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LCDD makes push for levy after changes

COAL GROVE — Lawrence County Developmental Disabilities is headed to the ballot in March to ask for additional funding to support infants, children and adults with special needs throughout Lawrence County.

Lawrence County DD asked for a 2.5 mill levy for a term of 10 years in November, but it was narrowly voted down.  Immediately following the defeat, a group of parents and supporters banded together and obtained over 3,000 signatures to get the levy back on the ballot.

After receiving feedback from the community, the Lawrence County Board of DD decided to request another levy in March, but lowered the amount and term.

“Since the levy in November was voted down, we felt that the new request should be different,” Lawrence County DD board member and finance committee chair Steve Thompson, said.  “We decided to ask for a 5- year term instead of 10 so that the community would not have to commit for such a long period of time.  We also lowered the amount from 2.5 mill to 1.75 mill,” said Thompson. The cost of the levy for a $100,000 home amounts to $5.10 per month for a household.

Julie Monroe, who took over as superintendent in January 2018, stressed the importance of transparency in all that the agency does.

“We have made several changes in the last few years to increase awareness of what we do and why our services are needed,” Monroe said.  “Our primary goal is to provide quality services to the infants, children and adults who need the kind of specialized services our agency either provides or funds.  We are working hard to demonstrate our commitment to responsible financial stewardship to the voters of Lawrence County.”

LCDD provides services throughout the life span, starting with Help Me Grow Early Intervention services for infants and toddlers birth through age 2. 

Open Door School, the board’s legacy program, has served students in Lawrence County with special needs for 59 years. The Service and Support Administration (SSA) program provides assessment, linkage and referral services for children over 3 years old through adulthood. The program promotes community inclusion, health and safety, and access to high quality specialized services such as therapies and nursing services.
Raymond Murphy, 81, is a retired veteran residing in South Point who receives services from Lawrence County DD. The agency has been able to coordinate home modifications for Murphy, such as adding a walk-in shower and outdoor ramp to his home.
“Without (Lawrence County DD), we’d be up a creek,” Colleen Murphy, Raymond’s wife, said. “He’s been able to get around his house and still live a good life at 81 years old. The changes they’ve made and the home health that he gets are just great.”

Additionally, County Boards of DD in Ohio are unique in their ability to use their tax revenue to draw down federal and state funds for services.  Through the Home and Community Based Waiver program, Lawrence County DD has brought in over $32 million to the Lawrence County economy over the past five years.  These funds go towards hundreds of independent and agency providers in the county who offer services to people with developmental disabilities.

Easterseals is one of 19 agency providers in the county that offers programs for people in the area.

“We provide an alternative to work where individuals are able to hone their interpersonal and social skills,” Pandora Dupras, CEO of Easterseals Central and Southeast Ohio, said. “Likewise, it provides many adults with disabilities living at home a safe place to interact with their community.”

The funding for programs like Easterseals comes from waiver programs, with local levy dollars matching the cost through LCDD.

Prior to November, LCDD had not been on a ballot for any kind of levy since 2006 and hasn’t requested new millage since 1991. The agency’s expenses have steadily increased over the last 13 years, and despite significant reductions in the budget already, financial projections indicate it is necessary to return to the ballot.  Statewide, LCDD ranks 84th out of 88 county boards of DD for the amount of local funding it receives, despite ranking as the 42nd largest DD program in the state.

“We strive to provide the best services possible for Lawrence Countians with developmental disabilities,” Monroe said.  “We understand more than most the unique struggles these individuals and their families face every day.  Our team of dedicated staff and service providers have been there through the years, and we look forward to continuing on with what we do best — supporting people with developmental disabilities in living a life full of possibilities.”

For more information for voters about LC DD, visit www.lawrencedd.org.