Board of DD Continues to Evolve
In 1977, the residents of this county graciously approved the first tax levy to financially support services to people with developmental disabilities. At that time, the Board of DD offered two services, Marimor School and Marimor Industries. These programs began as a grassroots effort by parents to obtain services for their children, who had been shut away or ignored by society. In the past 44 years, these programs have served thousands of individuals and families.
Since the beginning, the Board’s goal has been to make sure our services and supports are high quality and meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities. The past 20 years have brought significant changes – especially for Marimor Industries and Marimor School. Some of the changes were due to federal mandates, some to state funding and some to parents advocating towards community inclusion. Some have been because of our own progression and understanding of the people we serve. Our services have become so extensive; it can be challenging to explain. The Marimor name is our legacy and still very much a part of us, but it does not represent who we are in 2021. I’ve been asked how many people live at Marimor and what the “kids” are doing at the workshop. It’s hard to answer these questions, because the fact is that more than 150 people we serve with disabilities work in the community, and they are adults. They work at Lowe’s, Lima Pallet, Meijer, and more. Additionally, the Board is financially responsible for more than 450 individuals who need help in their homes and group homes. That was not the case in 1977. People with disabilities do not live at Marimor; they are your neighbors, friends and co-workers.
Education today has also drastically changed, with parents choosing where their children will be educated. And why would they not want to have the very best of what our local schools offer? Ohio law dictates that a student’s home school district is responsible for their education, and many families choose that option. There are only 40 Ohio County Boards of DD (out of 88) that still operate a school. Allen County Board of DD has chosen to continue Marimor School to serve children with severe medical and intensive behavior support needs. Students only attend Marimor School with approval from their families and home school districts.
And this brings me to the topic for this article.
Since 2009, we’ve partnered with the Allen County Educational Service Center (ESC) on different initiatives, one of which is the ESC providing some preschool services at 2550 Ada Road: the Marimor School building. Earlier this year, the ESC inquired about leasing more classrooms to move Great Day Academy, its specialized educational services for children with autism, into a school building. Great Day Academy was on Slabtown Road, in a building with no cafeteria, no accessible playground and no gym, showers or accessible restrooms. We have all that at Marimor School, and we knew we could share it, if we made some sacrifices. We have a positive working partnership with the ESC, and as we started these discussions, we realized that operating two small schools in the same building would be challenging. If we joined forces, we believed we could do great things for students and be more efficient. And so a new collaboration came to be, which we are calling Great Day at Marimor School. It is our best attempt to keep both entities healthy and strong. The Board of DD will be responsible for all facilities, custodial work and ancillary services, such as case management, behavior support, transition, and individual support services. The Board of DD offers these services now, but they will be more readily available to the students, families and teachers of Great Day. The ESC will be responsible for educational services in the classrooms.
So you may ask, what will the Board of DD do with its tax money? Or as I have heard, “If there is no Marimor School, do they need their tax levy?” First, the Board of DD has not been on the ballot since 2002 for operational funds, and 2003 for capital funds. We have worked hard and been fiscally responsible to stay off the ballot. One way we’ve accomplished this is through drawing down federal funds and grants to the greatest extent possible. This is so the local tax payer does not have to shoulder 100% of the costs of government-mandated services, such as paying for residential and group home services. The Board of DD uses local funds to serve nearly 1000 people annually. For 415 people who need residential, transportation or employment supports, we pay 40% of the service or 100% of the service. As the local Medicaid authority for DD waiver programs, we have many responsibilities to ensure people have the help they need. Marimor Industries, Inc. (MII) is just one option people have for day services, employment, and transportation in Allen County, where the Board of DD pays 40% or 100% of the services a person receives from MII.
Our services are so much more than a building at 2500 Ada Rd. Our 12 Early Intervention staff serve nearly 300 babies each year, ranging from birth to 3 years old. They provide speech, occupational and physical therapy, advanced autism services, developmental guidance, and much more. We have 25 case managers (SSAs, as they are called) who are in the community every day helping adults and children tackle everything from doctor’s appointments to finding jobs. We have 3 Behavior Support Specialists who work with students in your public schools. And these are just a few examples of the amazing work that your tax dollars support. We would be happy to share our annual report or answer any questions you have about changes for the 2021 school year. You can also check out all the services we offer at www.acbdd.org and get updates on our Facebook page. Even though you may have never needed the Board of DD, I venture to guess someone you know has, and they are the best voice of the services we provide.
By: Theresa Schnipke