Easterseals received a warm welcome from legislators and policy makers in the Ohio Statehouse on February 6 for the biannual Easterseals Ohio Advocacy Day. Not only did they join in celebrating the 100th anniversary of Easterseals, they also took a keen interest in how the organization continues to make a profound impact as it begins its second century of service.
“To know one Easterseals affiliate is to know one Easterseals affiliate,” joked Easterseals national President and CEO Angela Williams. Ohio has five affiliate chapters serving more than 44,000 people, each in a way that is best aligned with the unique needs and challenges of their region. Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati, for example, is focused on workforce development and human services for people with disabilities, people facing economic hardship, and veterans. In 2018, more than 700 individuals were connected to employment in Greater Cincinnati through Easterseals services.
Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati was well represented by clients, families, volunteers, and employees in the state capital. Over the course of the day, our representatives had great conversations with State Senators Lou Terhar (District 9); Cecil Thomas (District 9); Joe Uecker (District 14); and Steve Wilson (District 7) and State Representatives Louis Blessing (District 29); Sedrick Denson (District 33); and Brigid Kelly (District 31).
Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Larry Obhof, and House Speaker Larry Householder each presented Easterseals with official commendations recognizing the organization’s 100th Anniversary.
Easterseals was founded as the Ohio Society for Crippled Children in 1919 by Elyria businessman and Rotarian Edgar Allen. With the leadership of fellow Rotary members, they drafted the Ohio Plan to help children with disabilities. It resulted in Ohio Bill 174. When passed in 1920, the bill became the first state appropriation in the nation’s history dedicated exclusively to caring for children with disabilities. By 1930, similar legislation was adopted by every state in the union.
Ever since, Easterseals has been a driving force in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities, playing a key role in the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1921, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Education Act of 1978, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
With its expanded focus to include helping veterans and military families, as well as fighting poverty, Williams encouraged Ohio lawmakers to continue working alongside Easterseals to make positive, profound differences in people’s daily lives.
“We need to work collaboratively to create a stronger future where our most vulnerable citizens rely less on government assistance and can become more independent and self-reliant,” Williams said.
Easterseals leaders collectively asked Ohio lawmakers to support a $300,000 appropriation to expand Easterseals’ capacity to develop and deliver a best-in-class, community-integrated adult day program that can be replicated statewide. Easterseals adult day programs have already demonstrated effectiveness in improving quality outcomes for veterans, seniors, and adults with disabilities. Additional funding would allow Easterseals to expand service sites, improve efficiencies, and disseminate best practices across Ohio.
The agency also asked lawmakers to support Ohio’s direct service workforce by increasing stagnant reimbursement rates. Ohio is facing a crisis in its direct care workforce that jeopardizes the health and safety of citizens who rely on them for care in their homes and communities, Across multiple areas of service—from aging to adult day to medical therapies--reimbursement rates have not kept pace with the cost of doing business, and in many cases, have not increased for a decade. As a result, too many direct care workers live in poverty, fueling high staff turnover and making it increasingly difficult for providers such as Easterseals to deliver consistent quality care.