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Summit DD Board Launches Eat Safe and Reduces Choking Incidents

Summit DD Board Launches Eat Safe and Reduces Choking Incidents

Summit County DD Board Launches Eat Safe and Reduces Choking Incidents

The work of the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board (Summit DD) to reduce choking incidents has not gone unnoticed. The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) would like to recognize the prevention efforts and progress of Summit DD’s Eat Safe campaign. 

Annually, Summit DD’s Stakeholder Committee meets to review Major Unusual Incident (MUI) data, identify trends, and make recommendations for areas of improvement. The committee, comprised of people who receive services and their families, providers, county board staff, and community partners, believed that additional resources and awareness would lead to a reduction of choking incidents and injuries. The board embraced these recommendations and engaged in a multi-year effort to offer dysphasia supports to all people served.

Since 2018, there has been a 53 percent reduction in choking-related Medical Emergency Major Unusual Incidents (MUIs). The expertise of Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) has helped Investigative Agents (IAs) better identify potential choking hazards. These additional resources work to improve the prevention plans for those people with choking concerns.

This reduction is significant, but Summit DD’s work started long before 2018.

Dysphasia supports have been in place for years. Early in the process, the focus was only on people served that received center-based services provided by Summit DD. As the transition out of being a service provider began, support was offered to all eligible individuals. Over a few years, that support led to the Eat Safe Campaign.

During this time, work also began between Summit DD’s MUI unit and the stakeholder committee. These supports expanded to ensure providers and teams knew how to access resources when MUI’s occurred.

Based on the data, the Eat Safe campaign works. So, what goes on behind the scenes?

The Summit DD’s Eat Safe campaign educates, supports, and helps implement a safe eating culture for those with developmental disabilities in Summit County. This is especially important for those who are at risk for eating/swallowing difficulties. People with developmental disabilities are three times more likely to experience respiratory disease.

The campaign’s mission is simple; inform and educate those served, their families and caregivers, and ensure a safe and enjoyable environment while eating and drinking. The involvement of the MUI Stakeholder committee has only pushed that mission further.

MUI Manager Wayne Hershey has seen the significance of the work done firsthand. The collaboration between Hershey and the Community Supports and Developmental department led by Drew Williams was influential in the development of the Eat Safe campaign.

“The work done by Drew’s team is a major reason we have started to see a significant decrease in MUIs related to choking and the reduction of repeat choking MUIs for a specific person over the last few years,” said Hershey. 

Williams and the team collaborated with two board SLPs, Patrice Bezik and Patty Hauserman, to further solidify the campaign. The two are responsible for individual assessments, eating guidelines, and training for anyone who needs a specialized diet. This only further ensures the safety of those people who are at risk.

“Being able to eat safely is a fundamental right,” said Williams. “Through the Eat Safe campaign, it is Summit DD’s goal to ensure that anyone who might need support to enjoy eating has it.”

Implementing a safe eating culture in Summit County didn’t happen overnight. It took countless hours of work, data recognition, and follow through. With this new system in place, a continued reduction of choking-related Medical Emergency MUIs is the goal.

To learn more about Eat Safe, check out this Summit DD training video breaking down the campaign further.