The Hocking County Board of DD is no stranger to adapting to changes and growing in our knowledge of disabilities and the people we serve. As the staff of the County Board of DD celebrate Developmental Disabilities Awareness month, I wanted to take this opportunity to showcase some of the work being done in the community as well as highlight a few of the changes over the years.
Changes to the field of developmental disabilities are inevitable. The landscape of services offered to our county is ever-changing. One thing that never changes is the compassion and love for our community. As someone who has had the privilege to work in this county for nearly two decades, it never ceases to amaze me how this community rallies behind and supports individuals with disabilities.
There is a different picture today than what used to be when DD boards started back in 1967. One of the biggest changes the County Board of DD has seen over recent years is the mandated separation of sheltered workshops from the provision of coordination of services.
In 2014, the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandated legislation that said the Hocking County Board of DD and Hocking Valley Industries (HVI) could no longer be managed together.
In 2015, the County Board of DD and HVI made plans to transition HVI into its own independent company that provides day services to individuals with DD. It was a thoughtfully-devised plan to shift HVI into independence over a two-year period.
In July of 2017, HVI successfully separated from the County Board of DD to become an independent provider, much like the other providers (Sech-Kar, Goodwill Industries) in our county and across the State of Ohio.
Today, the County Board of DD continues to coordinate services for the life-span of those with DD, as well as Early Intervention, Help Me Grow Home Visiting Program and a small number of housing units.
Today, as a stand-alone non-profit company, HVI operates adult day services, an art program, habilitation and vocational rehabilitation to individuals with DD.
With each passing year, the world of adult services makes adjustments and modifications to meet the state and federal standards of service and support. Over the years, the focus for adults with developmental disabilities has changed frequently. Historically, you might have seen our service and support administrators (SSAs) working to make sure basic individual needs were taken care of; you now see SSAs leading teams and individuals to live the best possible life through independent living and community employment by integrating into the community based on individual decision making.
Our team of SSAs not only shows that they can roll with punches, but they care for the individuals we serve. More than once, our SSA staff has had to band together in emergency situations to ensure health and safety of the individuals we support.
Another transformation in the work done by the County Board of DD is how we provide Early Intervention and home visiting services. At its inception in the early 90s, Early Intervention was center-based, where families brought their children, from birth to three years old, into the Family Resource Center for speech-language, occupational and physical therapy services.
In 2013, based on research indicating that infants and toddlers learn best in familiar environments with the people they are most familiar with, the state of Ohio moved in the direction of home-based services. The County Board of DD rose to the challenge to accept this new way of delivering services.
The board made Early Intervention a priority and funded one of the first home-based primary coaching teams in the region. Primary coaching consists of an Early Interventionist coaching parents and other caregivers how to support their child in meeting developmental milestones.
Help Me Grow Home Visiting has also undergone a number of changes over the years. Originally, the focus of home visiting in Ohio was largely on child development. Today, the home visiting program not only includes child development, but envelopes the whole family unit.
Home visiting done by our Help Me Grow team is an effective program that aims to strengthen Hocking County families. Stronger families build stronger communities. Home Visitors meet with pregnant women and new mothers as they begin navigating the world of parenthood.
Our home visitors are skilled at boosting each family’s success by providing support and encouragement. Families have described our home visitors as “life coaches, guardian angels, supportive, caring, and the best thing that could have happened to our family.”
For us, the rules may change and the people may change. What doesn’t change is the mission of the Hocking County Board of DD: to “Promote Possibilities and Potential.”
We will always be there to serve the people of Hocking County. We are always there, working with our partners in the community because we are all better together. We will always look for unique strengths in the people and families we serve. We will celebrate the abilities of every individual we serve as we encourage them to live their best life.
Written by Jill Squires, superintendent