Release: Purchase of Handicap Accessible Van Improves Access to Social Skill Development in Hillsdale County for People with Disabilities December 9, 2019 Hillsdale, Mich. – Hillsdale County’s Community Mental Health Services Program – purchased a handicap accessible van for grassroots organization St. Paul’s Ability Resource Center (SPARC), fulfilling one of the Hillsdale County Mental Health Millage promises. Transportation has been one of the biggest barriers to social interaction for youth and adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, especially in rural Hillsdale County. The purchase of this van allows consumers to get out and fully participate in their community. SPARC and LifeWays celebrated this important accomplishment with a ribbon cutting on Sunday, December 8, 2019 at 2pm at SPARC, 68 Waldron St, Hillsdale, MI 49242. The public was invited to this event which was followed with the annual Christmas Party including pizza, pop and cookies to decorate. Through consumer surveys, LifeWays found that 65% of people with an Intellectual or Developmental Disability are spending 98% of their time in their homes and 76% would like to see more activities and programs. “We are proud to support social skill development and community integration for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by expanding on a grassroots program, like SPARC, in Hillsdale County,” says Maribeth Leonard, LifeWays CEO. The van was purchased at Stillwell Ford and outfitted with a wheelchair lift by Mobility Works. It can configure to accommodate 9 mobile consumers and 2 additional consumers in wheelchairs. Events and activities at SPARC include cooking classes, art classes, physical fitness classes, gardening, bible study, game night, and seasonal parties like the Christmas Party. Tammy Ryan, Director of SPARC, says, “We plan to start with two routes throughout Hillsdale County. We may expand after we gather more data. Consumers can also call (517) 797-1227 to schedule a ride.” ### LifeWays Community Mental Health LifeWays Community Mental Health provides mental health support, information, and services to residents of Jackson and Hillsdale counties. LifeWays ensures that all county residents who have a severe mental illness, emotional disturbance, intellectual or developmental disability, or substance use disorder receive the services they need to assist them in recovery. For more information, visit LifeWaysCMH.org. Hope and help begin at LifeWays Community Mental Health. St. Paul’s Ability Resource Center (SPARC) SPARC is the community name for the 501(c)3 HOPE for Developmental Disabilities. SPARC began in 2006 and provides programs and support for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.