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Community Options celebrates 33 years of supporting people with disabilities

Photo courtesy of Community Options
Robert Stack (center), founder of Community Options.

Community Options, Inc., a leading national nonprofit organization supporting people with disabilities, is celebrating its 33rd anniversary.

Robert Stack, who was 33 years old at the time, founded Community Options in 1989, leading a social movement in the United States: the deinstitutionalization of people with disabilities, according to a statement provided by the organization.    

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The national headquarters is located in Princeton. There are offices in every county across the state, and in a number of states across the country.

The anniversary is Feb. 9.

“It is with sincere gratitude that I offer my congratulations to Community Options for 33 years of service to our state and our nation. The incredible work they have accomplished, coupled with their continued commitment to equality and inclusiveness, will impact generations of New Jerseyans,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in the statement. “The tireless advocacy displayed by Community Options to ensure that those with disabilities receive equal accommodation and treatment is a service for which we are forever indebted.” 

Stack opened the first three community-based homes for people with disabilities leaving New Jersey institutions.

Today, with a budget of $300 million, Community Options operates over 600 small homes nationally with more than 5,500 employees, emancipating over 4,600 people from large institutions, according to the statement.

In the late 1970s, nearly 200,000 Americans with disabilities lived in state run-institutions where they were warehoused, segregated, abused, neglected and experimented upon, all while being deprived of necessities, according to the statement.

Community Options advocated along with parents, educators, justice officials, and people with disabilities to demand appropriate community supports. 

“Not long ago, the prevailing social belief was that institutions were the best possible place for people with disabilities,” Colleen Wieck, executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council of Developmental Disabilities, said in the statement. “Community Options’ groundbreaking work proved that belief wrong.” 

As Community Options developed housing and employment opportunities, the population of people in state institutions decreased by more than 87%. Changes in the quality of life for people with disabilities who exited institutions were overwhelmingly positive, according to the statement.  

With more than 650,000 people with disabilities on waiting lists, Community Options will continue to promote inclusion and integration of people with disabilities. 

For more information about Community Options, visit www.comop.org. 

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