The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities traces its beginnings to a grassroots effort by parents who wanted an education for their sons and daughters with developmental disabilities.
For about a century, through 1950, parents of children with developmental disabilities in Ohio had two choices: they could send their child to an institution to receive services, but they had to give up daily contact. Or, they could raise their child at home doing whatever they thought was right. Frequently, the child was hidden from the public.
In the 1950s parents in Ohio began crying out for help for their children – for their child’s education – for a better life. That’s when they began asking the state legislature for help. In 1951, state lawmakers passed SB157, which set aside state money for classes for children with developmental disabilities; it wasn’t much but it was a start. In 1952, parents in Butler County formed the Council for Retarded Citizens. Their first duties were as advocates, developers, organizers and bus drivers. Classes were started in 1952 in Hamilton and later in Middletown.
Finally, the state responded to the parents’ pleas. In July 1967, the state established County Boards of Mental Retardation, now named Board of Developmental Disabilities (DD) and the Butler County Board held its first organizational meeting. In 1968, the Board hired its first full-time Administrator (later Superintendent). Goodwill Industries established a workshop program in Hamilton in 1962.
The Butler County Board of DD’s New Miami Adult Center opened in July 1970. In 1973, Fair Acres Center opened. This facility housed both the school and an adult center when it opened. In addition to adult services at Fair Acres, the Board opened Middletown Center in June 1974. The Board began programming for young children from birth up to age three through an Early Intervention Program in 1975. In 1976, the DD agency started its first preschool age classes.
In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142, the Education of the Handicapped Act, which guaranteed free, appropriate public education to all handicapped children. Ohio passed its companion legislation, Amended Substitute House Bill 455, the following year. To comply with this legislation, Butler County DD Programs began discussion with school districts in the county to transition students with disabilities to their schools.
On the home front, the Board entered into residential services when it opened the first group home in Seven Mile in 1978.
Many residents in state institutions began moving back to their home communities in the late 1970s.
The state legislature added “developmental disabilities” to the County Boards’ name; we then became the Butler County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The Board’s focus was toward community inclusion and supports: In 1983, the agency moved its school-age students into the Least Restrictive Environment as defined by the Supreme Court. The Court supported the concept that students should be allowed to have the freedom to learn in classrooms most appropriate to their educational abilities.
In November 1988, the Board announced it would cease accepting referrals for its school-age class at Fair Acres School and it would no longer operate classes for school-age individuals after the completion of the 1990-91 school year.
Because of the influx of residents coming from the state institutions, Adult Services had to create more space for adult programs. Hamilton Center was opened in 1983 followed by the opening of Liberty Center in 1989.
In the 1990s, the Developmental Disabilities programs ended the direct operation of the school-age programs and residential services. Developmental Disabilities focused on using existing services in the community and helping individuals become a part of their community. In a similar community spirit, early intervention and preschool programs also moved into neighborhood sites.
In 1997, the Board renamed the Fair Acres Center the Janet Clemmons Center for Young Children and Families. The new name honored Mrs. Clemmons, a former Developmental Disabilities Board member and child advocate, who was a Butler County Commissioner at the time of her death.
The Center became home for Hamilton School’s specialized preschool, center-based early intervention, and the Help Me Grow offices.
In 2000, Butler County voters approved a two-mill continuing replacement levy. In 2000, DD advocates returned to their grassroots efforts to expand Medicaid residential waiver programs for in-home supports and out-of-home placements in the state’s next biennium budget. In June 2001, House Bills 94 and 405 were approved. The bills required changes in the structure of certain DD programs as well as the addition of staff.
Also in 2000, three community teams were developed to cover three main geographic areas so that support coordinators could be more embedded in the community and could be more accessible to individuals and their families. The three team offices were:
The Middletown Community Team for people living in the Middletown, Madison, Edgewood and Monroe school districts.
The West Chester Community Team for people living in the Lakota school districts.
The Fairfield/Hamilton Community Teams for people living in the Hamilton, New Miami, Ross, Talawanda and Fairfield school districts.
In 2002, the Middletown program was expanded with an additional site and renamed The Middletown Enrichment Center. In 2003, the Butler County Board of DD renovated and expanded Liberty Center to better meet the needs of adults with disabilities who attended the facility for day habilitation programs. Also in 2003, the Level One Waiver Program began. In 2004, Butler County voters approved a one mill continuing replacement levy which gave the Board 3 total continuing mils as local revenue.
In 2006, we updated our vision to include self-determination practices, community based services and to show more concretely to the public how we are accountable to them. The fiscal environment was changing and we began to adjust how we were providing services. That year, we decided to be a provider of adult services but not the sole provider.
We began to maximize our Medicaid dollars by bringing down our costs of services, using Level 1 waivers to finance individuals’ adult day services and we more fully implemented individual budgets. We also made it a priority to support high school graduates and other adults to get and keep community employment.
In the spring of 2006, after 30 years of providing specialized preschool classrooms, the Butler County Board of DD began to transfer the operation of the specialized preschool classrooms back to the local school districts.
Also in 2006, Partnerships for Housing, a non-profit Board which purchases and maintains accessible housing for individuals with disabilities, was joined under the umbrella of Resident Home Corporation (now Envision) out of Hamilton County. As of 2015, the non-profit Board owns 57 homes which individuals can live in using their income for rent and residential Medicaid waivers to fund in-home supports.
In 2009, the term “mental retardation” was legislatively taken out of the County Board name. This was a statewide effort led by self-advocates who felt the words were demeaning.
In 2010, the Butler County Board adopted a plan to consolidate facilities in order to maximize revenue and to move toward more community based programs for more individuals. We began consolidating our adult service programs; we stopped operating sheltered employment and moved our day habilitation program to Liberty Center.
Our staff also took on transportation to and from the day program instead of contracting out the service. We began moving out of our leased offices and filled up available space in our owned buildings. We concentrated on facilitating and nurturing natural supports for individuals. We continued to downsize our staffing numbers through attrition and early retirements. Finally, we utilized individual budgets to offer specialized programs in order to meet the needs of individuals.
The program looks very different today than it has in the past.
- Individuals we serve have expanded their advocacy efforts through SpeakUp, a self-advocacy group, and they have representation on our Board’s Program Committee. Self-advocates provide support, mentoring and education to each other as well as to high school students.
- We have paid work experiences for school-age students, and enclaves and support for micro- enterprises.
- A collaboration project with the Mental Health Board has allowed us to expand services for individuals with developmental disabilities who also have mental health issues.
- InsideOut Art Studio provides support for those who want to be paid artists.
- We provide in-home coaching to parents of children, ages 0-3 in their homes as well as have short-term classes for parents with infants with specialized needs.
- Adults have many choices for day programs that private agencies provide. By March 2017, we will stop offering services at our Liberty Center facility, to comply with The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) rules.
- We provide technical assistance to other providers and to individual teams.