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KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Some people who have never lived on their own are getting that chance thanks to a program pushing to help people with mental illnesses live better lives.

Most of us take for granted having a fridge in the kitchen, a place to hang pictures, or drawings from the grand kids.

For Lynn Holbrook, it's a simple pleasure that means so much. She is thrilled to be 59 and finally living on her own.

"Absolutely, yes," she said, "Because I'm doing it on my own. I lived with my daughter for so long I thought there's no way I could live on my own, but I wanted to."

She's bounced between assisted living and her daughter's house for decades because she is bipolar. But in 2012 the feds told North Carolina too many people with mental illness in our state were living in institutional settings and that needed to change.

Holbrook was convinced she belonged in assisted living.

"I thought, well that's where I belong and I was really stunted there. They give you meds at a certain time, you eat at a certain time, [and] you drink coffee at a certain time."

But that changed when someone from Cardinal Innovations, a Kannapolis-based company that manages care for people that rely on public healthcare, reached out to Lynn about helping her find an apartment of her own.

Once a former line cook, she now relishes just being able to whip up an egg. They check in on her regularly and help her get the counseling and medications she needs.

Cardinal has helped 40 people like Lynn move in the last year, and 30 more are in the process.

"It's easy to put people with mental illness away so that we just don't have to deal with them," says Larry Swabe, the company's manager for the "Transitions to Community Living" initiative.

"This has been the most rewarding and meaningful job I've ever had," he says.

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