MOUNT VERNON — Although the local board of the Department of Developmental Disabilities doesn’t receive its funding from the same source as many county departments, Superintendent Steve Oster thought it might be a good time to review DDD’s financial status with the county commissioners. Oster said he wanted to make it clear that although the mental health levy passed in March 2008 has helped the department tremendously, it alone would not have kept it on an even keel, due to continuous state funding cuts.
“It’s not just the levy that is making us OK,” Oster said. “We’ve also been making cuts for a year-and-a-half.”
Pre-levy enrollment in DDD’s programs in Knox County was 342, Oster said; that has risen to 426. Increases, he said, have primarily been seen in adult day services, family support services and homemaker personal care services. Levy assurances that at least 14 people would be enrolled on waivers per year will be exceeded this first year, with a projected total of 25 enrolled by the end of the year. Oster said this helps families on the DDD’s waiting list.
All of this activity means that right now, Knox is the fastest growing developmental disability board in Ohio, Oster said.
Oster said the state subsidy for boards across the state is 20 percent lower this year than in 2008, with another 10 percent expected to disappear in the 2010 budget. Further losses will come by 2012 as the federal stimulus support for Medicaid costs is expected to expire, adding 10 percent to those costs, according to DDD fiscal director Robert Mahle.
The mental health levy, which became effective earlier this year, would not have proven enough to supplant these drastic cuts, Oster said. Fortunately, he said, the directors anticipated this change and have been making cuts and creative adjustments in program efficiencies, including refinancing adult day service and supported living programs. Oster said partnering with private sector operations on travel, sharing resources with other boards, giving creative alternatives to raises, acquiring new grants, freezing salaries and not replacing cut positions have helped in cost reduction.
Operating efficiency has been boosted, Oster said, by mandatory car-pooling, competitive pricing for supplies and utilities, holding on-line meetings instead of traveling for meetings, going as paperless as possible in the office, auctioning off old equipment and recycling scrap, efficiency checks on building systems, and renting out facilities whenever possible.
These cuts and improvements have saved the board over $500,000, Oster said, supplanting the loss of $464,000 from the state this year.