Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities

Voters to decide 2 county levies in fall – though 1 is still in limbo

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County voters will decide the fate of two county-wide levies this fall. The county commissioners heard from both groups last week. One levy is a reduced renewal levy – dropped from the current 2.95-mills to 2.45 mills for Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The other is still a mystery. A request had been made for an increase from a 1-mill to a 1.3-mill levy for Wood County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services. The commissioners seem to be on board with the Wood Lane request. But they have expressed reservations about the increased levy request from ADAMHS. During the presentation by Wood Lane officials, Superintendent Brent Baer talked about the “dynamic growth in services” that the board is seeing. And Martha Woelke, of the board, said great deliberation went into the levy request. “We did everything we can to maximize state and federal money,” she told the commissioners. The board has been able to reduce its levy collections some years, but feels that 2.45 mills is the lowest it can go for the renewal. When people with developmental disabilities waive their right to institutional care, they are picked up by community based services – like Wood Lane. That agency then identifies their needs and develops plans to meet them, Baer said. The waivers allow for federal funding, but the community agency must still pick up 40 percent of the costs, said finance officer Steve Foster. “Our commitments are for the life of an individual,” Baer said. Demands are growing as the population here is increasing. “Wood County is one of the few counties in Ohio that’s growing,” Baer said. About five years ago, there were 226 consumers on waivers. Now there are 425. Baer expects that number to double again in the next five years. The board may need to be back in five years, asking for a greater levy, but this should do for now, Baer said. It’s not often that a county board approaches the county commissioners about lowering a levy request. “I’ve never had to do one with a reduction,” said Sandy Long, the clerk of the board of commissioners. The commissioners like the idea of asking taxpayers for less for Wood Lane. But they aren’t completely sold on asking taxpayers…


Wood Lane makes preliminary pitch for November levy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Many groups come to the Wood County Commissioners to get the board’s blessing before putting a levy on the countywide ballot. Very few are able to report that they will be asking for lower millage than in the past. Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer explained the situation to the county commissioners on Thursday. Over the last decade, the agency serving people with developmental disabilities has been able to trim back its levy collections. The board has rolled back its current 2.95-mill levy on multiple years – including collecting just 50 percent of the millage this year. However, more people with developmental disabilities are seeking more services to live their lives. That means the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities will likely be on the ballot this November. But instead of going for the same millage, Wood Lane will likely ask for a lower amount, possibly 2.45 mills. “We believe that allows us to be fiscally responsible” and continue to provide quality services, Baer said to the commissioners. The Wood Lane board will discuss the millage at its June 21 meeting, then come back to the county commissioners to get their blessing for the ballot. “Your services certainly do make a difference to families in Wood County,” Commissioner Doris Herringshaw said. “We hear that over and over.” As of earlier this year, Wood Lane was serving 1,007 people. Broken down into age groups, those served are: 114 age 0-2; 95 age 3-5; 316 age 6-22; 171 age 22-30; 124 age 31-40; 74 age 41-50; 86 age 51-64; 27 age 65 and older. Baer explained that Wood Lane has seen “significant growth” in those being served, especially among the very young. “We start at birth with early intervention services,” he said. More people needing services means more staff to serve them. “We’ve had pretty significant growth in the overall level of staff,” Baer said. More early intervention is needed for children with autism, and for children affected by the opioid crisis, he added. As the children age, Wood Lane School gets involved for youth up to the age of 22. “Anyone who runs a school for people who have significant developmental disabilities has additional costs,” Baer explained. But Wood Lane has no intention of not offering school services. Without…


Disability labels set limits that can hold people back

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Labels can be so limiting – especially if they are placed on people early in their lives. “Labels belong on jelly jars They don’t belong on people,” said Emily Dunipace, of Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, also known as Wood Lane. But yet, people with developmental difficulties are often given diagnoses that focus on the disabilities – ignoring the abilities. A panel of experts on the issue gathered recently for a community conversation on how humans often jump to conclusions on the limitations of people with disabilities. Susan Hagemeyer, a Bowling Green State University student, knows all about low expectations imposed on people who are different. She was born with a rare bone disease, is small in stature, and uses a wheelchair or crutches. “I was that kid who didn’t have a chance to make it to my first birthday,” Hagemeyer said. Her physicians said she would never walk, and her step-dad said she would never make it to college “My mom never gave up hope,” Hagemeyer said. Despite the labels and low expectations, Hagemeyer is a third-year student at BGSU. “I never thought I’d be where I am right now,” she said. “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.” Hagemeyer and others on the panel said people need to be supportive, not judgmental. “I am a normal human being,” she said. “I don’t need to be fixed.” Mark Foster, who uses some services from the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, knows exactly what Hagemeyer is talking about. But Foster expressed some sympathy for physicians who diagnose developmental disabilities. “Doctors only know how to tell you the bad, because they don’t know what the good is,” he said. Physicians are trained to solve problems. “That’s all they know.” Parents put their faith in doctors, and believe in the prognoses they assign to children with disabilities, Foster said. In the early 1990s, when Foster became an adult, his parents dismissed the idea that he could live independently in an apartment. “You watch and see,” he remembered telling his parents. “I did it. My parents were proud that I did it.”   The panel also included parents who worked to make sure their children had the most opportunities available to them. Tim and Margie Harris talked about their…


Photo exhibit at Way Library brings those served by WCBDD into focus

Submittted by PRIZM “Lens on Learning; A Social Documentary of Developmental Disabilities,” a collaborative photography project completed this past year by BGSU students with individuals served by the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, is  on display through February 15 exhibit at The Way Public Library Gallery. The exhibit is presented by the library in collaboration with PRIZM Creative Community. The project not only brought awareness to the BGSU student who were paired with an individual served by the WCBDD and captured their story through photography,  but it helps the community at large to be aware of the community integration program administered by the WCBDD for our disabled citizens.   This five year old program has captured the life of many developmental disabled individuals who live, work and contribute in our community. (See related story http://bgindependentmedia.org/portraits-in-friendships-between-bgsu-student-photographers-wood-lane-individuals-exhibited-at-toledo-museum/) In 1990 the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act addressed the needs of people with disabilities and prohibited discrimination in employment, public services, and public accommodations. Thirty-five years before the ADA, The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, a county agency, began to support and assist Wood County residents with developmental delays in increasing their skills, capabilities and independence. “The camera provides a tangible means to connect with one another and the world,” writes Lynn Whitney, the BGSU professor of photography who directs the senior level Community Projects Class at BGSU. “This class challenges students to forge personal relationships and explore aspects of being human from a vantage different than their own. This year we offered the camera to our partners from Wood Lane allowing us to speak with not just for them. This year, governmental mandates to privatize many key services provided through WCBDD, influenced our seeing to reveal a fuller picture of the lives of individuals so often living and working at the margins.”   The exhibition pieces hung on the gallery walls at The Way Library documents the day to day life of disabled individuals served by WCBDD at home, work, and play as captured through their BGSU Student partner. This year a select number of those served by the program were also mentored by their BGSU friends to learn about photography, and then produced creative pieces with their new knowledge. Those photo pieces created by the disabled individuals were also framed and are on display as…


Not In Our Town extends support to those with developmental disabilities

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not In Our Town heard last week that its members need to stand up with another population facing some discrimination in Bowling Green. During their monthly meeting, Not In Our Town members talked about the need to branch out and go beyond defending diversity in race, religion and sexual orientation. NIOT also needs to stand up in the community for people with different intellectual and developmental disabilities, members agreed. Emily Dunipace, from the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities, talked about the need for people with differing intellectual abilities to be treated without discrimination in the community. “They want to be included like anyone else,” Dunipace said. Last month, after Wood Lane announced plans to open a group home for children with developmental disabilities, they were confronted by some neighbors who had concerns about the group home. It’s disappointing that people think that way,” said Heather Sayler, a NIOT member whose oldest son uses some services from Wood Lane. Rev. Gary Saunders, who lives in the general neighborhood of the new Wood Lane group home, said he was disappointed to hear about reluctance of neighbors to welcome the new residents. Julie Broadwell, community co-chair of Not In Our Town, agreed that the organization is dedicated to defending all populations facing discrimination – including intellectual and developmental disabilities. “That’s a whole issue we haven’t tapped into,” she said. The organization discussed the possibility of hosting a forum on the inappropriate use of the “R” (retard) word. Also during last week’s meeting, Not In Our Town members revisited concerns about the lack of student involvement in NIOT at Bowling Green State University. NIOT meetings rotate from locations on campus and in the downtown. During last week’s meeting on campus, no students attended. So NIOT members decided that since BGSU students aren’t coming to NIOT meetings, then NIOT will take its members to student groups. “If they aren’t showing up, we should go to their groups,” Sayler said. Holly Cipriani, a NIOT member and academic adviser at BGSU, said she would get a list of organizations that NIOT would like to hear from – like the Black Student Union, Latino Student Union, World Student Association, Indian Student Association and Muslim Student Association. Not In Our Town members want to know…


Two views on Melrose – Great news for Wood Lane kids; new concerns for neighbors

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   After decades of providing homes for adults with developmental disabilities, Wood Lane is working on its first home for children. The home, at 1022 Melrose St., Bowling Green, will be home to four children whose families need assistance in caring for them. “It’s new for us, but it’s something that everyone connected with our program knows we need,” said Brent Baer, superintendent of Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “In the last year, not a week has gone by that I haven’t heard that we can’t wait,” to offer homes for children, Baer said. The board’s housing plan originally planned for a children’s home to be opened in 2019-2010. Then the house on Melrose became available. “What a great place to grow up,” Baer said. However, some neighbors on the quiet Melrose Street, that borders Wintergarden Park, are wondering how this new home will affect their neighborhood. Wood Lane had initially planned to use the Melrose home for the Horizons program, as a home for adults with unforeseen homelessness or behavioral difficulties. But the Horizons program home will instead be located near Portage. “The owners live next door and they contacted us because they want us there,” Baer said. That gave Wood Lane an opportunity to open its first children’s home on Melrose Street. “There were cheers and claps from the staff,” when Baer told them a home for children could be opened sooner than expected. “These individuals and their families are in desperate need of this home. Their needs are just too much for one human being to keep up with.” The staffing for the maximum of four children will likely be two workers during waking hours, and one at night. During the school year, the children will attend Wood Lane School or other local schools. Wood Lane Residential Properties has 26 homes in Wood County for people with various levels of developmental disabilities. In addition to the Melrose Street home in Bowling Green, the residential properties program is also currently working on two more homes in Perrysburg, according to Jessica Miller Blakely, chief executive officer of WLRP. Unlike Bowling Green, the city of Perrysburg requires such group homes to acquire a special use permit. “Each community is unique in their zoning,” Blakely said. In the…


Seniors get “shelf meals” in case of bad winter weather

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Like squirrels putting away nuts for the winter, food is being boxed for seniors throughout Wood County. About 850 “shelf meals” were packed up recently at the Wood County Senior Center. The boxes will be delivered to the seniors who receive home delivered meals from the Wood County Committee on Aging. The goal is to make sure the seniors have food available in case inclement weather makes it impossible for the home delivered meals to make it to them. “If those individuals can’t get out of their house, and we can’t get to them because of the weather,” explained Angie Bradford, director of food services at the senior center. “It’s those extra two meals if we can’t get to them.” The Wood County Committee on Aging used to hand out pre-packed shelf meals, but found the quality lacking. Some of the food was not intended for long-term storage, Bradford said. Such was the case with canned pears one year. “They all exploded in my storeroom,” she said. So now the volunteers pack the boxes themselves. Bradford enlisted the help of people served by Wood County Developmental Disabilities to pack up the boxes. One can of beef stew, two peanut butter packets, powdered milk, corn, green beans, peaches and more. “It’s been a great partnership,” Bradford said. Those packing the boxes enjoy the work, she said. “Phyllis was asking about it in August.” As she packed cans in the boxes, Phyllis Layman explained her motivation. “I like helping people.” Tricia Romero agreed. “We want to be able to give back to the community.”


Wood Lane industries to move; board searches for other work options

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The work at Wood Lane Industries will soon be moving – along with two-thirds of the people with developmental disabilities who are served there. The work and the workers will be setting up shop in a storefront on Main Street in Bowling Green – an exciting opportunity for the people being served, organizers said. But the concern now is that 41 of the 125 workers will be left behind, with little time to find alternate services for them. Families of people with developmental disabilities met this past week in the industries building on East Gypsy Lane Road, to get as many answers as possible. Many expressed concerns about change being especially difficult for people with developmental disabilities. They and their families are comforted by consistency in settings, staff and services. Brent Baer, superintendent of the Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities (known as Wood Lane to many), apologized to the families for the hastily organized meeting. But he explained that the board felt the need to act quickly to try to find new providers for adult services. “I realize this is a shock to many of you,” Baer said. The board was notified about two weeks ago that the services at the industries location would be moving by the end of this year. “This is a pretty monumental transition for us, and it’s certainly not one we asked for,” Baer said. “I know this is going to be a huge challenge.” Wood Lane has been through several changes in the last few years – with most affecting administration while the services remained consistent. The changes to all development disability services across the state were necessitated by a requirement that the same agencies that assess the needs of people with developmental disabilities cannot also provide the services to meet those needs. That meant that Wood Lane’s adult services had to be privatized. Residential services were the first to be privatized, followed by adult vocational services in 2016. The former Wood Lane Industries became wli, which now stands for Work Leads to Independence. The Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities contracts for services with the privatized residential and vocational providers. Up until now, wli has continued to use the former Wood Lane Industries building, plus offered employment for people…


Wood Lane vision focuses on people first

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Wood County Board of Developmental Disabilities is focusing on the abilities of its consumers. Wood Lane Superintendent Brent Baer and board president Becca Ferguson presented its new vision to the Wood County Commissioners last week. The vision statement is brief, saying the board is there to “support, empower and inspire people.” “It ends with the word ‘people,’” not with disabilities, Baer said. “This speaks to who we are and what we cherish.” “I’ve never worked anywhere where I could recite it,” Baer said of the short and sweet vision statement. “It means a lot to us.” The vision statement has been posted on every office door at Wood Lane. “That set the tone for the rest of the 2020 vision,” adopted by the board, Baer said. The organization’s goal is to focus more on person-centered thinking. “The person is at the center of everything we do,” he said. But to really do that, the staff has to know the person – not just the contents of the consumer’s file. “We have to truly know the individual,” Baer said. “Checklists look great in a file. But that does not get to know the real person.” So a push is being made for staff to spend time doing fun activities with consumers. Recently that meant a volleyball game between consumers and staff. “That was probably the most fun I’ve had in years – and we were working,” Baer said. Not to mention, “We lost.” New emphasis is also being placed on consumers taking part in service projects that give back to the community. For example, some consumers just served up ice cream to raise money for Habitat for Humanity. Wood Lane is also looking at a home stabilization program that would be able to provide housing immediately to someone in need. “We frequently are sending people out of county,” for unforeseen housing needs, Baer said. Wood Lane has secured state funding for housing. Three new homes are currently being prepared for consumers – one on Melrose Avenue in Bowling Green, one on West South Boundary in Perrysburg, and another on Louisiana Avenue in Perrysburg. “We’re not shipping the money out of the county,” Ferguson said. “It’s all about creating as many options as we can,” Baer said.


Portraits in friendships between BGSU student photographers & Wood Lane individuals exhibited at Toledo Museum

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News To find the Wood Lane photo exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art, walk toward Matisse’s “Apollo” on the ground floor, then take a left. Just down the hall from that masterpiece, images of people served by Wood Lane line the walls of the Community Gallery. Most of the photos were taken by students in Lynn Whitney’s Community Projects class at Bowling Green State University. Some were taken by the Wood Lane individuals themselves. The exhibit, “Speaking of,” is the culmination of semester long project through which a dozen BGSU student photographers were teamed up with Wood Lane individuals. This is the project’s fifth year. At the opening, Whitney said this was “a project that seeks to bring a voice and alternative vision to a community of especially wonderful people.” In the beginning the Wood Lane individuals were the subjects. The photographers worked with them to depict their lives. This year, though, they were also given cameras and with the guidance of their student partners also made photographs. They went out bowling, shopping, for ice cream, and talked, said Lisa Kaplan, a BGSU graduate and a professor at Adrian College who has watched the project develop. And they came to the museum both for a visual literacy workshop and to view the Kehinde Wiley exhibit. This kind of partnership is especially needed now, Kaplan said. “We face a nation that’s increasingly suffering in many ways from a terrible lack of empathy. The struggle continues to get to a place where people with disabilities are fully integrated members of society who have full access to jobs, family, and education. … The public presentation of these pictures is a challenge to a dominant, often dehumanizing, narrative of people with disabilities.” Museum Director Brian Kennedy said the project connects with the museum’ focus on visual literacy. “We teach people how to see, to make them understand what they see. When you understand what you see, you empathize; you try to think what the other person is feeling.” Those connections are more personal between the partners in pictures. “I really felt like it was going to be a new experience,” said Kristy Cartmell of her decision to enroll in the class. “It would take me out of my comfort zone and make a…