By Katie Sobiech
Did you know that March was Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month?
In 1987, Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation to bring forth positive change in the lives of the developmentally disabled.
Locally, Summit County has made great strides in doing the best they can to serve and include those with developmental disabilities. The key has been to provide supports and services that allow those they serve to live typical lives. The largest entity, County of Summit Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD), is a great example of a successful community service, uniting just about every related program for services that come full circle.
Summit DD’s Mission
“The mission of the board is to provide services to individuals who are eligible, that enable them to work, live and learn as equal citizens in their community,” Billie Jo David, Director of the Office of Communications at Summit DD said.
“One thing that’s really important about our agency that people don’t realize is that we provide lifelong services for individuals. We touch a whole person’s life in the course of them receiving services,” she explained.
These services include childcare, integrative childcare, job opportunities, adult services and just about everything in between.
“In order to help individuals live as independently (as possible) and help them exercise their rights as and equal citizens in any community that they want to live, there’s a lot of coordination and support for services that need to happen,” David says.
This includes eligible individuals finding what she calls “meaningful” places to go during the day where they can either participate in day programs or earn a paycheck, have supportive transportation to get to and from those programs during the day, and a place to live.
“Individuals who receive our services are either living at home with support coming into the home or they’re living independently in the community. If t individuals live independently in shared housing settings, (they need) the ability to be able to access their community and recreate. The amount of coordination that has to happen to make that equality possible is pretty amazing once you sit down and look at how much our services touch a person’s life,” David shared.
“Whether we directly provide the service or one of our 200 private partners in the community provides it, our agency is coordinating services through our Services and Support Administrators to make sure that is all happening and that person is safe and healthy,” she continued.
It all Goes Back to the Community
And this is what makes everything go “round”, giving back to the community.
“Individuals are really being a part of their community. They are working, earning a paycheck, taking that paycheck and spending it at dinners, and that influx back into the local economy,” David said.
“That’s really amazing once you really sit down and think about how much of a life we touch,” she continued.
But one thing David wants to make clear is that Summit DD as an entity isn’t the one providing all of the services.
Private providers such as United Disability Services, Hattie Larlham and Goodwill services also provide servies, but they are coordinated and funded through Summit DD.
“Every individual is so unique – all of the services are based on the unique needs of individuals. We look at each individual to find what helps that person best,” David said of their system.
Community Members Contributions
Also, taxpayers are to thank.
The tax payer funding goes towards helping coordinate and fund many of these services.
“More than 70% of our funding comes from local tax dollars. So when we are talking about being able to provide services to these individuals it’s really the community that is making this happen. The community is supporting inclusion for people with developmental disabilities,” David said.
“That’s one of our main points. Our mission is [that] we want to go out and change people’s attitudes about individuals with developmental disabilities and make communities more inclusive. The fact that we have such overwhelming support to be able to fund these services for people, it’s really humbling for us as a county board,” she continued.
Watch for Part Two to find out why the Weaver School closed and how it is a part of the bigger picture of encouraging inclusion for those with developmental disabilities.
For more info. on Summit DD, please visit http://www.summitdd.org .