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County DD board fills a vital need

March 25, 2012
The Herald-Star

March is Developmental Disabilities Month in Jefferson County. The theme this year is "Our Community is Better - Together."

Services to county residents with developmental disabilities wouldn't be possible without the teamwork of several agencies.

The Jefferson County Developmental Disabilities Board serves about 40 children in the early intervention and preschool programs, 74 students at the School of Bright Promise and 180 adults.

Services are provided birth to death thanks to county taxpayers. The DD board ranks high in the state for its percentage of funding that comes from the local level.

But help for the developmentally disabled is multifaceted. The county's Developmental Disabilities Board, county health department, Jefferson Behavioral Health Services, Jefferson County Educational Service Center, school districts, Jefferson County Family and Children First Council and county Job and Family Services all work together as a team to provide help and services.

The community is better - together - for the teamwork.

County mental retardation boards were created in 1967, but it wasn't until 1982 that mental retardation and developmental disabilities became its own state department.

Jefferson County voters in 1968 opened their hearts and wallets for the mentally retarded by approving a tax levy. The School of Bright Promise opened in 1971 and the Jeffco Sheltered Workshop opened in 1972.

Birth to death services are offered to hundreds of families who have a loved one who has a developmental disability.

Those families were lost at the beginning on how to care for their son or daughter. But the agency came to their rescue and provided education and life skills that allowed the person with a developmental disability to grow.

The name mental retardation was removed from county board names a several years ago. Developmental disabilities is more appropriate because it encompasses the population served by the Jefferson County board.

School districts in Jefferson and Harrison counties, the Jefferson County Educational Services Center and the Jefferson County Board of Development Disabilities got together several years ago and opened the Regional Spectrum Center to help with severe cases of autism.

The Developmental Disabilities Board now also works to help young adults find employment. School boards also are now giving diplomas to students with developmental disabilities if they meet their educational goals. A high school diploma is key to finding a job.

Residents with a developmental disability at one time faced an uncertain future.

Thanks to the teamwork provided by agencies and school districts, that future is now brighter.

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