Reflections From Our Superintendent
By Theresa Schnipke
Another year has come and gone. Each year seems to fly, and this one was no exception. 2016 was perhaps one of the most significant years in the history of our agency – one that we will remember for years to come. This December also marks one year in my new role as Superintendent. It has gone by quickly, with lots of tears and laughter along the way. I am incredibly fortunate to work with one of the most dedicated staffs in the field of developmental disabilities in the state. They have supported me, taught me, helped me, and supported me some more during the last 365 days. I could never have made it without each of them! In the past year, I have not once worried about the quality of our services, because I know our staff is top notch.
Looking back on 2016, here are some of our notable highlights:
- The most significant change was separating Marimor Industries from the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities. That sentence – as small as it is – will mean something different to each reader. The impact was huge, and the board lost around 70 staff members. There was a federal mandate that County Boards of DD cannot be both the provider of services and the agency that authorizes/pays for services. As a result, Marimor Industries is now operating fully on its own; they have a dedicated board, administration, and staff who value the work they do. So many people worked very hard to make this a smooth transition. I am very proud of all the work completed and the compassion shown. We still miss many of our friends who left – that is the biggest downside to this mandate.
- We launched a new website. It was great to work on this project with the Public Relations Committee and NOW Marketing Group. I think I love the blogs that were written this year the most! If you haven’t had time to read them – do it! Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, get cozy, and read each one. In the world of not-so-great news every day, the blogs remind me that the human spirit is alive and well. Good does overcome bad and we serve some pretty incredible people! If you have a story to tell, give me a call. We’d love to feature it.
- We completed some very nice renovations to the Early Childhood office area. These staff members serve our babies – from birth to age three – and they now have an office that is conducive to all they do for families in Allen County. We also added a part-time staff member when we took on the Ohio Department of Health grant for children with hearing issues. This has been a nice addition to our Early Childhood services.
- We launched our Friends, Allies and Neighbors network. This group is already doing amazing things; it’s inspiring! If you haven’t heard, they replaced a roof for a man we serve. We’ve shared that story on our blog and on Facebook. If you don’t follow us on Facebook, consider it. I think you will like the content.
- There were several key retirements this past year and due to this, we have a restructured our Table of Organization. With all the changes in staff, job descriptions, and supervisors, there are only 1 or 2 people doing the exact same thing they were last year. There’s been a whole lot of change for our agency.
- The Business Office wrapped up a big audit this year and is on its way to being paperless. Well, as paperless as any financial operation can be.
- On December 31, 2016, the SSAs will reach a huge milestone, having converted all 600+ Individual Service Plans to the Imagine format. Imagine is an online tool and a person-centered planning system through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. However, the tool and its format are not the focus – it’s the conversations people are having that are transforming lives. We’ve spent two years learning that paper is just paper, but people and “what is important to and for them” matters most.
- The school has seen a significant change in students and staff this year. Our students never seem to miss a beat and their creativity is inspiring. I love to visit the classrooms and see all the teaching and learning.
I’d also like to share what we’re looking forward to in 2017:
- We will begin creating our new Strategic Plan in the summer of 2017. This is much needed, given how different our services look today.
- We will join Ohio’s other 87 Boards of DD to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the law that established County Boards of Developmental Disabilities. Allen County’s anniversary of the first formal board meeting is at the beginning of 2018, so we will be planning a celebration for that remarkable milestone.
- We have a few initiatives planned around provider supports and quality. We want to better support direct service providers and ensure those we serve have the best care possible. www.providerguideplus.com has launched in three counties, and it will be available statewide soon. This site is similar to Angie’s List, where families can rate their providers. It will help those searching for providers in Ohio. When it goes live statewide we will get the word out.
- There are several key workgroups meeting in the state to tackle some very important issues for those we serve. The waiting list redesign, funding infrastructure 2024, and early intervention changes are just a few that have huge implications for our field. Community integration and employment navigation will also be terms we spend a lot of time on in 2017. We plan to add a Community Inclusion Specialist who will help us in the area of meaningful community connections and integration efforts. I am very excited about that position and hope we can get it going in early 2017.
- In the world of Service and Support Administration, we will be digging even deeper into the Imagine system for individuals, families, and providers. We hope this is an ongoing, interactive experience for all. We will also implement many of the waiver changes coming our way, and we will be enrolling many individuals who are leaving larger facilities for community homes.
- We will continue to increase our positive culture initiatives, including more of “The Good Life.” As the year progresses, we hope many more pictures will be added to the board pictured above, which is in the Administration Building. It is the individuals on the board, and many others, who are the reason we do what we do. May we not forget that as we ring in a new year.
There is so much more to share, but for now, these are the highlights. Happy New Year and thanks for your continued support of our mission!