who have not sought services from JESPY before but who are requiring increased support as they age or when caregivers die or become incapacitated.

“The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey’s grant will allow JESPY House to put in place the professionals, systems and services that will enable our older clients to remain in the community they love and have lived in for decades. This full range of support services will help our clients to maintain their quality of life here where they feel secure and comfortable.  This is the true definition of Aging in Place for people with developmental disabilities”, stated Audrey Winkler, Executive Director of JESPY House. “We are honored to be the recipient of this very generous grant. We view this as a wonderful partnership with The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey which will position JESPY House as a leader in this specialized field.”

“The Healthcare Foundation is proud to be able to assist JESPY and its staff to increase their ability to work with the agency’s aging population.  The good news is that people with developmental and physical challenges are living longer and healthier lives due to advances in medicine and care.  That presents challenges, and JESPY is at the forefront in training its staff to meet those challenges and provide the best possible programs and care for its clients.  We are glad to help,” shared Marsha I. Atkind, Executive Director and CEO of The Healthcare Foundation of New Jersey.

Established 39 years ago, JESPY House is a nonprofit organization located in South Orange, NJ that enables adults with learning and developmental disabilities to achieve their full potential and to lead independent lives.  Its philosophy promotes choice, self-direction, and independent community living.

Today the agency provides services and supports to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of 250 clients (men and women ages 18-70), including: multi-tiered housing options for different levels of independence; work readiness, job training and employment support; structured day programs to foster socialization and develop life skills; clinical and behavioral health therapies; help with healthy meal planning, and recreation and cultural arts experiences.