We trace our beginnings to a grassroots effort by parents who wanted an education for their sons and daughters with developmental disabilities. Initially it started with an interest for educating children with developmental disabilities. Over the years the program’s scope has broadened to include vocational, residential and recreational supports. The emphasis, however, continues to remain on the individual’s and the family’s needs. The grassroots effort, which launched the program, continues to be a strong way of advocating for an ever-growing population with complex needs.

Limited choices before 1950
For about a century, through 1950, parents of children with developmental disabilities in Ohio had two choices. They could send their child to an institution to receive services, but they had to give up daily contact. Or, they could rear their child at home doing whatever they thought was right. Frequently, the child was hidden from the public.

Early beginnings through 1967
In the 1950s parents in Ohio began crying out for help for their children — for their child’s education — for a better life. That’s when they began asking the state legislature for help. They received some small subsidies for special classes through the county welfare department, but it didn’t cover much. In 1952, parents in Butler County formed the Council for Retarded Citizens. Their first duties were as advocates, developers, organizers and bus drivers. Classes were started in 1953 in Hamilton and later in Middletown. Goodwill Industries established a workshop program in Hamilton in 1962. The first “jobs” for individuals with disabilities were sorting socks and shoes.

Finally, the state responded to the parents’ pleas. In July 1967, the state established County Boards of Mental Retardation. In Butler County, our Board met for the first time in November.

The building years 1967-1970
The years from 1967 through 1970 began the program’s building years, both in staff and bricks and mortar. In 1968, the Board employed its first administrator. The first levy passed in 1969 ­ a .2-mill, five-year operating levy, followed by a .8-mill two-year levy approved in November 1970 to build a training center. Meanwhile, the New Miami Adult Center opened in July 1970.

Bricks and mortar give programs a home 1970-1980
From 1970-1980 bricks and mortar were the most visible signs of a growing program for people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities. The voters in Butler County supplied the local funding for the Fair Acres Center building, which housed both the school and an adult center when it opened in 1973.

Early Childhood Programs 1970-1980
The Board began programming for young children from birth up to age three through an Early Intervention Program starting in 1975 and housed in 1976 at what is now the administration building at 155 Donald Drive. Also during this time, the agency started its first pre-school age classes. However, by 1979 more space was needed and the Board moved its Early Childhood Program, which included early intervention and pre-school classes, into McKinley School in Hamilton for a three-year period.

Beginnings of School Inclusion 1970-1980
In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142, the Education of the Handicapped Act, which guaranteed free, appropriate public education to all handicapped (sic) children. Ohio passed its companion legislation, Amended Substitute House Bill 455 the following year. To comply with this legislation, Butler County MRDD Programs began discussion with school districts in the county to transition students to their schools. Lakota School District became the first to include former students with developmental disabilities who were currently attending Fair Acres School back into the Lakota School System.

Adult Services 1970-1980
In addition to adult services at Fair Acres, the Board opened the Middletown Adult Center in June 1974. Services to adults with more severe disabilities led to using the vacated space at 155 Donald Drive for a developmental program for adults.

Beginnings of Residential Services 1970-1980
On the homefront, the Board entered into residential services when it opened the first group home in Seven Mile in 1978.  The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Mental Retardation gave the agency a grant to open two more group homes to serve individuals returning from state institutions.

Levy Support 1970-1980
By 1979 a 1.1-mill operating levy, which would expire in 1986, and a .5-mill operating levy, which would expire in 1984, supported MRDD Programs and Services.

Programs shift to Community Inclusion 1980-1990
While the facility construction era came to a close in the 80s, the MRDD Programs directed its efforts toward community inclusion and supports.

School Age Programs 1980-1990
Among its boldest actions, the MRDD Board approved a resolution in 1983 to move school-age students into the Least Restrictive Environment. The term, Least Restrictive Environment, was used by the Supreme Court to explain the concept that students should be allowed to have the freedom to learn in classrooms most appropriate to their educational abilities. The Board’s resolution accelerated the transfer of students to the public schools.

In November 1988, the Board announced it would cease accepting referrals for its school-age class at Fair Acres School. The Board also indicates it will no longer operate classes for school-age individuals after the completion of the 1990-91 school year.

Adult Services 1980-1990
During this time, the Board opened two of its three adult facilities: Hamilton Center in 1983 and Liberty Center in 1989. Hamilton Center is an adult facility that offers contract work, activities, community volunteer opportunities and senior activities. Liberty Center also is an adult facility that provides daily living activities and community volunteer opportunities for people who have significant disabilities.

Residential Services/Fairfield Center 1980-1990
In 1983 the MRDD Board began providing residential services at Fairfield Center, a 119-person residential facility near Forest Fair Mall.

The state built and intended to operate Fairfield Center as one of a number of developmental centers that figured in the deinstitutionalization of 2,000 people living in a single facility in Orient, Ohio. However, the state deeded the center to the MRDD Board, which operated it. Also in this time period, we began operating more group homes.

Residential Services/Supported Living 1980-1990
In the 1980s, we began supporting individuals who were capable of living out in the community. These were the years when we opened group homes and apartment in Middletown, Hamilton and Hanover Township. Then, people moved out of group homes and lived in smaller residences of one, two and three individuals.

Residential Services/Semi-Independent Living
In 1986, we began the Semi-Independent Living Program. Now called the Supported Independent Living Program, this service helps adults live on their own with minimal supports.

Other Programs Started 1980-1990
Family Resource Services Program, 1984. This program offers respite and other services to families who care for a member in their homes. The purpose is to help families stay together and prevent the need for early residential placement.

Case Management Services, 1986. This program monitors the quality of service an individual receives. This service was formerly a state-level responsibility.

Employment Services, 1986. This service helps adults with disabilities find jobs in the community, provides initial training support to make the employment successful.

Senior Programs, 1987. Seniors begin participating at Middletown Senior Citizens Center.

Dual Diagnosis, 1982. This program helps people with a dual diagnosis of mental health issues and MRDD stay in the community. It may prevent them from going to a state institution or it may help someone returning from a state institution.

Early Tracking of “At Risk” Infants Program, 1987. The MRDD Programs partner with Middletown Regional Hospital. This program works with parents of infants who may be at a risk of a developmental disability or delay.

Levy Support 1980-1990
By the end of the 1980s, a one-mill levy, which would expire in 1994, and a two-mill continuing operating levy supported MRDD Programs.

Programs Move into Neighborhoods 1990-2000
In the 1990s, the MRDD programs ended the direct operation of the school-age programs and residential services. MRDD now focuses on using existing services in the community and helping individuals become a part of their community. In a similar community spirit, early intervention and pre-school programs also moved into neighborhood sites.

Early Childhood and School Age Programs 1990-2000
In 1990, the Board opened its first early intervention class outside Fair Acres at McGuffey Hall at Miami University in Oxford. In June 1991, the Board ended its school-age program at Fair Acres and established the first Board pre-school classes in Talawanda, New Miami and Middletown School Districts. Eventually, pre-school programs for nearly all school districts moved into the county’s school districts.

Although the Board has opened no new facilities since 1989, Fair Acres underwent a renovation project and a renaming to accommodate the many early childhood programs now existing in the building. In 1996, the Ohio Department of MRDD announced a renovation grant for the Fair Acres Early Childhood Program. In 1997, the Board renamed the center to the Janet Clemmons Center for Young Children and Families. The new name honored Mrs. Clemmons, a former MRDD board member and child advocate, who was a Butler County Commissioner at the time of her death.

Residential Programs/Fairfield Center and
Group Homes 1990-2000

In 1990, the Board transfers operation of Fairfield Center to a private provider and in 1991, group home operations also were transferred to private providers.

Other Services Started to Meet Needs 1990-2000
Dual Diagnosis Program, 1990. This program assists individuals who have a dual diagnosis of mental illness and mental retardation.

Family Focus, 1991. This service offers families behavior management, training and counseling.

Traumatic Brain Injury Services, 1992. This service helps people who developed brain injuries before the age of 22. Previously the Board could only help an individual if the injury occurred before the age of 18.

Senior Services, 1992 and 1994. This service opened a satellite office at the Senior Center in Hamilton in 1992. It took up residence in the Middletown Annex on Canal Street in 1994, giving seniors and persons not interested in non-workshop activities a separate place for day programs.

Medicaid Waiver Program, 1992. The first Medicaid Home and Community-Based Waiver was used in Butler County. This program through a combination of federal and state/local funds enables an individual eligible to live in an institution to be used for support care in the family home or a home of their choice.

Leisure Recreation Services, 1995. This service offers people with disabilities an opportunity to enjoy leisure activities after work and on the weekend. For a minimal fee individuals can also have transportation to the event.

Life Planning Services, 1997. This service assists aging parents in planning for the care of their son or daughter when they no longer can provide it.

Emergency Response Service, 1999. This service focuses on meeting needs of individuals who are in a crisis situation.

Levy Support 1990-2000
At the end of the 90s, a one-mill levy, renewed in 1994 and expiring in 2004, and a two-mill continuing levy supported MRDD Programs.

The new millennium brings reorganization 2000 and on
The new millennium is only now in its second year. The MRDD staff has undergone a reorganization that views parents and individuals as the guiding force, supported first by direct care staff and then the administration. MRDD now has three basic geographic areas for support coordination. Four community teams cover the three areas and follow school district lines:

The Middletown Community Team covers people living in the Middletown, Madison, Edgewood and Monroe school districts.

The Fairfield-Lakota Community Team covers people living in the Fairfield and Lakota school districts.

The Two Hamilton Community Teams cover people living in the Hamilton, New Miami, Ross and Talawanda school districts.

Early Childhood Programs 2000 +
In April 2000, we rededicated the Janet Clemmons Center, now that the renovation is complete. In May 2001, we dedicated the tree sculpture that Dr. Hershel Clemmons had commissioned in memory of his wife. Sadly, Dr. Clemmons had died earlier in the year.

Residential Services/Waiver Programs 2000 +
MRDD also has returned to its grassroots efforts to expand Medicaid waiver programs for in-home supports and out-of-home placements in the state’s next biennium budget.

Levy Support 2000 +
In 2000, Butler County voters approved a two-mill continuing replacement levy.  A one-mill levy will expire in 2004.