DD Council Connection - February 2022

logo of dd council connection newsletter bannerDD Council Connection is a way for the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council to introduce to you our Council members, provide updates on the work we do and the grant projects we manage, and inform you on the activities and initiatives of Ohio's community of self-advocates and others who work on behalf of people with disabilities and their families. We hope you enjoy this e-newsletter. Please share your thoughts, story ideas and event calendar submissions with us at DDCInfo@dodd.ohio.gov.

This month's articles include:

Remembering Kenneth Latham and His Outreach Legacy

Kenneth Latham, policy analyst for the Ohio DD Council, passed away on January 23, 2022. He was with Council for 20 years primarily as the staff person for Council’s Outreach Committee.

“Ken was well known to DD Councils across the country for being the originator of the outreach concept as a way for Councils to reach people of diverse backgrounds to serve as members,” said Council’s executive director Carolyn Knight. “He will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know and work with him.”

In 2002, Ken was charged with establishing the Council's Outreach Subcommittee. The role of the committee was to identify ways to address the barriers experienced by people with disabilities who are unserved or underserved due to their racial and ethnic minority background, limited English proficiency, or living in underserved geographic areas as defined under the federal Developmental Disabilities Act.

For Ken, this was more than fulfilling a federal mandate. It was an issue of which he was passionate.

“Despite all our best efforts, certain populations continue to fall between the cracks. It is simply not fair for some people to have all the services they need - and sometimes more - and others to have nothing,” Ken once said.

The subcommittee became a standing committee in 2012. This allowed the committee to begin offering grants in the areas of outreach and cultural competence. Over the years, these projects and other outreach activities have benefitted the African American, Amish, Appalachian, Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx, LGBTQ+, and Somali communities. This year a new grant will identify the needs of individuals with developmental disabilities from un/underserved populations impacted by human trafficking.

Ken and the Outreach Committee also developed a series of questions for all grant applicants that requires them to do critical thinking on identifying the unserved or underserved populations represented in their project area. The questions guide them to find ways to collaborate with and include those individuals in project activities and outcomes.

Ken’s work with grantees also made a great impression. Dr. Patricia Larkins Hicks of the Outcomes Management Group (OMG), the grantee who produces a quarterly newsletter about diversity and outreach for Council, had this to say about Ken.

“While outreach was Ken Latham’s work assignment and a federal mandate, to him it was his life’s calling. He saw this assignment as an opportunity to champion the needs of un/underserved populations with developmental disabilities and their families.”

Another grantee, Cassandra Archie of the Triple Jeopardy Project said, “Ken would want us to honor the legacy of his work by doing what you do best: speaking and standing up every day!”

She added that his name stands for:

K - Keeping
E - Equity
N - Non-negotiable

Over the years, Ken’s work in outreach has caught the attention of several national organizations, including the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD).

“NACDD worked so closely with Ken, and we have all benefited so much from his work and expertise. May his memory always be blessings for us all,” said Donna Meltzer, CEO of the NACDD.

Ken was involved in many local and national organizations, including being an advisor on the National Advisory Committee for the National Center for Cultural Competence. His work was featured in news articles and received recognition from many organizations and government agencies.

Prior to working for Council, Ken worked for the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation and the Industrial Commission of Ohio in the roles of training specialist, rehabilitation specialist and vocational counselor. He brought over 30 years of his experience to the State of Ohio.

Ken leaves behind a wife, children and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed by the Ohio DD Council staff and members and all who were fortunate enough to know and work with him.

Funeral arrangements can be found here: https://www.diehl-whittaker.com/obituaries/Kenneth-Lamont-Latham?obId=23841696#/celebrationWall

You are also welcome to share your memories about Ken with his families, staff and other by completing the form below. You can also view this form on the web at https://forms.gle/ktU6KhbRWYmhvwwy9.

Project Highlight: Ohio’s Most Vulnerable Moving Into Better Housing

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (ODDC) is providing the second year of funding for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio and the SOAR (SSI/SDI) Outreach, Access and Recovery Ohio program. The program helps move some of Ohio’s most vulnerable community members into better housing opportunities, through access to the Social Security benefits application process. SOAR Ohio provider specialists work on behalf of individuals who are living with disabilities, by representing the Social Security Income/Social Security Disability Income (SSI/SSDI) benefit application claim.

“A SOAR Ohio certified specialist is the advocate who supports the individual in need of a benefits claim and completes all necessary forms and documentation needed by both the Social Security Administration and the Disability Determination Services, explained Amy Lamerson, SOAR Ohio and Housing Now for Homeless Families (HNHF) Director.  “We feel the more professionals and family advocates learn about the free certification training being offered and the positive impact of the SOAR methodology, this will facilitate expert level benefits knowledge, self-advocacy, and Social Security knowledge that is power when it comes to our community members living with disabling conditions.” She added that the SOAR Ohio program is currently holding a 61 percent approval rate on all first time SOAR Ohio assisted SSI/SSDI benefits claims in 101 days or less.

Here is the financial impact that the SOAR Ohio assisted approvals are having in the communities across Ohio for the most recent quarter and the 2020-2021 grant year:

  • 12 individuals (60% approvals) were SSI for a monthly award of an average of $794. These individual benefits totals to a yearly amount of $9,528, resulting in $114,336 in SSI benefits that are providing stability for those individuals over the next year.
  • 8 individuals (40% approvals) for SSDI or both SSI/SSDI for a monthly award of an average of $906. Individual SSDI benefits totals to a yearly amount of $7,248 and a combined total of $86,976 of income stability benefits for those individuals over the next year.
  • For the SOAR Ohio year, 59 total individuals are now receiving SSI with the total benefits income of $422,364 coming back into Ohio’s communities.    
  • For the year, 15 individuals are receiving SSDI benefits for yearly benefits of $280,440 that will assist in housing stability.

“As the staff person assigned the task of monitoring this project, I am not only impressed by the training and technical assistance being provided to anyone in the field wanting to be able to troubleshoot issues relating to people with disabilities being able to obtain their SSI or SSDI benefits, but also the financial impact is tremendous,” said ODDC Policy Analyst Fatica Ayers.

Take a Survey about Independent Living

The Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council (OSILC) is currently working on gathering information on what people in Ohio think about disability issues and Independent Living. The results from the survey can help shape services, advocacy efforts, and understanding of needs in each community and across the state. Please take their brief survey to help OSILC with its future planning efforts and activities. The survey will close February 4, 2022. 

Click here to take the survey

New Transportation Report Shows Impact of COVID-19, Need for Accessibility, & Improvements for Ohioans with Disabilities

The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (the Council), in collaboration with the Ohio Colleges of Medicine Government Resource Center (GRC), has released the 2021 Transportation Accessibility for Ohioans with Disabilities Report.

Transportation is consistently cited as the number one unmet need of Ohioans with disabilities. The Council partnered with GRC to develop and conduct an accessible statewide survey to better understand transportation issues for Ohioans with disabilities. 

The goal of the 2021 study was to answer key questions about the current status of transportation accessibility for Ohioans with disabilities, identify any new transportation challenges related to COVID-19 and help inform transportation stakeholders and policy makers and determine needed steps to further improve accessibility.

The 2021 survey was open to all Ohio adults with one or more disabilities and all Ohio transportation providers. As a result, this follow-up study reached a diverse range of people with disabilities and transportation providers across all regions of Ohio.

Both participants with disabilities and transportation providers highlighted several main themes that would greatly improve transportation for Ohioans with disabilities. Please see the full report for a complete scope of responses and recommendations.

Read the report: Transportation Accessibility for Ohioans with Disabilities - 2021 Report

This report is a follow up to the 2017 study focused on transportation challenges for Ohioans with disabilities. The study was aligned with the Council’s mission to create change that improves the independence, productivity, and inclusion of individuals with disabilities and their families in community life.

Council updates "Taking Charge" publication

The Ohio DD Council has released the 4th edition of Taking Charge: A Hands-on Guide to Personal Assistance Services and the booklet is now available online. This publication informs people with disabilities about the process of setting up and managing a personal assistance services support system. Council would like to thank Kathy Foley for editing and revising this publication. Now retired, Kathy worked at the Services for Independent Living.