In January, when I stepped into the role of Superintendent of Hamilton County DD Services, my first goal was to listen and learn. I wanted to understand what people we support, families, our employees, and other partners valued and appreciated about our organization, as well as what they hoped to see from us in the future.
Throughout the year, we faced several unexpected challenges but I’m proud of our accomplishments and the work we’ve done. One of our most significant achievements was the COVID-19 vaccine clinic we operated from January to May. It’s hard to think back to the early days of distribution, but at that time, vaccines were scarce and families looked to us for guidance. It was a monumental logistical challenge, but we recognized the need for a vaccine clinic and our incredible team stepped up to deliver a smooth experience for people we support, direct support professionals, and caregivers—administering nearly 4,200 vaccine doses.
Although the vaccine clinic offered some relief to many after a difficult and isolating year, the coronavirus pandemic has continued to impact our lives throughout 2021. Our provider community has shown incredible creativity and dedication as they have continued to serve people with developmental disabilities safely. We listened as they described struggling to find enough staff while dealing with new challenges and requirements, decreased revenues, and increased costs. To alleviate some of that stress, we invested nearly $5 million in our providers through innovative programs like sustainability grants and reimbursements for extraordinary costs.
We also listened to families about critical service gaps and how we could better respond to their needs. This summer, we returned to providing in-person services to those who need and want them, but we also heard from people we support and families who wanted to maintain virtual service options, so we continue to offer that option. In addition, we opened Alice’s House and Bramble House, two new locations representing many years of work and dedication. These developments provided much-needed options for housing and respite. It was exciting to celebrate these grand openings with our community partners, elected officials and others.
In September, we launched My Life, a new quarterly magazine created by and for people with developmental disabilities. We heard from people we support about the need for a dedicated publication that shares success stories, empowers people with independent life skills, and promotes opportunities for advocacy and making connections. So far, we’ve had a fantastic response to My Life, and we look forward to growing the magazine next year.
Before my first year as superintendent comes to a close, we’ll add one more significant achievement to this list—transitioning the service coordination component of Early Intervention from Lighthouse Youth Services to HCDDS. We’ve had a strong partnership with Lighthouse and our close collaboration means families should not experience any disruption in services during this transition.
Our accomplishments in 2021 would not be possible without the dedication of HCDDS employees. Throughout the year we’ve improved many of our processes and technologies to give our staff the support they need to work efficiently and effectively for families in Hamilton County. We also began making significant improvements to our compensation policies, procedures, and structure. The complex and meticulous work that went into this project will allow HCDDS to remain an attractive workplace for our employees and for future talent.
I’m immensely proud of our achievements this year. It’s clear why HCDDS has long been an innovator and a leader across the state in supporting people with developmental disabilities. It’s been a great first year as superintendent, and I look forward to continuing our important work together in 2022. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year!