Saturday, April 26th, 2014
By William Kincaid
MRDD seeks renewal levy for Cheryl Ann programs
CELINA - A five-year, 1.94-mill renewal levy for the Mercer County Developmental Disabilities agency is on the May 6 primary ballot.
The levy, which expires in December, will continue to collect about $1.2 million annually for general operations of Cheryl Ann Programs.
On average, the board has an annual budget of approximately $6 million, with 65 percent of that coming from local property taxes and the equivalent of a half-mill funding from the state.
Since 1967, Cheryl Ann Programs has provided numerous services including early intervention, preschool and adult work training and recreation opportunities, according to superintendent Mike Overman.
"We serve about 350 here in Mercer County of all ages, and it's just a huge variety of services provided, some just a really little bit, and some 24/7. It just depends on individual needs and circumstances," Overman said. "We try to be there for everyone that needs us."
The board oversees a large and growing community division, training and securing employment of disabled adults with local businesses, he said.
"We have staff that go out and help with that, help them learn their jobs, work with employers to make sure that they're doing the job the way the employer wants it done," he said.
Associates are provided recreation and leisure opportunities by providers who take them to high school sporting events, movies, restaurants, fairs and summer festivals.
"It's a good thing because really prior to that, most of our folks, they came to us during the day (for services) and then really didn't do much else outside of that," Overman said. "Now they have outside lives, too, and sometimes it competes with our other things, and we think that's wonderful."
Partnering with the Mercer County Educational Service Center, the county DD offers early intervention for children younger than 3 and preschool programs for those determined to have developmental disabilities.
"We have at least a 20 percent rate of kids that go through early intervention that, when they turn 3, they don't need any services at all anymore; they've caught up fully. Obviously they had more mild disabilities or delays; early intervention has helped with that," he said.
When the students move on to kindergarten, many of their special needs have already been addressed.
"Now if those two programs didn't exist, then the schools ... would have many more special education students to work with, and any of the superintendents will tell you those cost more than the typical (student)," he said.
The board will continue to assist developmentally disabled people throughout their entire lives if necessary, he said, noting the oldest woman provided services was 89 when she died.
"We never really leave people's lives unless they want to walk away from us," he said.
The state was formerly the largest source of funding for the agency, but that isn't the case anymore due to budget cuts, Overman said.
However, by allowing disabled adults to waive their right to institutional placement and instead be serviced locally - with the county board providing a 40 percent match to federal Medicaid funds - more services are possible with less state money, according to Overman.