GALLIPOLIS — The Gallia County Board of Commissioners recently drafted a letter challenging Ohio Gov. John Kasich to sit with Gallia elected leaders, Gallipolis Developmental Center leaders and families of clients at the Gallipolis Developmental Center in an effort to discuss the long-term effects laying off 32 full-time employees from the facility.
Commission President Harold Montgomery, vice president David Smith and commissioner Brent Saunders announced their surprise at the layoff decision and how the notification disconcerted them as to the future of the GDC campus.
“With these impending layoffs, the Gallipolis Developmental Center will have lost nearly 150 employees since the facility began downsizing in 2010,” the commissioners stated in the letter. “Employment opportunities in the southern Ohio region are scarce. The continued downsizing of GDC not only strains an already struggling local economy, making it harder for these displaced workers and their families to make ends meet, but will negatively impact services and care for an already vulnerable population.”
Commissioners shared their concern with the governor about the remaining 53 clients in the facility and how their care would be met considering the layoffs.
“Residential care options in this area are limited and the GDC serves as a catchment area for the entire southeastern Ohio region,” the commissioners stated. “Any elimination of services provided by this facility will create hardships for families and clients throughout this entire region.”
The decision to layoff roughly 32 full-time employees came Aug. 26 from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities. John Martin, director of ODDD, said that of the 32 jobs being removed, 18 part-time positions were being created.
State Rep. Ryan Smith came out last week and condemned the announcement. One client family has announced their intention to keep their son in GDC, even if he was the “last person out the door,” in a letter to the editor published in the Daily Tribune. Union representatives of workers at the GDC intend to gather and measure their options while courting community support for jobs, clients and the future of the center.
State members of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities said it was a difficult decision to let employees go, but the layoffs were being made in an attempt to streamline worker count to client needs. Martin said the department would do what it could to assist workers in finding work through job fairs and other like initiatives.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.