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Person Centered Services hosts ribbon cutting

New business offers opportunities  for clients with developmental disabilities

Person Centered Services, in Coal Grove, conducted a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday. Although they have been serving clients of the former Tri-State Industries since January, when the county was statutorily required by the state to turn over their control over such facilities to independent groups, their enthusiasm for the event was undiminished.

Kenneth Albert, president of Person Centered Services, was on hand for the event and explained how locations operated across the state by PCS differed from traditional adult service centers for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“I’ve been in the DD field for thirty years,” Albert said, explaining how and why he came to found PCS. “I used to work for the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. Went out on my own ten years ago. Lawrence County is actually the tenth facility that we have in the PCS family. So we’re ten communities strong and ten years old in 2017.”

“What makes us a unique provider,” he continued, “is we are very much engaged in community integration and volunteer opportunities.”

One way they do that is by keeping outing groups small, so that individuals have more opportunities to interact with the community in a more relaxed and natural manner.

“We try to do everything in small group sizes,” he said. “Traditionally, the DD services are in large facilities, such as this, and you would do things in groups of 10, 20, 30 or more.”

Those types of outings, he said, are more like school field trips in style than genuine community interaction. People sometimes won’t interact because they think that this is a group activity that they shouldn’t interact with, unless they are involved. But smaller groups help break down those artificial barriers.

“You’ll see us in and around Lawrence County, in Ironton and South Point, involved in integration in our community on a much smaller scale.”

This will mean taking out groups of two or three at a time, or even just a client and a staff member, gathering more like a small group of friends meeting for lunch or coffee than a tourist group at a museum.

He said that PCS is also dedicated to improving the community’s perception of people with developmental disabilities and showing that they have skills and talents to offer the community. One way they do this is through volunteering.

“We really want to show the people of this community that individuals with developmental disabilities have a lot to offer our community,” Albert said.

“I was just speaking with the (Ironton) mayor (Katrina Keith), putting our two cents in (asking); what can we do to give back to Ironton,” he said.

One example of what they’ve done in other communities is their Darke County facility, in Greenville. In one program their volunteers work with the VFW to prepare meals for shut-in veterans.

That work also lead to a program where individuals from the facility are raising and lowering many of the flags on city property downtown. Because of that visibility, he said, people began talking with them, saying hello, inviting them into their businesses to have a cup of coffee and warm up while doing the work. The kind of things that folks do with other members of their community, and that many of us take for granted.

He understands it can be awkward and difficult for the community at times too, and that’s why he feels the smaller group outings work better.

“Any time that you come across somebody that is different than you,” he said, “whether its someone from a foreign country, or a very young kid or an adult with a developmental disability, the first time you confront that ‘different’ is always difficult for us. Oftentimes people with developmental disabilities have different behaviors, different ways of acting out, different ways of talking, and it can be intimidating. So by introducing our people in the community in smaller group activities, it’s less intimidating.”

He said that if he had a message for everyone as Developmental Disability Awareness Month approaches in March, it would be that “they’re just like us.”

“Everybody has a unique personality, and something different about them, but they’re just like us,” Albert said. “These are adults, who want to be treated like adults. They want to be a part. They want to be your friend too.”