“We can help people with any type of disability, it doesn’t matter the disability or the age,” said Stacy Johnston, the independent living coordinator for the nonprofit Active Re-Entry.
Active Re-Entry is a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities “achieve or maintain self-sufficient and productive lives in their own communities and home,” according to their website.
Sometimes that looks like a major home renovation, installing a wheelchair ramp or placing grab bars in a shower, Johnston said. Other times, it might be as simple as temporarily loaning someone crutches while they recover from an accident or a surgery.
In Moab, Active Re-Entry helped local Regina Franklin obtain a motorized mobility scooter five years ago. The scooter is equipped for “all-terrain” driving, so she can use it outside.
“It’s like a compact 4-wheeler,” Franklin said. Franklin referred to the different speed settings on the scooter. “It can get up to 9 miles an hour on the rabbit, and 6 miles on the turtle,” she said.
“It is really cute,” said Franklin.
Recently, Johnston made a follow-up visit to Franklin and asked if she needed anything, and that’s when Franklin requested a power lift chair to help her stand. The organization was able to completely pay for both the scooter and the chair.
Franklin said both items have helped her to continue living on her own.
“They are so helpful, so very helpful,” Franklin said of the two items.
Seven counties in eastern Utah, including Grand County, are served by the Price office of Active Re-Entry. Under that leadership, smaller geographic areas are served by Centers for Independent Living (CIL).
These “grassroots” units are required to provide four core services: “systems and individual advocacy, peer support, independent living skills, training and information referral,” according to the website. They can also go beyond those services and offer many programs including support groups, youth activity programs and events.
Johnston said the organization can give quite a broad range of assistance; if someone has a need stemming from a temporary or chronic disability, it’s worth reaching out to Active Re-Entry about whatever that need is.
“It’s a huge span when you say ‘disability.’ As long as that person has a disability, we’re able to help them,” she said.
Right now she is working on getting a ramp constructed to give easier access to a home in Moab.
Johnston, a Moab native, started working at Active Re-Entry only recently. She said the position is a good fit for her. She has experience caring for people, having helped her sister manage breast cancer and cared for her elderly grandfather. She also gained personal insight into managing disability when she blew out her knee and had to get surgery.
“I never thought I’d be the one scared to cross the street because of a disability,” she said, but found herself in just that position during her recovery.
“I had to re-learn how to walk and had to use special braces and I had to be on crutches for a long time,” she recalled. “I think it just opened my eyes to being able to help someone with a disability.”
The organization had gone dormant in Grand County while they looked for a new CIL coordinator; Johnston said she is excited to get the program running again, even though the coronavirus pandemic has made things complicated.
“About the time I started is about the time COVID-19 hit, so I had to adjust,” said Johnson.
Gregarious and outgoing, Johnston said she was spreading the word about the organization with people she met spontaneously while out in town.
“I like to talk to people face to face, so that’s really hard for me to not be in the stores,” she said. “I would see older people in the store and give them my business card. Now that has changed a little bit. It’s a little harder to get out there.”
Johnston is especially eager to advertise Active Re-Entry’s services now, as the organization has new funding specifically earmarked to help people with disabilities who are affected by COVID-19. She said applications for Active Re-Entry services have actually picked up since the pandemic has set in.
“It’s kind of crazy because I thought things would move slower, but they’re moving faster,” she said.
The Moab Active Re-Entry office is located at 285 S. 400 East. Johnston can be reached at 435-719-1133 or firstname.lastname@example.org.