The Ohio House has added language to the biennial state budget that would require a study commission to review closures of developmental disabilities centers proposed by the governor, including the recently announced closing of facilities in Mineral Ridge and Dayton.
Rep. Robert Sprague of Findlay, R-76th, said the panel could move to stop the closing of those two developmental centers or others.
Rep. Ryan Smith of Bidwell, R-93rd, chairman of the House Finance Committee, said the study commission, if enacted, would work on its review concurrent with the current closure schedule.
“We’ve gone from 1,200 [residents] in the developmental centers now down to 800, and we think that enough is enough,” Sprague said. “We want to make sure that we’re looking at this more carefully, and that we prevent the wholesale closure of these developmental centers.”
Asked whether the study commission could stop the closure of the two centers, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger of Clarksville, R-91st, responded, “That’s what our attempt is.”
Local lawmakers, all Democrats, offered their support for the budget amendment.
“Since the decision was made to close the Youngstown Developmental Center, the response has been clear and unequivocal: The workers, residents and their families, and indeed the entire community want and need this facility to remain open,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, said in a released statement.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, added, “The residents, their families and the employees of the Youngstown Developmental Center deserve a fair and open process in deciding the future of the facility. While this looks promising for the future of the developmental center, the legislation still has a long way to go, and I will be working hard to make sure it stays in the budget.”
Sen. Capri Cafaro of Liberty, D-32nd, and state Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, also supported the amendment.
More than 100 witnesses submitted testimony to Sprague’s finance subcommittee on the facility closures and related issues for residents with development disabilities.
The state earlier announced plans to close YDC in Mineral Ridge and a Dayton facility by mid-2017, citing a 40 percent-plus decline in the number of people living in state-run centers over the past eight years among reasons for the closures.
YDC, located near Austintown, serves residents in Mahoning, Portage, Stark, Wayne, Ashland, Columbiana and eight other counties.
About 85 residents with severe and profound disabilities who need extensive daily support live at YDC.