Twenty-four years ago, I had no idea what the acronym MRDD meant (mental retardation and developmental disabilities), much less what the Hamilton County Board of MRDD was all about. Then our son Joel was born. It took awhile to get a diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disabilities and Moderate Mental Retardation, and even longer to get a diagnosis of autism (Joel was 12 when the doctors finally figured that one out). Needless to say, we became intimately connected with the Hamilton County Board of MRDD. As a matter of fact, it became Joel’s life-line – my life-line – our family’s life-line.
If you live in Hamilton County, when you vote next Tuesday, you will find Issue Five, the MRDD services Levy, on your ballot. If you do not live with disability, you might wonder, as I once did, what this agency does.
The Hamilton County Board of MRDD serves over 8000 individuals with physical and developmental disabilities. This is a 44% increase since 2004, when the board served 5500. The number of infants served increased 307%, from 555 to 2,260. Not surprising, considering the incidence of autism keeps rising (from 1 in 150 to 1 in 91). Medical technology has advanced so that many people with disabilities are living longer – most of them outliving their parents – and more infants are surviving premature births with resulting life-long disabilities.
Individuals like Joel are served across the life span(disability doesn’t “go away”). Joel received early intervention services in pre-school, special education classes in the Winton Woods district until he was 12, and education in a Hamilton County Board of MRDD school from 12-22 (where he was Prince of the Prom one year, and Homecoming King another!). Joel now enjoys working at an MRDD workshop. Next year he plans to move to Safe Haven Farms, a community of choice for adults with autism (www.safehavenfarms.org).
Transportation is provided to and from work. Because Joel’s needs are so intense (he needs 24/7 supervision), Joel also receives in-home supports. A support staff (Mohamed Mbeitt, who has been with us for 7 years) helps him with tasks of daily living, such as grocery shopping, bathing, dressing, and leisure activities such as going to the mall, the gym, the park, dances, etc. Without this support, my husband Wally and I would not be able to volunteer in church or community activities, much less have time for rest and relaxation.
The Hamilton County Board of MRDD also supplies case management, housing for adults, community activities, and behavioral supports. All of these supports have been of the utmost importance to our family. Performance reviews show that our agency is the most efficient board of MRDD in Ohio. The levy is a renewal of the current levy amount plus an increase of .51 mills. With this small increase, the owner of a $100,000 home will pay an additional $15.12 a year. This adds up to just 29 cents a day!
Passage of this levy ensures that Joel and 8000 other individuals and their families will continue to enjoy education, respect, community involvement, the opportunity to be supported in their own homes, and transportation to activities. Thank you for your generosity in previous levy campaigns. Joel and his friends count on your continued support for their well-being.
(And for those of you who do not live in Hamilton County – keep an eye out for levy requests from YOUR county’s Board of MRDD, and be sure to vote YES when they come up on the ballot).