The LCBDD Board of Directors released the following on June 17, 2020
Those working in the DD field often use the expression, “If you meet one person with a developmental disability…you’ve met ONE person with a developmental disability.”
Every single one of the close to 2,000 people supported by the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities has their own unique stories and experiences. They have strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad ones, interests and ideas and challenges that they’ve faced.
But don’t we all?
For more than 50 years, the board members, dedicated staff and families served by the Licking County Board of DD have worked hard to end the misconception that a medical diagnosis or label defines who a person is and what they will accomplish in their lives.
After sitting through a recent township trustee meeting on June 8, it was clear to us that we still have a long way to go.
Two years ago, LCBDD made a commitment to the families that we support. For far too long, children and teens with developmental disabilities in Licking County have had to travel hours away from their families, friends and schools to receive out-of-home respite services. We can do better for them, and we will.
To begin addressing this problem, we embarked on a plan in 2018 to bring these resources closer. Our plan includes the construction of two new homes for kids with disabilities in our county to receive supports near their families.
Unfortunately, over the past six weeks, we have encountered community opposition that is not only unfounded but hurtful.
Words matter. The words used to describe the young people we support who could be utilizing these homes were disturbing to say the least.
Many who work in our field have unfortunate memories of the 1960s and 1970s when the “not in my backyard” movement was gaining traction. After decades working with people who have faced stigma and misconception, it saddens us to realize those things haven’t been left in the past.
Families of those with disabilities are no different than any of us. They care about their children, about education and about their communities. The assumption that a developmental disability diagnosis is somehow synonymous with criminal behavior or that a person is “troubled” is outdated and flat out wrong.
We are facing a challenging time in our country, where people are engaging in important conversations about basic human rights.
As a county board, charged with advocating for those who have also experienced marginalization and discrimination, we are obligated to not only listen to those conversations but to engage in them. Our only choice is to stand up when we see injustice and face it head on.
So although we are committed to this project, we are still seeking the right location. The people we support have a basic human right to live in a neighborhood where they will be welcomed, respected and treated equally.
We will use these situations as opportunities that motivate us to continue our mission of education and awareness, from the middle of our largest city to our most remote country road. We will always strive to be advocates and forces for change for a very deserving population.
The members of the Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities’ Board of Directors
Jason L. Umstot