Columnist Severo Avila is on vacation this week. This is part 2 of a column which began in Monday’s Rome News-Tribune.

Unable to feed herself in her condition, she recalled a period of three days during which she did not eat for lack of aid, despite routinely calling on the nurses for assistance. In most other cases, by the time anyone came to feed her, the meals — which piled up on the tray beside her — had long since become cold, and the aide did not care to warm them. When her daughter learned of the egregious circumstances Erna had been subjected to, she again called upon the state for help. Seeing as the nursing home was unfit to adjudicate the conditions of their own facility, the state responded by sending a judge and conducting more frequent inspections.

Erna laughed as she recounted an interview with a state inspector to whom she’d complained about the roach infestation and the rats residing under her roommate’s bed. Afterwards, “she started out the door,” Erna chuckled, “and a roach ran across the floor. She stepped on it,” yet not even a citation came of the inspection.

Around the thirteen month mark, Erna was informed that her insurance would no longer cover her care. The facility administrator had come into Erna’s room declaring that her insurance wasn’t paying, she’d booked her a motel room, and that Erna would be left with the responsibility of payment upon her arrival.

Despite having been repeatedly censured by the judge for having neglected their duty to help Erna find a new living arrangement, the nursing home ultimately provided nothing more than contact information for the NWGA Center for Independent Living. It was NWGACIL that provided her with the resources she needed to successfully transition back into her community.

With the funding the nonprofit receives, Independent Living Coordinators Jill Baldwin and Christopher Holcomb were able to get Erna assistive technology such as a sliding transfer bench, a power chair, and a smart lock for her front door, which allows her to unlock the door from her bed. The center also put Erna in contact with an aide who helps her out of bed every morning. Each of these technologies and services are vital to Erna’s ability to live actively in her community.

“I guess I’d known about Olmstead Decision for a while,” Erna said, “I just didn’t know the name.” The name Olmstead comes from Tommy Olmstead, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, who spoke in defense of the state in the case against Lois Curtis and later, Elaine Wilson. Both women lived with cognitive disabilities, and, though they could mostly function independently, a few needs unmet by their communities found them cycling through hospitals and homelessness. Their case asserted that to confine people with disabilities to institutions was discriminatory, and that the services necessary to keep such individuals out of these institutions should be offered within the community. This allows people like Erna to live freely and independently within their communities.

When asked what Olmstead meant to her and what people should know about the Olmstead Decision, Erna answered, “Someone stood up to have the right to be able to live independently ... I think people that have disabilities need to know that someone went to bat for them. (People without disabilities) need to know that these people can live out there just like they can.”

Mykah Knitig is with the NWGA Center for Independent Living, 527 Broad St., Suite 101, Rome, GA 30161. For information, call 706-314-0008.