A pilot program to improve wellness among people with developmental disabilities in Bloomington-Normal is showing significant benefits.
Laura Beavers, the behavioral health program manager at the McLean County Health Department, said the program has 40 clients of Marcfirst who have been attending the Advocate BroMenn Health and Fitness Center for the last seven months.
"So far we have seen about a 60 percent drop in cholesterol rates, heart rates and so forth, increased mobility, decreased ER visits, reduction in weight and circumference, all high cost areas," said Beavers.
The three-year pilot program is supposed to gather data to determine whether continuing and expanding it will reduce medical expenses in the Twin Cities.
Beavers said people with disabilities tend to die 25 years earlier than average, and they tend to have higher instances of chronic conditions such as heart disease than the general population.
Beavers cited a woman with cerebral palsy as a case in point.
"This one individual we are working with did say, 'My goal is that I can walk some day.' And within seven months, she is up and walking on crutches. Those are opportunities that she didn't have previously," said Beavers.
Vern McGinnis heads the 377 Board, which oversees programs for those with disabilities. McGinnis said private fundraising will be needed to scale up the effort.
He said the persistence of the people in the program is also remarkable. About 40 percent of people who join a fitness center drop out in the first three months. McGinnis said no one has dropped out of this program. Beavers credited Marcfirst for that and said there is also a clear improvement in the mental health and socialization of the people in the program.
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