Our History


A Brief History
Of

The Independent Group Home Living Program Inc.

In the early 1970's, the world was exposed to the horrors of what was known then as the Willowbrook State School. What the world saw was the inhumane treatment endured by more than 6,200 mentally and physically disabled children and adults.

After years of litigation brought about by the families of the neglected, Willowbrook was ordered to be closed. Community placements were demanded, thus paving the way for a group of eastern Long Islanders to establish the Independent Group Home Living Program Inc. of East Moriches, New York.

IGHL opened its first group home in Mt. Sinai, New York in 1978. The purpose of the project was to provide a community-based, homelike environment that encouraged personal growth and a genuine sense of belonging to a community. Since then, IGHL has developed more than 350 community home opportunities, and a complete services network with more than 40 locations throughout Suffolk County and in Florida. Today, the 1,400 employees at IGHL provide services to more than 5,000 developmentally disabled people and their families.

In January 1982, the first IGHL Day Treatment program was opened in East Moriches, New York, which also contained the administrative offices that had, to that point, been located in Riverhead, New York. Its original capacity of 120 was expanded to accommodate 155 participants as an additional programming wing was built in early 1985.

The EMDT building was later called upon to accommodate nearly 100 additional participants during a rare evening Day Treatment program that was in operation from December 1985 through the spring of 1987.

Additional administrative space was temporarily added in 1984 and removed in lieu of a more accommodating administrative office wing that was completed in 1987. Right next door, the IGHL Day-Care Center opened its doors in the spring of 1988.

Throughout the early 1980's, IGHL continued to develop mid-sized, seven-to-nine bed residential homes on the north shore and in the Moriches area. By the mid 1980's, the need to develop homes became so acute that it prompted IGHL to develop seven 12-bed and two 10-bed homes by the end of the decade. This expansion, during a short four-year period, more than tripled our service network; not only by the number of residential opportunities available, but by the geographical area now being served by the agency.

The mid-1980's also brought the advent of IGHL’s efforts to provide services directly to the consumer and their family in their home or in their immediate community.

The spring of 1985 saw the initial offering of In-Home respite services as well as the first sessions of our Saturday Recreation program. In 1986, we opened our first of two Free-Standing Respite homes, in Shirley, New York, with our Holbrook Respite program opening in 1988.

In March of 1987, IGHL expanded its Day Treatment services network by the opening of the Fred A. McCormack Day Treatment program in Southampton, New York, absorbing nearly half of the combined morning/evening EMDT program. Its eastern location helped cut in half the travel time many east end residents had previously endured, while establishing IGHL as the prominent service provider on the east end of Long Island.

1990 marked a significant expansion of the IGHL Family Support Services network, as we became one of the first private sector providers in the state to be certified to develop Family-Care homes, to which up to 18 have since been initiated.

The early 1990's also saw a continuation of the acute need to develop community-based homes as the Long Island Developmental Center was ordered to be closed. Nearly 50 beds were developed in 1991 alone, including the unique Pine Street ICF program.

The Pine Street ICF was the first of its kind in the state to provide an intensive level of nursing / medical care for an elderly disabled population that would otherwise be placed in ill-suited nursing homes or hospital beds as their health status deteriorated. It has been a hallmark of similar efforts by other providers throughout the country.

The early 1990's also brought to the field a rethinking of its development philosophy; we started looking for ways to develop smaller, more individualized homes and services. From 1992 through 1996, six new Individualized Residential Alternatives (IRA) homes were created, the biggest containing only seven beds.
Concurrently, our Family Support Services program expanded to include Case Management Services in 1992, the provision of In-home Habilitation services and the expansion of our respite care programs throughout the decade.

In 1993, IGHL developed its first Day Habilitation program, a new service that brought daytime services directly into the community and on a very personalized level. Between 1996 and 1998, an additional 29 Day Habilitation opportunities have been developed; this format being seen as the model of daytime services of the future.

In 1999, IGHL experienced is first true acquisition when the New Interdisciplinary School in Yaphank, New York became an affiliate company. As a result, IGHL gained the capacity to offer quality educational services for the developmentally disabled population.

In 2000, IGHL opened Angela’s House. Angela’s House was the first residential program in New York State to serve medically frail and technology dependent children. This barrier free, five bedroom facility is home to seven children ages 4-10 and is designed to address a wide variety of needs common to its target population. The buildings utilities have been designed to accommodate the special medical equipment and devices needed by the children such as central air, humidification, oxygen, and suction. A nursing station has also been incorporated into the bedroom area that has both central emergency call and video monitoring systems. Since then, we have opened Angela’s House II and Angela’s House III.

The millennium also marked a new era of expansion at IGHL. Through the New York State CARES initiative, IGHL is currently developing new programs in an effort to eliminate the waiting list for residential placement.

During the 2010's, IGHL began to assimilate programs from other providers, such as six ICF programs in the Melville area and a small IRA in Hampton Bays, while also developing more smaller IRA programs to accommodate those individuals on the states waiting list.

IGHL is currently one of the foremost non profit agencies in the Northeast who provide services to people who are developmentally disabled. With a $110 million annual operating budget, IGHL provides a variety of services to more than 5,000 developmentally disabled people (children and adults) and their families, through its system of 50 group residences throughout Suffolk County, an extensive transportation network, several day service programs, and a staff of more than 1,600 (ranking it as one of eastern Suffolk’s largest employers).

The history of IGHL began with the single mission to provide the highest quality services to a population that had never been afforded their rightful stake in their own community. Although the way those services are packaged has experienced significant change since our doors first opened in 1978, our intentions and dedication to our mission have remained the same.