By Alyssa Pawluk
The Youngstown State University College Democrats have joined in the fight to keep the Youngstown Developmental Center open.
The Youngstown Developmental Center, an intermediate care facility for the mentally challenged in Mineral Ridge, Ohio, along with a few other developmental centers, will be closing in July of 2017 at the order of governor John Kasich.
Michelle Lepore-Hagan, a democratic representative of the Ohio House of Representatives, is also teaming up with the College Democrats in the Youngstown-wide fight to help the YDC remain open.
Chris Anderson, the communications director for the YSU College Democrats, said the group’s decision to help was not political.
“It’s simply the right thing to do. The staff of the YDC provide vital services not only to the residents of the YDC, but also to the community,” Anderson said. “The YDC employs more than 220 people and provides a home to more than 80 developmentally disabled citizens from 14 counties in our state. In our eyes, you don’t have to be a Democrat or a Republican to know that it’s closure isn’t good for our valley.”
Anderson said the group began this fight in early March when they wrote a letter to Kasich inquiring to his justification for the shutdown.
“One of the solutions we arrived at was the open letter that we wrote on their behalf, where we detail the human aspect of the closure of the YDC. Essentially, we have offered to be there in any way that will help them fight this closure,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the group has not heard from Kasich since the letter was sent in early March.
“We wrote to governor Kasich requesting justification for the YDC’s closure. We also pleaded with his office to find other ways to create budget savings that didn’t involve the closure of the YDC. We received nothing back from him,” Anderson said.
Anderson explained some of the effects of the shutdown of the developmental center.
“The shutdown of the YDC would have a huge impact on the Valley. From an economic aspect, the YDC employs more than 220 people. That’s 220 full time positions that will be lost. If we assume that each employee makes the direct care industry average of $23,712, a low figure, that is $5.2 million being taken out of our local economy,” Anderson said. “Some of these employees have spent more than 30 years of their lives providing dedicated care to the residents of this facility. [The residents] are going to be surrounded by new people that they’ve never met before. There was no study done as to whether this is even safe, to my knowledge, to move the residents of the YDC. Further, it’s going to make it even harder for what family they may have to visit them. Imagine that you have a family member that lives in the YDC and your only means to visit them is by bus. That’s an additional hour you’ll have to ride on a bus. How likely are you to visit? It’s simple: The YDC closure is bad for Youngstown and bad for Ohio.”
Joe Schiavoni, a democratic member of the Ohio Senate, said he is the process of establishing a commission in the Senate that would relieve the governor’s decisional authority regarding developmental centers’ shutdowns across the state.
“[The YSU College Democrats and I] haven’t sat down and talked about it specifically. I’m sure that they are aware of the efforts that I’ve been trying to push,” Schiavoni said. “It’s actually got a good amount of support thus far and is currently an amendment in the house budget. So we have to keep that in the house budget and get it over to the senate and then when it gets in the senate, keep it in and get it back to the governor for signature, and we’ve got a lot of support from across the state on that piece.”
Schiavoni added that Lepore-Hagan was responsible for amending the commission into the Ohio House of Representatives budget, and the house will vote on the bill on Thursday.
Schiavoni agreed that the closing of the center would have a negative impact on its residents as well as the staff.
“I think that the governor and the folks down in Columbus really need to take a look at maybe another place to try and save money and not closing [developmentally disabled] facilities. There’s a certain level of personal care that these folks need and the current workers of the YDC out in the Montgomery County are providing that,” Schiavoni said. “I just hope that nothing bad happens if they are moved out of [the YDC] because they really do need doctors on hand, nurses on hand, security on hand for issues that arise. When you’re talking about putting them in a group home, those group homes do not provide that level of care and security.”
Anderson said there are over 40,000 developmentally disabled residents in Ohio awaiting services and 4,000 of those residents are in need of housing.
“Let that sink in. 10 percent of our society’s most vulnerable citizens need housing, and our state is closing developmental facilities such as the YDC. It just seems counterintuitive,” he said.