Years ago, parents thought a mentally disabled child would never outlive them. But with medical advances, so many more disabled children are surviving to adulthood that some parents in their 70s must care for a 40-year-old who functions at a preschool level.
A YES vote next month on a 1-mill property tax increase will help the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities serve these families, as well as the growing number of county residents identified with mental retardation, autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome.
Issue 2 seeks to replace two current levies — 0.3 mill and 0.5 mill — with a continuing 1.8-mill tax. The new tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $186 a year.
The board says it will use the revenue the tax would raise to reduce its waiting list for residential services by 50 people a year, and to draw down more federal matching money from the Medicaid program to increase local services.
Board officials say they are caught between a 20 percent drop in tax revenue in recent years, mostly because of declining county property values, and a 30 percent increase in the number of people it serves. The board’s caseload has grown from 4,188 people in 2008 to 5,468 this year, says board superintendent John Trunk.
The disabilities board has cut expenses. It has let 100 full-time employees go by attrition, to reduce staff to the current 558. It has closed an aging building and begun to use more fuel-efficient vehicles. It nearly has doubled the amount of Medicaid funding it collects.
The board offers a broad range of services, from intervention at infancy to supervision, monitoring, and support from school through adulthood. A father broke into tears as he described how a board team from the department worked to aid his son and help him accept the child.
The board provides work and job coaching for disabled adults; about 400 people are employed through its Lott Industries. It teaches clients how to live independently and hold a job, and finds them a roommate and a place to live. Then it monitors these situations.
The board offers a variety of community-based work opportunities tailored to the needs of its clients; it supervises about 230 people who are so employed. They feel fulfilled and others learn to appreciate, rather than fear, disabled people. Board services also offer families a break from the grind of constant care.
If the levy fails, officials say, the board will have to cut costs, mostly in the area of staffing required for labor-intensive services. That shouldn’t happen. Vote YES on Issue 2.
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