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Almost Home Kids unveils Chicago site
by Erica Demarest, Windy City Times

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City children with special health needs have a new home to turn to after Almost Home Kids unveiled its Chicago facility Sept. 17 in a grand opening ceremony at the Ronald McDonald House, 211 E. Grand Ave.

Since 1999, Almost Home Kids has offered transitional help to children who need 24-hour medical care, such as breathing support or feeding tubes. Its new Streeterville location will join a Naperville retreat, which has served more than 800 children to date.

"What we did in Naperville was create a model that can be replicated anywhere," said Judith McLean, director of marketing and communications.

The 12-bed Chicago facility is expected to save Illinois $8 million per year, as it takes in children who are ready to be discharged from hospitals, but who cannot return home until special preparations are made. Short-term stopovers at Almost Home Kids are significantly cheaper than the extended hospital stays children would otherwise experience.

"In these tough budget times, that's going to help us redirect money so we can help more families," said Jack Lavin, chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn. "Parents want options for their children… They want [them] to have a chance to live in the community."

The sixth-floor Streeterville locale features vibrant murals, state-of-the-art equipment, sweeping skyline views, and a lengthy patio. The goal is to create a comfortable, home-like setting where children can feel at ease as parents practice the logistics of at-home care.

This is especially helpful, McLean said, for parents whose children have suffered recent gunshot wounds or traumatic accidents.

"The house has to be readied before a child comes back, and we can offer a similar set-up to how you'll have it at home," McLean said. "Maybe the oxygen in the hospital was in the wall, but you'll have a tank…. [That way] you're very comfortable with how you operate it."

Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans and Republican state Rep. Patti Bellock were on hand to congratulate Almost Home Kids.

"[Efforts like these] have really shifted the whole tenor of the conversation in Illinois to really provide home- and community-based settings," Steans said. "This is not an easy task… we have lots of reasons to preserve institutional care, and we need to be moving in another direction."

NBC-5's Dr. Sandy Goldberg emceed the event. Commissioner Karen Tamley from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities; Almost Home Kids President & CEO Deborah Grisko; and Board Chair Doug Truax offered remarks.

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