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Finding a New Home outside an ICF

Chris Rupinsky's life has "changed dramatically," his mom says.

After complications at birth, he was rushed to a neonatal clinic where he experienced seizures. Two weeks after birth, he was permitted to go home to his parents, George and Barb. "We knew he would have difficulties, but thought he would catch up," Barb says. But after some time, it became apparent that Chris was going to need more help than most. "He has epilepsy, diabetes, anxiety, and anger issues."

Chris was in various schools throughout his adolescence, including Fairhaven School, administered by the Trumbull County Board of Developmental Disabilities. "The people that worked with him really made things good for him," Barb says. He was very active growing up; bowling every Saturday and involved in the Special Olympics. Now he loves to play baseball and dance. Once he became a young man, the family started to notice substantial anxiety and anger issues. His brother and sisters went off to college and were getting jobs, getting married, all while Chris was at home.

Chris Rupinsky sitting in a golf cart

"When the kids were gone, he was beside himself. He started acting out and was violent at times," Barb says. It was at this point that Chris told his parents, "I am getting an apartment."

Chris's aggressive behavior continued to escalate and became untenable when he lashed out at Barb.

"At that point in time, I knew something had to change," she says. They sought the advice of his SSA, and eventually there was an opening at an intermediate care facility (ICF) in Mahoning County. At the ICF, there were 10 men in a house, and it was a safe setting. He also attended a workshop.

"He knows it wasn't our dream for him," Barb says. A couple of years later, Chris moved into a new house with people who didn't interact with him as much. He had ups and downs for all seven years he lived in the ICF. "We did notice that he was not doing well. The kids noticed before we did. He was not himself, and his living situation was taking a turn for the worse. It just wasn't good."

Chris coped with this stress by becoming angry and shouting words Barb says she won't repeat. "He had never done that before." Things continued to decline during the summer of 2015. George and Barb started keeping a notebook that summer, and recently revisited some of the entries. "I forgot how bad it was."

When Barb visited Chris at the ICF and learned that he had two major psychotic episodes -- first thought to be grand-mal seizures -- Barb became determined to change his living situation and started making phone calls.

Members of the Medicaid team at the Department of Developmental Disabilities coordinated with the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) to draft some options for Chris. During the process, DODD offered Chris an exit waiver. Then, everything kicked into high gear. Chris and his family chose a provider and started looking for places for him to live.

"I got a message from the provider that they may have a place for Chris. George and I are just looking at each other," Barb says. "It's a beautiful apartment complex. It's clean and roomy. And it's going to be Chris's apartment. Chris was just so happy. His provider asked if he liked it, and Chris replied, 'I love it. Where's my car?'" Chris now lives in that apartment, where his favorite things are his kitchen, living room, and vacuum. "He is very proud that he has his own apartment."

His outbursts still occur, but with less severity and frequency, and Barb and George are in the process of setting up behavior therapy for Chris. Overall though, his behavior and interactions with his family have greatly improved while being at his apartment. "I'm happy now," Chris says.

Chris Rupinsky dancing in his new apartment

Update since the article was written: Chris had intensive evaluations at The Cleveland Clinic, and he continues his road to improvement.

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