GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Board of Commissioners met with Gallia County Board of Developmental Disabilities officials Thursday at both the Gallia Courthouse and Guiding Hand School to recognize March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and to discuss the future of the school, the board and its clients.
“The past 12-months to support the Middleton Estates closure, we’ve bought 15 new houses with state funds that have brought just over $2.5 million to the county,” said Gallia Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent Pamela Combs. “Each of those houses had to be renovated to some degree and that was all done with state funds. Each time we buy a house we have to apply, like a grant, and get it approved and meet all the criteria. I think we’ve gotten more than almost any county in Ohio. Some large counties haven’t worked out how we were able to get this many.”
Gallia adult residents living with developmental disabilities have been gradually moving towards privatized programs as part of a statewide trend to integrate them among the community to give them a shot at life like any other Gallia citizen. The board is making efforts to assist those residents with education, jobs and efforts aimed at helping them become more independent adults.
The board of developmental disabilities has also taken steps to make the Guiding Hand School location more secure by engaging in anti-active shooter practices and assessments and has found grants to put towards such efforts.
“Lots of counties are closing their DD schools because of funds,” said Combs. “Lots of places are trying to make it cost prohibitive for a DD school to operate. Our class sizes have to be smaller and there are several different factors that make us different than a traditional school. I’m looking through the Ohio Department of Education for how we can qualify for scholarships for community schools. There’s a couple of scholarships for children with autism and special needs and if we could operate on those scholarships, it would triple our funding without using any local tax dollars.”
Combs said a trend across the state was that boards were working to integrate their students living with developmental disabilities into public schools.
“Our local public schools are not ready, as are many counties,” said Combs. “Here at Guiding Hand, we have moderate to intensive needs. A lot of these kids could end up staying at home with itinerant services (if Guiding Hand closed). They wouldn’t have a school to go to. We want to do all that we can to work with our public schools and remain with our school here with its preschool. I’d like to even expand more services for our older youth.”
Young adults living with developmental disabilities can receive assistance from the board up to the age of 22 with education and work training programs.
Gallia residents passed a one mill increase levy for the Gallia Board of Developmental Disabilities in fall of 2017. At the time, board officials were saying the future of the Guiding Hand School depended on the levy’s passage. Gallia residents approved the measure 3,586 votes to 2,200. Guiding Hand serves a little over 50 students of varying ages.
Commissioners lauded the Gallia Board of Developmental Disabilities continuing efforts to serve its residents.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.