As 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on the past year. Our system of supporting individuals with developmental disabilities continues to undergo major changes to the traditional way services have been delivered for the past 40 years. Despite these changes and the uncertainty about the future, the dedication and care exhibited by our staff has been incredible. They’ve never lost sight of our mission and spend every day focused on improving the lives of the individuals and families we support. We are extremely grateful to have such an amazing team and could not do this important work without them.
This year’s biggest change has been our transition out of providing direct services through the adult centers. While we hoped to complete that transition this fall, Hamilton County’s process has drawn out longer than anyone expected. The county continues to negotiate with the chosen provider and has advised us not to announce the provider until those negotiations are complete. We don’t know how long this process will take, but we’ll continue to update you as we can.
Not all developments this year have been as difficult as the transition. We’ve made strides in several areas, including significant state legislation. Ohio became the first state in the nation to offer STABLE accounts, which allow people with disabilities to save and invest money without losing eligibility for certain public benefit programs like Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. In addition, Gov. John Kasich visited St. Joseph Home in July to sign the legislation finally removing the “r-word” from Ohio law.
In our own community, our staff have been instrumental in raising the quality of service from providers with the Gold Standard. Our collaboration with providers has become a model for the rest of the state, and we’ve added seven more Gold Standard providers this year. We’re also working with providers toward full integration and expect to have created integrated community experiences for more than 1,500 individuals before the end of the year. Additionally, our staff assist individuals in achieving competitive integrated employment and are leaders in the state for Employment First referrals, which helps more people work in the community.
While certain rules and trends have increased the number of individuals on the waiver waiting list, we’ve vastly improved our internal processes for monitoring the needs of those waiting for waivers. Throughout the year, we’ve connected many individuals on the waiting list with needed services while they wait for a waiver. We’ve also been able to provide more than 200 individuals on the waiting list with waivers.
These few highlights barely scratch the surface of the great work HCDDS has accomplished in 2016. While the path this year has not always been easy, I’m extremely proud of the progress our staff and our community have made in supporting opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to live, work, learn, and fully participate in their communities. I look forward to continuing these positive trends in the year to come.
Thank you for your ongoing support of the work we do. From all of us at Hamilton County DD Services, we wish you and your family happy holidays and a joyful new year.
Alice C. Pavey