When 2020 began, none of us could have imagined how it would become one for the record books.
This year has been interesting for the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities – and for you too, I’m sure. We have had to figure out how to change our entire service system, which is built on the idea of community connections and integration. Seeing people face-to-face has always been a given for us.
Most of the services we provide — to nearly 1,000 babies, children, and adults each year — do not take place at our offices at 2500 Ada Road. Since March, we haven’t missed a single day of being open and providing these much needed services. We certainly have had to adapt.
Right now, most of our services look very different from the ones we have grown to love since opening our doors 51 years ago. In this critical time, we’ve figured out how to work collaboratively, operate differently, and respond proactively to meet the needs of the community we serve, providers, and our employees.
Here’s where we are, over seven months later:
Our Early Intervention (EI) services continue to be mostly virtual, and it has been amazing to see our developmental specialists and therapists work with families in this way. They have not missed one beat. They learned quickly that they need to see babies in person for the best developmental evaluations — and they figured out how to do that safely on campus. They have provided in-person services on porches, in parks, and about anywhere they could. The developmental milestones of the children of Allen County are that important to us.
It has not been easy to cancel our annual Developmental Screenings. We know that families rely on these to have hearing, vision, speech, behavior, and gross and fine motor skills assessed. Even though we are not holding the screening events, we urge residents of Allen County to call our EI team at (419) 221-1262 to schedule a free evaluation of your child’s development. This is not something that should be delayed, even in a pandemic. Early detection and early services are best for all children.
We are improving our processes every day, as we continue to provide case management services, which we call Service and Support Administration (SSA). These incredible employees are responsible for planning and monitoring the supports that people with developmental disabilities need to stay healthy and safe. SSAs work with people starting at age 3 and through adulthood; they have been in regular contact with the people they serve throughout the pandemic. In addition to using Zoom and other technology, SSAs visit homes and day programs to check in. Across the agency, we communicate often about protocol to keep everyone healthy and their services going.
Many SSAs are looking forward to the day they can all be back in the office together, as they value learning from each other and supporting one another in person. For safety reasons, our offices are at about 75% capacity each day, with the other 25% working remotely. But make no mistake, whether in the office or working at home, our staff are busy helping people, solving problems, responding to crises, and doing about anything else you can imagine. SSAs have kept everything rolling, so providers have what they need to facilitate important daily services in homes and day programs.
SSAs continue to support DSPs (Direct Support Professionals), the heroes who help individuals with all forms of personal care, home maintenance, transportation, work development skills, and so much more. Our providers are constantly looking for Direct Support Professionals. If this career might interest you or someone you know, please do not hesitate to call us at 419-221-1385 ext. 2713.
In September, we were able to open Marimor School, which is a huge blessing. We are providing in-school and virtual services to best meet the needs of our students with intensive medical needs. We have created small cohorts, where the students and staff stay together all day. We also continue to host the Allen County ESC preschool & local therapies are provided on-site. There is a lot happening on campus every day now for students.
Since March, much has changed with our community programs. Most have paused, while we figure out what is next. We have not been able to visit nursing homes, hold Aktion Club, or plan other events. We know people are anxious to get back to living and doing all they love. Staying at home all the time is not easy for everyone. With most group events continuing to be cancelled, we do have one opportunity planned for people to share their voices at a Community Forum on October 22 at 6:00 p.m. It will be in the Marimor School gymnasium, following safety protocol with social distancing and separate entrances and exits.
We invite anyone who would like to help us set the course for Allen County Board of DD’s next three years. This is an important time, because we want to provide what the people of Allen County want and need from their Board of Developmental Disabilities. A consultant will be on hand to lead the discussion. Please do RSVP for the Community Forum by contacting Morgan Rigali at 419-221-1385 ext. 2608 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to attend the meeting via Zoom, please contact Morgan for a link and passcode.
Thank you to the many residents of this county who support our programs and services. We love what we do, and we love the people even more. Please do not hesitate to call our offices, if you want to know more about our services. We are open!
Theresa Schnipke is superintendent of the Allen County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Reach her at email@example.com.