Ruth Thompson is the Executive Director of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois. She received her M.A. in Sociology from Marshall University in Huntington West Virginia, focusing on the sociology of medicine and health care delivery systems. Her thesis centered on Medicaid-funded home and community based services in West Virginia. She was a senior services specialist with the State of West Virginia, Bureau of Senior Services and later provided technical assistance to the state on Medicaid policy and research issues. She has provided technical assistance to small rural communities in building their capacity to access and address health care and housing needs.
Ruth has been engaged in volunteerism on a personal level by working with homeless shelters and community initiatives wherever she’s lived. Current volunteer activities include engaging citizens in Rushville Illinois through Exercise Rushville, a free, summer-long community exercise and nutrition initiative. Over the four years since she began the initiative, thousands of volunteer hours have been donated by health care professionals, coaches and interested citizens to make this summer program a success.
Another volunteer initiative that Ruth is particularly proud of is the Rushville Housing Committee. This group of citizens began working together five years ago by conducting a community housing needs assessment which enabled them to identify and address housing needs in their community. They developed a work plan based upon the needs assessment and have partnered with social service organizations to write grants in excess of 2 million dollars to assist low-income homeowners in bringing their homes up to health and safety standards and to build a 15-unit supportive housing for the elderly project. This committee regularly makes recommendations to the City Council in Rushville and in October, 2012 will be awarded The Governor’s Award for Unique Achievement.
The organization that she heads is a very bottom-up grass roots organization which engages people with disabilities in activities to enhance their ability to be full participants in the communities where they live. Regional directors and local action teams identify and mobilize around local issues of concern to people with disabilities. Activities include addressing ADA noncompliance, engaging in public life by participating in local committees, councils and boards and recognizing businesses and organizations, including local governments who are disability friendly.
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