Representative Sara Carruthers (center) and Senator George Lang (not pictured) met with Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities Superintendent, Lisa Guliano (center left) as well as Erich Bitter from the Ohio Association of County Boards of DD (left); Deb Lyle, Administrator of Graceworks Enhanced Living (center right); and Mark Schlater, CEO of Toward Independence (right).

Carruthers and Lang learned about the important work being done by provider agencies like Graceworks Enhanced Living and Toward Independence – both of which provide direct care for people with developmental disabilities and are currently struggling to fill empty positions. Carruthers and Lang offered their full support to helping improve the situation for DSPs identifying the need for a long-term plan.

Butler County, Ohio – “We need to let people know that this is a very noble career,” State Representative Sara Carruthers said after learning about how vital Direct Support Professionals (DSP) are to those with developmental disabilities

On Friday, April 15th, the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities (BCBDD) Superintendent Lisa Guliano, the Ohio Association of County Boards (OACB) Government Relations Director Erich Bittner, Graceworks Enhanced Living Administrator Deb Lyle, and Toward Independence’s CEO Mark Schlater met with Ohio Senator George Lang and Ohio Representative Sara Carruthers to discuss how to improve the Developmental Disabilities (DD) system and create a structurally sound future for DSPs.

Deb Lyle, Administrator of Graceworks Enhanced Living and Mark Schlater, CEO of Toward Independence.

DSPs are caregivers who work directly with people with developmental disabilities, providing the care and support needed for everyday life. Many provider agencies in Butler County and throughout Ohio are struggling to fill DSP positions. 

Both Bittner and Guliano presented three of what they considered 2022 legislative priorities with support from Lyle and Schlater. “When the dust all clears we still have to find a way,” Schlater said when explaining why he believed the DD system needed help providing DSPs with more incentives and security. Guliano supported Schlater by emphasizing that because the number of people needing services continues to grow, the number of DSPs and funding needs to do the same.

Senator Lang and Representative Carruthers fully agreed with Bittner, Schlater, Lyle, and Guliano and offered their full support. 

Ohio House Representative George Lang (left) participated in the meeting with the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities via Zoom.

“I intimately understand the great work you do and I will do whatever I can to solve this issue. We have to figure out how to press reset and come up with a long-term plan,” Senator Lang said.

“I think the answer is reconfiguring the model and system,” Carruthers said, “Maybe work in an inflation adjustment and target the most important jobs affected. I think we start at the elementary level.”

Bittner also brought forth in the meeting the idea of providing more flexibility for Ohio public meetings and modernizing purchasing authority for County Boards of DD. Both Lang and Carruthers supported the ideas presented and again emphasized that they would support the DD system in any way they could. “Just so you know you are getting someone with unstoppable forces,” Lang said making the entire conference room burst into laughter.

The OACB and BCBDD have high hopes after meeting with Lang and Carruthers, who both sit on the budget committee. 

The Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities provides services and supports to over 3,700 Butler County residents so they can successfully live, work, and learn in the community. Supports and services are available life-long through partner agencies or directly provided by the Board. The Board’s primary source of funding is from property tax levies collected annually and the Board was last on the ballot in 2004. Since 2021, the Board has given .5 mills of their 2.0 mills continuing levy back to the community through a temporary rollback. 

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