The History of
Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living

(last updated 03/17/2014)

Tri-County Partnership for Independent Living (TRIPIL) was a newly incorporated center formed in February, 1990, under funding from CIL State Appropriations.

The program effort first came into existence in 1984 as an Establishment Grant from the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation awarded to the Presbyterian Medical Center, Washington, PA. In 1985, the Medical Center terminated the project. Since the independent living philosophy preaches self-determination and empowerment, a medical or institutional setting generally regarded as an unworkable environment for an independent living center, and this was shown to be accurate.

A unique feature of independent living centers is that they are consumer-controlled. By legal statue, an independent living center must be free-standing and have over 51% of the board, management, and staff persons with disabilities.

July 1986

In July of 1986, the project and activities were revived as a satellite office of the Pittsburgh based Center for Independent Living of Southwestern Pennsylvania (CILSWPA). Local control of the program continued to be a primary objective. Tasks were undertaken during 1989-1990 to establish the center as a free-standing private, non-profit organization.

The primary funding was granted by the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Department of Labor and Industry, thought the award of state budget appropriations that were dedicated to the establishment of centers for independent living. The grant was supported through the efforts of the local district Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, Washington-Greene Community Action and Open Doors for the Handicapped.

The target service region was Washington, Fayette, and Greene counties.

Kathleen Kleinmann was hired as center director to accomplish the separation and founding of the new corporation due to her long term experience in program development and independent living. She has continued to serve as the executive director and then Chief Executive Officer when the agency was re-organized into 3 corporations in 2000.

July 1990

In July 1990, TRIPIL became officially a separate private, non profit corporation. The local Advisory Committee became the founding board of directors. Discussions of the creation of a membership based organization took place but were delayed due to other priorities of organizational development.

The original budget was $200,000 annually. Approximately, 25% of the funding was from a subcontract with CILSWPA for service coordination under the State attendant care program.

The early focus of the new center was to provide the required “core services” which define a center for independent living under state and federal law. Those services include peer support, skills training, individual and systems advocacy, and information and referral.

The primary consumer group is persons with severe disabilities who are not normally eligible for vocational services due to severity of their disability, their need for intensive support services, and their need for skill development. The center works with individuals in a self-directed plan to attain self-identified goals.

Frequently, the services or resources that a person with a severe disability need are not available from any source, including the center. Therefore, the individual plan is commonly the purposeful organizing of consumers with other individuals with the same societal need to advocate for program services and public policy changes.

This is the reason for the intentional choice of the “core services” by the legislation which focuses on empowerment and community involvement. Other services, such as Independent living skills training and accessibility consulting, were developed as fee-for-service programs based on the need of the local office of vocational rehabilitation.

Additional Priorities

Another priority for the new center was the stabilization of the financial and physical structure of the organization. The new corporation was housed in a small home in a residential neighborhood in Washington. In continuing cooperation with CILSWPA, the new center was successful in obtaining additional funding for services to assist individuals in relocating from nursing homes and participation in state Medicaid Waivers.

In 1991, TRIPIL opened an outreach office in Uniontown, PA. In 1992, TRIPIL also extended its service region to Lawrence and Beaver counties and used donated space for two full time staff.

In 1993, TRIPIL moved to new office quarters behind Integra National Bank at 69 East Beau Street, Washington. Due a vacancy in the building, TRIPIL was able to expand the office space in 1994. Integra National Bank merged to become National City Bank and continued the tradition of acting as a sponsor of TRIPIL.

Over the years, the bank has made construction changes and additions to the building that was ideally suited to the persons with severe disabilities that occupied the office both as employees and consumers.

Rising Consumer Base

The consumer base quickly rose from 75 individuals to approximately 400 persons served annually. The center has assisted over 50 persons in relocating from nursing homes and now is working with approximately 40 others who are considering relocation.

Through various service programs, TRIPIL has assisted 150 persons in avoiding institutional care. The budget over time has increased to over $10,000,000 with over eleven different funding streams.

Rehabilitation Act Funding

In October 1996, TRIPIL received $47,500 in stable funding as a center for independent living under the Rehabilitation Act. Nationally, there are over 450 government supported centers, 15 of which are in Pennsylvania. TRIPIL is the only center in Pennsylvania that receives both State and Federal stable annual grants for the operation of a center for independent living, totaling over $200,000. In 1997, TRIPIL used the Rehabilitation Act funding to support DIMENET, an UNIX office network with a computer bulletin board, for consumers to post and share Internet information. That project has evolved with the internet to webpage hosting and list server capabilities.

In 1998, TRIPIL has begun the process of training consumers to understand and use computers as potential employment opportunities. TRIPIL was a pioneer is Computer Recycling to put computers in the hands of the local community members with disabilities. TRIPIL now operated 4 computer cafes (one in each office) with assistive interface devices. We conduct youth camps during summer months to help disabled kids learn how to use special computer keyboards and mouse pointers.

Expanding Advocacy

In 1997, TRIPIL expanding advocacy programs with on-going grants from the Pennsylvania Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities and the U. S. National Catholic Conference. In 1998, TRIPIL received an ongoing contract with the Pennsylvania Initiative on Assistive Technology to conduct training and outreach to encourage the use all kinds of assistive technology devices by people with severe disabilities.

In November 1997, TRIPIL reorganized to become a membership based agency in the true spirit of consumer control from the independent living philosophy. TRIPIL reorganized its corporate structure to one that elects the board of directors through a dues paying membership. The name was changed to Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living.

In 2000, TRIPIL reorganized into 4 corporations in order to better focus service efforts. Tri-County Patriots for Independent Living continued to provide the four core services of peer support, skills training, advocacy, and information and referral. TRIPIL Services was created to provide the Medicaid and state funded attendant care programs. TRIPIL Enterprises was formed to hold property assets. TRIPIL was formed as a parent corporation for shared administrative services and provide corporate leadership. In June, 2010, the mortgage on the Washington Office was officially paid off, and TRIPIL Enterprises merged with TRIPIL in order to simplify the efforts to conduct a capital campaign to expand the property resources.

TRIPIL Staffing

TRIPIL corporations employs 40 regular staff at the Washington main office, most of whom have extensive educational and work experience backgrounds. Approximately, 70% of the staff of the CIL are persons with disabilities. TRIPIL Services has a small administrative staff that coordinate the work activities of over 750 direct care workers (or attendants)providing personal assistance services (PAS). Over 90% of the direct care workers participate in the Consumer Delegated Employer Model. These workers are represented in a collective bargaining agreement with United Homecare Workers of Pennsylvania (UHWP). An additional 10% of the attendants work as a supporting staff in the regular Agency Model. TRIPIL has a long history of fighting to expand the option where people with disabilities are in full control of the services. Through the Consumer Delegated Employer Model, consumers assist in the selection, training, and supervision of their attendant.

In 2010, there is a dire need for expanded program space and a lack of such space constricts the budget. We have initiated a capital campaign to build a new office in Washington. New programs will be developed and offered as a result.

TRIPIL professionals are an active part of the independent living nationwide. Staff serves on numerous committees, boards of directors, and advisory committees. These include the National Council on Independent Living, National Disabilities Council, Pennsylvania Statewide Independent Living Council, Independent Living Conference Steering Committee, National ADAPT Leadership, and the Association of Programs on Rural Independent Living, just to name a few. TRIPIL has also received two PA state awards for leadership and is viewed nationally as one of the best known rural centers for independent living.