Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Development Disabilities: Your Vote Makes a Difference

As I’ve been listening to all the debates about health care over the last six weeks, I’ve been frustrated to hear so much selfishness from so many Americans. Many people say they support universal health care, but they’re screaming and yelling about any change that might cost them an extra dollar or decrease their care the slightest bit. I know the issues go far beyond that, but this aspect of it has troubled me deeply. So talking with Larry Duck and Frank Santisi about the programs offered by the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabiities was especially inspiring.

You know this group as MRDD – mental retardation and development disabilities. If you live in Mahoning County, you’ve seen and hopefully voted in support of levies to fund their services on ballots over the years. This fall, the name is changing, dropping the phrase “mental retardation” in part to eliminate language that has overly negative connotations. But the purpose and strategy remains the same: support developmentally disabled individuals and their families through education and services. You can hear all about what they do in our interview.

The Board has also developed a new resource, a guidebook for parents. The booklet offers advice on legal matters, working with local agencies and schools, and long-term planning. To get a copy, contact Paul Iden by e-mail or call the office at 330-797-2825.

Here’s why this gives me hope: not only is it encouraging to talk with a professional like Larry Duck who is devoting his intelligence and skill to addressing the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of our society, and not only is it moving to hear Frank Santisi describe the challenges and accomplishments of his son Frankie, but it’s inspiring to recognize that part of what makes all of this possible is that people who are not directly affected by development disabilities vote for a levy to fund the Board’s work. In a community that has been struggling economically for decades, in a culture that is increasingly anti-tax, Mahoning County voters almost always support MRDD levies.

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