Best States to Live in For People with Disabilities; Things MS Patients Should Think About Who Want to Relocate

Are you using disabled services and planning on relocating to another state?

Wanting to move to a state that has better services than the one in which you currently live?

Are you an activist who wants to know how to improve your state’s services?

Then you’ll want to add a link for United Cerebral Palsy (cfi.ucp.org) to your resources list. Each year, UCP, a non-profit charity organization, publishes its annual report called the Case for Inclusion (CFI), an analysis which rates disability services and quality of life for those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. For those of us with the physical disabilities that accompany multiple sclerosis, the need for services does overlap and rankings are similar. Following is a list of the ten best states to live as a disabled person, with number one ranked as the best of the ten. Rankings are up to date as of July, 2015:

  1. Arizona
  2. Maryland
  3. Missouri
  4. New York
  5. Hawaii
  6. Colorado
  7. Minnesota
  8. Washington, D.C.
  9. South Carolina
  10. Ohio

Criteria highlighted in the Case for Inclusion include:

  • Living independently as possible in one’s own home and participate in community activities
  • Living satisfying lives as valued members of their community
  • Acquiring access to services that help one attain her desired lifestyle
  • Living in safe and healthy environments

In an analysis of the 2015 UCP report, author Eleanor Goldberg points out that in high-ranking states like Colorado and Minnesota, 80 percent of people with disabilities live in their own home, a family home, or a group home of four or less people. This standard is desirable as it can raise the overall quality of life by Medicaid services keeping people out of institutionalized settings and in their own familiar surroundings where life is more self-directed and less solitary, allowing the person to take part in a community setting. There are 14 states total that maintain a high standard in this category. For example, Washington, D.C. has no institutions where the disabled can be secluded and kept away from the general community. In many states, numerous institutions have been shut down and more funding is going to home services. Ideally, funding would support an array of residential options for Medicaid patients and keep them out of nursing homes–which also happens to be the most costly option.

Goldberg also determined that a state need not be wealthy to take care of its disabled, noting South Carolina as being the 44th poorest state yet ranking high in quality of life for its disabled population.

People with MS need to consider several other categories before making a decision to move outside their state. For one, heat intolerance is a major consideration, and this fact alone can confound the decision-making process. For example, Arizona consistently ranks either number 1 or near the top for best state. It provides access to highly reputable health care providers, particularly in university towns such as Tucson. But the oppressive heat of the southwest can greatly compromise the quality of daily life for a person with MS. Moreover, the ideal climates of the Pacific Northwest—Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and Alaska—might sound like a dream to a person with MS, but some of these areas are too rural to provide adequate specialist care, might offer too few work opportunities for those who want employment, lack public transit and thereby promote isolation, and might have state budgets that funnel fewer dollars to much-needed services.

Another major consideration is cost of living. Although the best-ranked states tend to cluster in the Northeast—New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont—and in the ideal climates of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, those regions also tend to be the most costly places to live. Click on the link in the reference section below to read about more factors that affect where to live with multiple sclerosis.

People with MS might explore these options and decide to stay put. But if we cannot agree that our home states are the best of all possible worlds, there are steps we can take as activists to try to persuade policy makers to improve the lives of disabled people in our own backyards. Although success isn’t guaranteed, the process of activism itself will put us in touch with others that are fighting the good fight—to the benefit of us all.1,2

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.
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