Friday, December 12, 2014

Olmsted Act and Employment First Initiative is Bad News in Hamilton County Ohio

I sat in the Hamilton County Developmental Disabilities in Ohio Planning meeting last Monday and became overwhelmed by grief over the change in direction of their mission serving children and adults with special needs. I'm speaking of the population children who are severely disabled and delayed and unemployable. The population that relies on "traditional specialized services" because they cannot be fully mainstreamed into the community.  It appears our children and adults in Ohio are only valued if they are "employable" or if they can live without traditional specialized services due to changes that were introduced by Governor Kasich of Ohio with his "Employment First Initiative" and the Olmsted Act ruling.

It's all happening too quickly to really understand how all these changes will directly impact our family and friends with special needs. It is hoped it is explained why HCDDS was not permitted to increase their budget over the years even though their caseload increased by 80% particularly to prepare for this "employment first" mandate which has been further compounded by "Olmsted Act" ruling.

In Ohio, there is a population of families and friends who are losing specialized services due to a loss in funding at the federal and state level because of the Olmsted Act. This Olmsted Act 1999 ruling guarantees that our family and friends will have placement in their community. Unfortunately, it's being used to take away valuable resources from other people who really need specialized services to maintain their independence and quality life.

Currently federal and state are claiming they no longer have to fund specialized services because it "isolates" and "segregates" children and adults from the community. Basically they are placing that "one-size fits all" template over a very large population of children and adults with very different special needs and disabilities. However, there are many children and adults who required specialized services BECAUSE it is the only way they can participate in society. Some have needs that are so severe, they need highly specialized services.

Where will they go? In Hamilton County, clearly you are only valued if you are "employable" according to this new HCDDS mission. If you are not employable, ironically you cannot not be integrated into the community.

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