June 7

Supportive Living: A Wonderful Model that Other States Might Want to Follow

By Rick Banas of Gardant Management Solutions

When it comes to government creating an innovate program that works so well on many different levels, Illinois probably does not rank anywhere close to the top of the list. States such as California, Oregon, or Massachusetts are much more likely to come to mind.

Yet, it was Illinois that had the foresight more than 25 years ago to create the Supportive Living program.

The Illinois Supportive Living program was the brainchild of Wayne Smallwood, who was then head of the Illinois Department of Public Aid (now Healthcare and Family Services). The state was in the midst of a budget crisis and Wayne looked and found that there were a lot of people on Medicaid in nursing homes that did not need to be in a nursing home. What they needed was some help to maintain their independence – someone available to assist with activities of daily living; someone to help them with their medications; someone to prepare meals, provide housekeeping, do their laundry. Assisted living would have been a much better option, but they lacked the financial resources to pay the monthly fee.

The outcome was the Supportive Living program.

The first Supportive Living community opened in Beardstown, Illinois in 1999. Today, there are more than 150 Supportive Living communities in more than 70 Counties throughout the State. You will find communities that serve adults 65 and older; communities that serve adults with disabilities 22 to 64 at time of occupancy; communities that are specially designed for individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia; and two communities that serve individuals who are blind or have visual impairment.

Gardant manages 40 of the Supportive Living communities. The communities we manage are located throughout the State, from the inner City of Chicago to the surrounding suburbs, and cities and towns in northern, central, and southern Illinois.

We have communities that serve individuals of all incomes and communities that primarily or exclusively serve those who qualify as low-income.

The emphasis of the Supportive Living program is on personal choice, dignity, privacy, and individuality. The program is a WIN – WIN – WIN – WIN for residents, their families, the state and federal governments, and for taxpayers.


The Illinois Supportive Living program is a WIN for residents.

The program provides a wonderful alternative to struggling alone at home or to living in a nursing home. Residents can enjoy living in a residential environment, with private apartments that feature kitchenettes, spacious bathrooms with shower and grab bars, emergency alert system, and individually-controlled heat and air conditioning. Residents can furnish and decorate their apartment to their taste. In addition, there are a wealth of community areas for residents to enjoy.

Staff is on-duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide personal assistance and help residents with their scheduled and unscheduled needs.

In addition, residents benefit from all of the opportunities that are available to socialize with family, friends, and neighbors and to participate in social, recreational, educational, and wellness activities and events.


The Supportive Living program is a WIN for the families of residents,

Families benefit from knowing their loved one is living in an environment where they are getting the personal assistance, help with medications, and support services needed to maintain their independence.

State and Federal Governments

The Supportive Living program is a WIN for the state and federal governments.

Financially, the Supportive Living program saves the state and the federal governments money. For individuals on Medicaid, the cost for services is split between the federal and state governments. The cost for services for an individual on a Medicaid-waiver in a Supportive Living community is considerably less than the cost of nursing home care.

The state and federal governments also benefit in other ways. The risk of an emergency room visit, hospitalization, or having to move to a nursing home, for instance, is much less . . .

if they are living in an environment that is much more appropriate than living in a nursing home;

if they are getting the help they need to be sure they are taking their medications when they should;

if they are getting the nutrition they need and not trying to figure out if they can afford food or medications;

if wellness programs can reduce the risk of falling;

if they are benefitting from socialization that more and more research is showing is a key factor to healthy aging.

The program also helps the state in the effort to rebalance nursing home care with Home and Community-Based Services.


The Supportive Living program is a WIN for us as taxpayers.

We benefit as the cost to the federal and state governments for Medicaid residents in a Supportive Living community is much less than the cost of nursing home care.

As a taxpayer, I also love how the program is structured. For a person to qualify as a resident of a Supportive Living community, the individual must be able to pay privately or qualify financially for Medicaid. Prospective Medicaid residents also must undergo a health screening and show that they have enough of a need but not too much of a need for Supportive Living.

If a resident has assets above the amount required to qualify for Medicaid, they are required to spend down those assets as a private pay resident. Only if and when assets have been diminished below the amount needed to qualify for Medicaid will the State begin picking up the tab for services. If the resident has income in addition to the designated Supplemental Social Security Income amount, the resident will be obligated to pay the community the additional amount as a personal portion and the reimbursement received from the State will be reduced accordingly. As such, financial assistance is only provided to the extent needed by a resident.

In Conclusion

The Illinois Supportive Living program is a wonderful model for affordable assisted living, creating Wins for residents, families, state and local governments, and taxpayers. The program benefits those of all incomes, especially low-income older adults and adults with disabilities.

It is a model other states should consider.

For more information about the Illinois Supportive Living program, click here https://www2.illinois.gov/hfs/MedicalPrograms/slf/Pages/default.aspx

To learn more about Gardant and the Supportive Living, assisted living, and memory care communities Gardant operates, click on www.gardant.com

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