As we approach the end of another remarkable year, I’m pleased to share some of the incredible achievements of 2023, so we can celebrate milestones, express our gratitude, and incorporate the knowledge and experience gained as we look forward to 2024.
This year, we’ve focused significant efforts on improving our internal processes to position ourselves to serve people better. This included work on our recruitment, hiring, retention, and evaluation processes to ensure our ability to attract and keep great staff. Additionally, we’ve added an Early Intervention team to meet growing needs of children and their families. We moved to the Ohio Individual Service Plan (OISP), transitioned our case management database to a new system, and streamlined our records management. While these changes may sound technical and you may not have even noticed, they represent monumental work by our employees and will allow us to provide the highest quality services possible.
Not only did we look internally, but we also strengthened our outreach and partnership efforts through many meaningful collaborations. Over the past year, we worked with local partners to open two specialized housing developments to help us meet critical needs. We deepened partnerships with medical, mental health, and service providers as well as many other community organizations. We offered a one-day flu and COVID-19 vaccine clinic where we distributed 155 vaccine doses. We connected with new people in our community through our partnership with the 513 Relief Bus at 41 locations. And we deepened our engagement with families by providing more than 24 sessions focused on a variety of topics, including our Life Stage Transition Guides, the Future is Now, SSI and SSDI, and more.
Our advocacy efforts also saw great progress. In 2023, our team connected more than 500 people to social groups and community activities, worked with several local schools to promote the importance of inclusion, and created and awarded the inaugural John Romer Advocacy Award to recognize the contributions of three local winners whose advocacy work for themselves and others has significantly impacted their community. In the fall, I was excited to attend their Advocacy Summit with more than 100 people, where we had a wonderful evening celebrating advocacy together.
Finally, we must recognize the work of many other advocates, family members, providers, county boards, and partners from across the state who shared compelling personal experiences and urged state legislators and officials to increase wages for direct support professionals (DSPs) in Ohio. These long-overdue increases are critical for the people we support and the dedicated DSPs committed to providing these valuable services every day. I’m grateful to everyone who worked to make DSP wages and other important state budget priorities a reality.
I know there were many more accomplishments, large and small, throughout our agency this year, and I’m proud of what we’ve achieved together. As we set our sights on the upcoming year, I encourage you to take a look at our draft 2024 Annual Plan and submit any suggestions you have before January 5. Together, we can continue to make a positive impact for people with disabilities and families in Hamilton County. Thank you for your support, and best wishes for a happy and healthy new year.