2019 was a year of collaboration and progress for Ohio’s developmental disabilities (DD) system.
I would like to begin by thanking Ohioans with developmental disabilities and their families for the advocacy they showed during 2019. Please know that every action the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) undertakes is on your behalf to ultimately improve services for all Ohioans who are part of the DD system.
DD organizations and stakeholders across Ohio have also been an incredibly collaborative group in the last year, and that partnership has allowed the department to work with Governor Mike DeWine, the state legislature, and all of you, in order to make some historic investments and needed improvements to Ohio’s DD services system.
In 2019, the department focused its efforts on case management and direct supports, restructured staff to improve customer service, and introduced a budget that was intentionally non-controversial but bold on investments.
With your support over the past year, DODD has accomplished the following:
- The introduction and implementation of a historic provider rate investment increased the compensation of direct support professionals (DSPs) providing supports that are essential to our system. The $262 million investment increases the reimbursement rate component for home and community-based services waiver providers delivering Homemaker/Personal Care (HPC) and On-Site/On-Call services.
- The Ohio Individual Service Plan Workgroup met for the first time to begin work on the development of a single assessment and individual service plan (ISP) format for the state of Ohio. Work will continue through 2020 to pilot this new single assessment and ISP, make data-driven improvements, and roll out the assessment and ISP statewide.
- DODD continued the statewide implementation of the Ohio Technology First initiative by working with people with disabilities, their families, service providers, and county boards of developmental disabilities to ensure technology is considered as part of all service and support plans. Continuing to lead with innovative practices around the use of technology, DODD will pilot an online learning experience paired with groundbreaking virtual reality encounters for DSPs. This training, simulating real-life interactions with a variety of people with complex communication needs, is designed to support a DSP’s ability to notice, understand, and respect the people they support and their communication preferences.
- DODD, through budget investments, provided additional funding to Early Intervention (EI) service coordination agencies to support local agencies with service coordination, evaluation, and assessment as they continue to manage significant increases in numbers of EI referrals and children served. Budget investments also allowed children with a diagnosis of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) or elevated blood lead levels (BLLs) to become automatically eligible for EI services. The addition of these two new categories in EI will better ensure that children who have a demonstrated effect on development as a result of these diagnoses have the opportunity to access EI services.
- Budget investments of $26.3 million allowed for changes to modernize the Non-Medical Transportation (NMT) reimbursement system so people with developmental disabilities can better get to work, school, and around their communities. This targeted investment will create higher reimbursement rates to encourage more flexible and person-centered transportation, while broader conversations around reforms and innovations to transportation will continue in 2020.
- Previously, county boards of developmental disabilities have had to enter the same data into multiple systems and in different formats. In 2019, DODD began streamlining these processes as much as possible through the County Board Data Exchange (CBDX) project to free county board staff to focus more on the people they support.
- The State Fiscal Year 2020-2021 budget maintains the intermediate care facilities (ICF) rate reimbursement formula. Applying this formula, every ICF has received an increase in reimbursement from 2018 to 2020, with an average increase of 18%. Additionally, the department updated and improved ICF information on the DODD website by creating an online tool for families to search for ICF providers on a map, along with providing more informational resources to better explain residential options available to families.
- DODD successfully added budget language to allow ICFs to receive an additional rate on top of their base rate to serve youth who require intensive behavioral supports through specialized training for their staff and environmental modifications to provide another option for families who need this specialized type of service.
- Ohio’s developmental centers embarked on a journey to become trauma-informed organizations in 2019. This endeavor seeks to train all levels of staff throughout a developmental center to understand trauma and use appropriate techniques to address and respond to the trauma people we serve have experienced throughout their lives. Early signs are positive, and we will continue to track implementation. We will share indicators of success as well as lessons learned in hopes our system partners will increasingly understand the benefits of implementing trauma-informed care.
- Partnering with a team of experts from OCALI, DODD has developed a training curriculum for providers serving youth with intensive behavioral needs to accompany the additional rate for ICFs as well as any other providers wishing to have staff trained in this area. In-person training sessions across the state began in 2019, with online modules being developed for providers to access in 2020.
- DODD completed the System of Care ECHO (Extension of Community Health Outcomes) pilot for multi-system youth. DODD and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services are continuing the project in 2020 to increase the ability for local teams to consult with expert clinicians about youth with complex needs.
As both myself and the department look forward to continuing this good work in 2020, we hope that you will keep in touch with department staff and stay informed about DODD’s work. (You can subscribe to DODD publications here). Thank you for making my year so special, and I look forward to seeing you and speaking with you in the coming months.