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State error to cost MRDD board thousands

The state goofed, but recipients of Lawrence County MRDD services will suffer.

Lawrence County Board of Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Paul Mollett said Thursday that MRDD agencies across the state have been told to discontinue the Community Alternative Funding Program (CAFS) by June 30.

The program, funded entirely by local money and federal Medicaid dollars that flowed to counties through the state, is being discontinued because of numerous problems on the state level that flawed the program from the beginning.

"It's a matter of the state being out of compliance, and we've known this for about two years" he said. "The state has worked with us to try and resolve the issues. I kept thinking they could fix it, but in the end the state was told to discontinue the program or the feds would quit funding it."

The CAFS program funds many of the professional services the Lawrence County MRDD offered its clients, such as nursing, speech therapy, psychology, occupational therapy and physical therapy.

Losing this program will cost the county MRDD board $500,000 to $700,000 a year. The cuts to all 88 Ohio counties is approximately $100 million.

Mollett said such services are an essential component of the MRDD program. For instance, 60-70 percent of the children enrolled at the Lawrence County Early Childhood Center in South Point receive occupational therapy, more than 80 percent of those children receive speech therapy. Children who attend the Open Door School also receive those services.

Mollett said right now, MRDD officials are trying to figure out whether they can replace this money with some other funding source, and what they might do if they can't. They hope to have a plan in place by April 30.

"I'm upset about this, I'm very upset," Mollett said. "We've built programs here and we've done it leanly. We do what we do on a very small budget."