The story of Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities Services (HCDDS) is one of expanding community service. For more than 45 years, HCDDS has provided educational, vocational, and residential support and services to thousands of individuals with developmental disabilities (DD).
Through the years, the needs of individuals and their families have dictated agency growth and change. HCDDS has been responsive to those needs through ever-evolving support. For example, in the mid 1970s, existing facilities were filled to capacity, thus highlighting the need to provide modern, efficient buildings. At that time, HCDDS began a building program of schools, adult centers, and group homes strategically located throughout Hamilton County. Now, the focus is on community integration in partnership with community organizations, businesses and people, and away from services provided in buildings operated by the agency.
The growth of HCDDS represents much more, however, than bricks and mortar and programs and staff. It represents people. Presently, more than 8,500 individuals participate in programs and services each year. The focus of services has shifted away from legacy programs to community integration in everything we do, in partnership with dozens of agencies, businesses, organizations, neighborhoods and people throughout Greater Cincinnati.
In 2009, the agency changed its name from Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (HCBMRDD.) This change came about as state law in Ohio removed the term “mental retardation” from official references due to longstanding advocacy efforts of people with disabilities and their families. The term had evolved over many years into an offensive slang term and the removal of those words was celebrated. Ohio was one of the last states to make this change.
Margaret B. Rost was the agency’s first superintendent, starting her long-time career with the Hamilton County Council for Retarded Children in 1947. Thomas H. Kidd became the agency’s second superintendent after Margaret B. Rost retired. Cheryl Phipps became the agency’s third superintendent in 2001 when Tom retired. Cheryl retired in 2011, when current Superintendent Alice C. Pavey took over.
The first program to come under direct operation of HCDDS was Children's Services, located at Dyer School at that time. Children's Services included preschool and school-age classes. It expanded over the years to include early intervention, three freestanding schools, and satellite classrooms in public schools.
In 2005, one of the schools closed and preschool was transferred to the Hamilton County Educational Resource Center. Satellite classrooms are beginning to phase out as children with disabilities become supported in their neighborhood public schools wherever possible, fostering community integration.
The Hamilton County Council for Retarded Children (HCCRC), the organization that became known as ARC-Hamilton County, was organized in 1947 by parents concerned about the lack of supports for their children with Developmental Disabilities. This organization began services to people with disabilities in Hamilton County. HCCRC started the first educational programs for children with DD, and formed agreements with Cincinnati Public Schools for classes in private locations like the Washington Street Synagogue. Other locations followed.
In time, the State Department of Mental Hygiene & Corrections was required by law to subsidize the county's educational program through funds to the Hamilton County Welfare Department (HCWD). By the late 1950s, the Council educational program included 12 school-age classes and four preschool classes scattered at various locations.
In 1960, the Attorney General of Ohio ruled that all school programs operated by private agencies must be transferred to the direct operation of county welfare departments. Thus, the Hamilton County Welfare Department created a Division of Services for Retarded Children, which assumed operation of the 12 school-age classes. Under the auspices of the Welfare Department, the school-age program expanded rapidly, each year adding two or four new classes.
In 1962, the school-age program was moved to Stowe School, marking the first time that classes were centralized. In 1965, the school-age classes were relocated to Dyer School.
At Dyer, physical education classes, speech and hearing screening and therapy, and ancillary services like nursing were offered for the first time. Students participated in a wide range of school activities, including band, chorus, and sports teams with cheerleaders.
When the Dyer building was filled to capacity, classes were conducted at Sands School, bringing the total number of youngsters at Dyer and Sands to 500. After the passage of Amended Substitute Senate Bill 169 in 1967, the newly appointed Hamilton County Agency of Mental Retardation contracted with the Hamilton County Welfare Department to continue operation of the school-age program until 1971, when HCDDS assumed direct administration.
The children's program continued to grow in the 1970s. HCDDS assumed operation of preschool classes in 1971, and introduced early intervention classes in 1976.
Growth of Children's Services led to the construction of new buildings specifically designed to accommodate children with DD. In 1976, Frederick A. Breyer School opened in New Burlington. The building program continued with the 1980 opening of Bobbie B. Fairfax School in Madisonville, and was completed in 1981 with the opening of Margaret B. Rost School in Bridgetown.
HCDDS operated community-based programs at Arlitt Child Development Center on the University of Cincinnati campus, Carll Street Center in North Fairmount, Duvall Center in Mt. Healthy, Early Head Start/Over-the-Rhine (downtown), Kemper Heights Community Center, Northside Center, and Smith-Flowers Center in Lincoln Heights. HCDDS also operated educational classes at St. Joseph Home, a residential program for children with multiple needs.
Frederick A. Breyer School -1975
Frederick A. Breyer served for many years as Director of the Hamilton County Welfare Department. As Welfare Director, Frederick was a tireless advocate for people with disabilities. When he retired as Welfare Director, he went to work at HCDDS in a staff position.
Bobbie B. Fairfax School - 1979
Bobbie B. Fairfax was the first teacher hired by the Hamilton County Council for Retarded Children when it began classes for children with DD in 1948. She stayed as it became a Welfare Department program, until the county agency was established. For many years, she served as a supervisor, sharing her teaching insights with many more teachers.
Margaret B. Rost School - 1981
Margaret B. Rost was hired by the Hamilton County Council for Retarded Children. When the Council’s classes for children became part of the Hamilton County Welfare Department in 1960, she continued to administer them. When county agencies of MR/DD were established in 1967, she became Hamilton County MR/DD’s (now known as Hamilton County DD Services) first superintendent. During her tenure, the agency built three schools, four workshops, and three group homes.
In 1973, HCDDS assumed operation of the adult program from the Hamilton County Council for Retarded Children. At the time, the program included three workshops. Now, there are four workshops. Adult services also included supported employment and activity programs for individuals who choose not to work all or part time, who want to be a community volunteer, or who are retired.
In 1955, the Council began a sheltered workshop program for adults located in a colony building at East Oakley School. A second workshop was opened in 1960 to serve persons in the western sector of the county. The HCCRC continued to operate these shops until 1973, when HCDDS assumed operation.
In 1973, Work Activity Centers, Inc. of Hamilton County was formed. This non-profit corporation served as the employer for individuals in Adult Centers, including sales, customer billing, and client payroll. In 1985 the name of Work Activity Centers, Inc. was changed to The General Assembly, Inc.
In 1979, Elmer P. Beckman Adult Center and E. Roger Jackson Adult Center opened. Following were Robert W. Franks Adult Center in 1981, Northside Adult Center in 1985, and Evendale Adult Center in 1988. Northside Center closed in 1998 due to the development of community-based vocational opportunities. Evendale was renamed the Thomas H. Kidd Adult Center after former Superintendent Tom Kidd, who retired in 2001.
The General Assembly, Inc., provides habilitation opportunities through contracts with numerous service providers. Contract agencies provide job evaluation, training, and development in a sheltered environment leading to placement in the community work force.