As told by our Executive Director Geoff Lieberman
Irene Kaplan was front and center at CIAD for twenty years. She served as a board member, Vice President and President of the organization. Outspoken and unafraid, she represented residents at countless meetings with state policy makers and at press conferences and played a vital role at CIAD Policy Committee meetings strategizing CIAD campaigns. She also worked to build bridges between adult home residents and their peers in the community with her service as a member of the Advisory Committee for the Bureau of Recipient Affairs of the New York State Office of Mental Health.
Like many residents, she ended up in an adult home because of a cascading succession of misfortunes – illness, loss of her job and home, and deepening depression.
“Living in an adult home was supposedly a temporary solution to homelessness,” she said at a NYS Assembly Hearing, “Getting into an adult home is easy. But getting out can be nearly impossible.”
Her description of life in an adult home represents many residents’ experiences, “I had a roof over my head, but I was not allowed true self-reliance or independence. Everything was done for me. I had my own apartment for over twenty years and had always worked but I was treated as if I was completely helpless, talked down to, infantilized, and unable to think for myself. You are not encouraged to move forward. Over time, this cuts into your self-confidence and you begin to doubt your ability to start over again, especially when you have a mental illness. CIAD was a lifeline for me. Without them I would not have had a ray of hope.”
She gave back by giving others hope through her years of service.