October 25, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

Corky Smith Says “War Eagle” with his Smile

MONTGOMERY – Louis “Corky” Smith has a profound intellectual disability along with other complex medical conditions. He has a seizure disorder, impaired vision, muscle spasms, difficulty breathing and frequent respiratory infections, as well as a stoma that must be cared for regularly. Despite these obstacles, Smith’s is a huge success story because of his perseverance and positive attitude, and the talented team that helps him live to his full potential on a daily basis. He is an avid Auburn fan and uses non-verbal expressions and the wall-to-wall decorations in his room to say, “WAR EAGLE!”

Smith was born in Opelika and moved to Tuscaloosa when he was five years old. He attended Vestavia Elementary School and Tuscaloosa County High School. At that time he was an outstanding athlete, and played football, baseball, basketball and soccer. The summer after his tenth grade year, Smith received a traumatic brain injury in a car accident, which resulted in a significant cognitive impairment. He was not able to play sports anymore, but did recover enough, with assistance, to graduate high school. After graduation he went to work in construction and landscaping, but ultimately could not maintain that position due to his cognitive disability. Tragedy struck again when Smith was in a second car accident at 21 years of age. The injuries were severe and Smith was subsequently placed in a skilled nursing facility and began using a wheelchair for mobility.

Smith lived at the nursing home four years and participated in day programs, but it was obvious to those who knew him that he wanted more independence. About 10 years ago he had that opportunity and transferred to Resources for Independence in Tuscaloosa for residential and day habilitation services. Following the transition, Smith was reportedly “very happy” with his new group home at RFI. Since that time he has also benefited from services provided in their community programs. His personal care plan is reviewed regularly according to Alabama Department of Mental Health standards, and he lives in Cottondale, Alabama, with two male housemates. He has developed special friendships with them and with the staff. While he has some verbal skills, he mainly uses non-verbal expressions such as blinking his eyes or signaling with his right hand to communicate.

Smith has a wide variety of interests ranging from Auburn football and Braves baseball to caring for his house plants. He loves interacting with others and is especially fond of his day program and going on community outings. His favorite trips are to country music concerts (he is a big fan), the beach and his family’s home on Lake Tuscaloosa where he enjoys riding in the pontoon boat. Many of his instructional opportunities at the day program focus on enhancing his ability to make personal choices. He has learned to communicate his preferences about community activities, learning opportunities, how his room is decorated, his bedtime schedule and many other facets of daily life.

Not long ago, Smith had the privilege of meeting Governor Robert Bentley. The governor and Zelia Baugh, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, were touring group homes and visiting individuals with profound disabilities. Bentley spent some time talking with Smith, touring his home and meeting with the staff. At the time, Bentley commented that, as a physician, he could see that Smith was well cared for and thriving in the community, further validation of the decision to close the W.D. Partlow Developmental Center and provide more opportunities for community-based care for its residents. ADMH currently serves more than 6,000 people with intellectual disabilities in community settings. Smith’s story, although inspiring, is just one example of the many successful transitions from the institutional setting to community-based homes for persons with intellectual disabilities.

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