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 Commissioners Support DD Awareness Month

Belmont County Commissioners

Belmont County Commissioners proclaimed Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month alongside self-advocates with People First. Pictured, from left, are Commissioner Ginny Favede; Mary Lou Kent; Commissioner Charles R. Probst, Jr.; People First President Pat Jobb; Sally Smith; Brian Kozak; and Commissioner Matt Coffland.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE - Belmont County Commissioners adopted a proclamation during their Wednesday meeting honoring Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

Commissioner Ginny Favede noted that opportunities for citizens with developmental disabilities to learn, work, live and volunteer increase with the support and encouragement of the community. She added that the entire community benefits from the skills and abilities people with disabilities share when opportunities are presented. All citizens are encouraged to support such opportunities in education, employment, housing and recreational activities.

"These types of things are so very important," said Pamela McCort, communications coordinator, Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities, noting the importance of providing opportunities. "That's the key for all of us throughout our lives."

Several self advocates were present. Pat Jobb of Martins Ferry, president of People First, accepted the proclamation. They noted the importance of acknowledging the people, not the disability.

"When we look beyond disabilities and really give people opportunities to succeed," McCort said.
The commissioners commended the organization and its mission in raising awareness and increasing consideration of all people.



2013 Exceptional Students Honored

Eleven students from across Belmont County were honored for their achievements at the 2013 Exceptional Student Awards program, held May 9th at the Belmont Career Center. The event is presented each year by the Belmont County Special Educational Advisory Committee.

Earning the honor this year were the following: Leah Steele, Barnesville; Jewel Lynn, Belmont County Alternative Program; Taylor Kucera, Belmont Career Center; Casey McCallister, Bellaire; Sean Heaton, Bridgeport; Brandon Robinson, Fox Run School for Academic Achievement; Colton Hagan, Martins Ferry; Nancy Erickson, School of Hope; Zach Holloway, Shadyside; Katie O'Connor, St. Clairsville; and Mark Trabert, Union Local.

The Exceptional Students for 2013 are pictured here. Seated in the front row, l-r: Nancy Erickson, Katie O'Connor, Leah Steele, and Jewel Lynn. Standing: State Support Team Representative; Sean Heaton, Taylor Kucera, Casey McCallister, Colton Hagan, Brandon Robinson, and Stephen Williams, Belmont County Board of DD Superintendent. Not pictured are Zach Holloway and Mark Trabert.


imagine 2012The Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards along with the 15 other County Boards in Region V (southeastern Ohio) and the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities have spent the last two years working together on a project that will have significant meaning to the people we serve in the future.

A comprehensive review of the system of support - how we have operated in the past and what we want the future to be - has resulted in the imagine Project, a new way of thinking that will ultimately transform the developmental disabilities' system in Ohio.

Imagine is about spending less time on paperwork and more time with people. Imagine is about doing away with long, unproductive ISP meetings and developing flexible plans. Imagine is about new technology that will empower the person, provider, family and the SSA. Imagine is about respecting the person and building meaningful relationships within his or her circle of support.

The core concepts of imagine are what the BHN Alliance has focused on for several years. Simply stated, it is a common sense approach that acknowledges the wants and needs of the person first, and then framing supports so life takes shape the way he or she sees it, not the system.

With support from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and the governor, barriers are being removed and the system is being redesigned to support this innovative, collaborative, respectful, common-sense approach to supporting people with developmental disabilities.

imagine is entering its pilot phase and you'll begin hearing more about it in the coming months. A pilot, or test run, of this new process of developing supports for people with disabilities has begun in Belmont County. Many staff members have received training in Person Centered Thinking (PCT) and important quality concepts, as well as the use of tools that will help individuals, families, providers and the County Board work together.

If you would like to learn more about the imagine Project concepts, click on You can also check out the new website/blog at 

BHN Alliance Receives Recognition

Officials from the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities were in Belmont County February 7th to recognize the Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities for being pioneers in the field of shared administrative services. A Visionary Leadership Proclamation signed by Governor John Kasich and Ohio Department of DD Director John Martin was presented to each county board in the BHN Alliance. Present for the recognition ceremony were the following. Standing, left to right: Belmont County Commissioners Chuck Probst, Matt Coffland and Ginny Favede; Jay Rodak, president of the Belmont County Board, and Dan Ohler, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of County Boards. Seated: Monty Kerr and Zach Haughawout, Deputy Directors with the Ohio Department of DD, and Stephen Williams, Director of Operations, BHN Alliance.

A successful collaboration between the Belmont, Harrison and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities, known as the BHN Alliance, was recognized recently by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities with a Visionary Leadership Award for being pioneers in the field of shared administrative services.

Ohio Department of DD officials were on hand at the Belmont County Board of DD on February 7th to present the recognition to Jay Rodak, president of the Belmont Board; Robin Bowdish, president of the Harrison County Board; and Bryan Chandler, Noble County Board president. Also present to share in the honor were Belmont County Commissioners Chuck Probst, Ginny Favede and Matt Coffland and Noble County Commissioners Bob Nau and Gary Rossiter.

The BHN Alliance, the first collaboration between two or more county boards of DD in Ohio, was created to promote financial efficiencies because of decreasing revenue and increasing needs of people with disabilities.

Zachary Haughawout, Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs and Communications at the state department noted how difficult it is to be the first to try something new.

"The Governor always talks about shared services and holds up the developmental disabilities' field as an example of good stewardship over taxpayer dollars," Haughawout said. "It takes a certain amount of character and courage to go first and we appreciate your willingness to be a leader."

The Belmont and Noble County Boards of Developmental Disabilities began sharing a Superintendent in 1993. Today, all three county boards now share nine administrative personnel and functions, including Superintendent, Service and Support Administration, financial management, and human resources.

Stephen Williams, Director of Operations for the BHN Alliance, recognized the support given by the Ohio Department of DD, the county commissioners and the service providers who share the Board's vision for people with disabilities.

"When we become more efficient, we can direct more dollars into supports for people with disabilities that will improve their quality of life, and that's the bottom line of what we are here to do," Williams said.

Also present for the ceremony were Dan Ohler, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of County Boards and Monty Kerr, Deputy Director of Policy and Strategic Direction, who presented the awards.



 Stephen L. Williams has been hired as Superintendent of the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities, effective July 1, 2012.

Williams has worked in the developmental disabilities' field for 23 years and been involved in nearly every aspect of it, from service planning and delivery to business management and leadership. He holds a bachelor's degree in education from The Ohio State University and a Master of Public Administration degree from Ohio University.

Williams headed several initiatives during his career at the Belmont County Board. He played a key role in development of the transition plan that privatized Adult Services in the county. He created the Belmont board's office of Provider Development and Support and served as its first Director. In that post, Williams developed the Partnership for Quality Services Initiative, a quality assurance program that supports the provider network by encouraging a process of feedback and then providing incentives that are tied to the satisfaction of the people served. He also developed the Board's Partnership Grants, which provide funding support to schools, agencies and individuals actively engaged in direct support of people with developmental disabilities.

"Steve has demonstrated his commitment to the progress of the Board through his hand-on leadership," said Jay Rodak, president of the Belmont County Board of DD. "More importantly is his compassion for those we serve. I know he will continue to lead by example."

For the last year, Williams has served as Director of Operations for the BHN Alliance, the collaboration between the Belmont, Harrison and Noble county boards wherein certain administrative functions are shared. He will serve as Superintendent of the Harrison and Noble County Boards as well.

County boards of developmental disabilities are operated as separate administrative entities in Ohio. They are governed by seven member boards of directors that are responsible for hiring the Superintendent, who is the chief executive officer.

As incoming Superintendent, Williams said he will work to maintain financial stability, continue to break ground with new initiatives, and be an agent for positive changes in the lives of people with disabilities at the local and state levels.

"I am pleased and humbled to have been chosen for this position," Williams said. "It is a privilege to work on behalf of people with disabilities in all three counties."

Williams and his wife, Penny, are the parents of two sons, Zachary, a student at West Virginia University, and Logan, a St. Clairsville Middle School student.

 People First Honor Burian

  Jesse Burian of Flushing was named Ohio "Advocate of the Year" at the annual People First Conference held in Wilmington on March 22-23, 2012.

People First of Ohio is a statewide advocacy organization whose role is to help individuals with developmental disabilities learn how to express their needs and advocate for their rights with others in the community. They accomplish this by forming relationships with legislators and other advocacy groups and state agencies. There are chapters in counties across Ohio and over 500 chapter members and other individuals attended the conference this year.

"Jesse was chosen for this honor because he works hard to support People First's efforts to help individuals with disabilities take their rightful places in the community," said Mary Lou Kent, advisor of the People First Belmont County Chapter.

Burian serves on the state People First Board and is a member of the Belmont Chapter. He is employed in the janitorial department at Belco Works, Inc., St. Clairsville.

The People First Belmont County Chapter meets on the first Tuesday of each month at the Ohio Valley Mall community room at 6 p.m. It is supported in part by the Belmont County Board of Developmental Disabilities. To get involved or learn more, contact Mary Lou Kent at 740-695-0500.

The People First of Ohio Mission:
We believe that all people with disabilities should be treated as equal and be able to speak up for what they want by serving as leaders and working together as a team with all members of the community.


Sensory Room Dedicated to Memory of Phillip Thompson

Phillip Thompson will never know the impact he is having on the lives of his fellow citizens with developmental disabilities. He will, however, be long remembered for his generosity.

Phillip Thompson received services from the Belmont County Board of DD for many years before he moved away. When Phillip passed away in 2003, the Board learned soon after that it was the recipient of a generous cash award from his estate. The funds, which were dispersed through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, had to be used for the direct benefit of people with disabilities.

The Board had wanted to create a sensory environment for people with severe disabilities. This fund allocation enabled the Board to do so. A state-of-the-art sensory room bearing Phillip Thompson's name is located in the Board offices and contains bubble tubes, tactile boards, a waterbed, leaf chair, and fiber optics for the benefit of children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The Phillip Thompson Sensory Room was created in honor of the man whose generous gift is enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities. A plaque hanging in the room reads:

Sensory Room

Dedicated to the Memory of

Phillip H. Thompson,

whose generous financial gift created this sensory environment for people with disabilities.
"What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal." Albert Pike



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