Community Options Inc. celebrated 33 years of supporting people with disabilities on Feb. 9, receiving praise from officials around the country.
President and CEO Robert Stack founded the Princeton-based nonprofit organization in 1989, putting the group at the forefront of the deinstitutionalization movement. Stack was honored for his work last year by Force for Change NJ.
“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. “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.”
Community Options started out with the first three community-based homes for people with disabilities leaving New Jersey institutions. It now operates with a budget of $300 million and runs more than 600 small homes nationally, staffed by over 5,500 employees and housing more than 4,600 people who would otherwise be in large institutions. In addition to New Jersey, the organization also operates in Arizona, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Utah.
“Congratulations to Community Options for helping people with disabilities over the last 33 years,” said Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey. “Our state is a place where opportunity for all means just that. Thank you to Community Options for giving our state a tool to support individuals with disabilities to fulfill their housing and employment needs.”
The group said as it developed housing and employment opportunities, the population of people in state institutions decreased by more than 87%. “Not long ago, the prevailing social belief was that institutions were the best possible place for people with disabilities,” reflects Colleen Wieck, executive director of the Minnesota Governor’s Council of Developmental Disabilities. “Community Options’ groundbreaking work proved that belief wrong.”