A Brief History of the
Ohio Association of County Boards
Serving People with Developmental Disabilities

The Ohio Association of County Boards - Serving People with Developmental Disabilities (OACB) was established in the fall of 1983 as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. Formal operations began in January 1984 with 53 of Ohio’s County Boards of DD as charter members, and by the end of the year, 67 County Boards were OACB members. One year later, an additional 14 boards had joined, and by 1989, all 88 Ohio County Boards of DD were members of the OACB.

The OACB’s first president was David Miller, who also served as president of the and Editor of the Bowling Green Sentinel. At the time the Wood County Board of DD was established, Mr. Miller declared, “the overriding goal on this Association is to keep County Boards of DD as well informed as possible.” The Board hired an executive director, who in turn hired an administrative assistant and computer specialist. OACB staff worked out of office space loaned by the Franklin County Board of DD until 1986, when the existing office in Worthington was purchased.

From its onset, the OACB has endeavored to meet that initial “overriding goal.” The OACB developed a statewide Annual Revenue and Expenditure Report in 1984 that was the framework for a similar report now compiled and issued by the Ohio Department of DD. In addition, an annual Salary Survey was developed and distributed – something that remains in place today. The OACB also developed a Board Reference Manual – which is updated periodically – as well as a monthly publication for County Board job vacancies, which today is maintened on the recently redesigned OACB website. OACB communicates to the membership extensively and immediately via electronic mail – current communications include the periodic NewsAlert, and monthly Activities Report (both created in 2005).

In 1988, the OACB helped to establish a health insurance trust that currently provides benefits to employees of 27 County Boards of DD, as well as other affiliated entities and staff. The OACB remains the administrative sponsor for the health insurance trust today. In 1993, a 501(c)(6) entity was formed to operate the business of the OACB, while the 501(c)(3) organization focused on training.

Legislative and executive agency advocacy have been a hallmark of OACB since its inception. In 1991, the Ohio Political Action Committee for Mental Retardation (OPAC/MR) was founded to fund and support the collective political goals of Ohio’s County Boards of DD. For many years, top-level administrators of member boards served in the role of administrator. In 2004, the OACB’s legislative counsel, Tom Pappas, assumed administrative responsibility for OPAC/DD.

Throughout the first 20 years of the OACB, the organization grew. At one point, there were more than a dozen employees working at OACB and the DD Services Group, a limited liability corporation created in 1997 with a focus specifically on training. At the time, OACB revenue came not only from membership dues, but also through grants primarily awarded by the State. By 2000, the DD Services Group had all but ceased operations, as grants previously awarded by the State were not renewed, and the organization was formally dissolved in 2005.

A dramatic restructuring of the organization unfolded beginning in the summer of 2004 as a result of a forensic audit of the OACB, which was ordered by the Board of Trustees. Coupled with a series of articles in a major Ohio newspaper, audit results ultimately led to the resignation of several board members, the removal of the original executive director, and a significant downsizing of staff. As is often the case following a period of turmoil, a stronger, more focused organization has arisen.

Then Board of Trustees President Dave Dohnal, a member of the Summit County Board of DD, guided the Board through a most tumultuous period, while traveling with new Executive Director Dan Ohler around the state on two rounds of regional meetings to personally address the membership. Financial management has been outsourced to an independent accounting firm, new Board Members elected, a corporate policy manual implemented, the Constitution & By-laws updated, and a new dues formula presented to the members in the fall of 2006. The OACB’s relationships with the Governor’s Office, the Ohio Department of DD, and the state’s Medicaid Agency are stronger than ever and OACB’s stature with members of the General Assembly has been restored.

Today, the OACB has an active and full Board of Trustees representing county boards of all sizes from every corner of the state. A dedicated team of staff and contractors are focused on the organization’s mission, which itself was created with the original ‘overriding goal’ very much in mind: to support County Boards of  Developmental Disabilities in providing services and supports to individuals with disabilities.

The OACB maintains administrative contracts with the Ohio Association of Adult Services, as well as the Ohio Association of Services for Children, and leases a portion of its office space to the benefits trust.

Challenges remain in Ohio’s DD service delivery system. These include cuts in state and federal funding streams, a new Governor and administration in 2007, new state agency directors, several new state legislators, significant questions about the role and functions of County Boards of DD, and concerns about the state’s commitment to the county board system of providing services and supports to approximately 70,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. While daunting, these challenges ensure a continued vital role for the Ohio Association of County Boards.

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