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YOUNGSTOWN DEVELOPMENTAL Center celebrates 25 years



Published: Sat, July 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



YDC is one of 11 developmental centers in Ohio.

By KATIE LIBECCO

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

MINERAL RIDGE -- Paul Young was present at the creation of the Youngstown Developmental Center, and he looks back with pride on the center's 25 years of service to its residents.

The center celebrated its anniversary with a special program on Friday evening.

With 120 residents from eight counties, the center provides learning and development opportunities for mentally handicapped and developmentally delayed persons in the Mahoning Valley and surrounding area.

"What we do is state of the art," said Young, the superintendent for the center. "We are constantly updating and creating new approaches."

The center opened in the spring of 1980 to serve Astabula, Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Since that time, Portage, Stark, Geauga and Lake counties have been added to the center's service area.

The nationally-accredited and Medicaid-certified center is operated by the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. Funding for the facility comes from state and federal legislatures. There are no tuition fees for residents.

Young has always worked in similar facilities, which he says pushes him to make sure that his facility is cutting edge and focused on the residents there.

Center's makeup

Comprising 10 buildings on 35 acres, YDC is one of 11 developmental centers in Ohio. There are seven residential homes on the campus, housing 120 residents in single and double rooms.

Residents range in age from 20 to 84, with an average age of 47. The majority of residents are in the profound range of mental retardation, and many have medical and motor impairments as well.

Fifty percent of residents leave daily, attending community-based workshops, helping Meals on Wheels and spending time at local establishments and events.

The YDC helps teach its residents fitting-in skills, to help them transition back into the community.

"We realize that difference is not always accepted in our society," Young said. "We teach them personal and social skills. We teach them how to be included."

That purpose is served through participation in a variety of events. Residents of YDC are involved in the Special Olympics, holiday banquets and an annual golf outing at Meander Golf Course.

Staff members say recognizing the rights and dignity of the residents is an important part of their service.

"Everyone here has the same rights as you and me. There are lots of checks and balances in place," said Cindy Renner, YDC's program director.

Young agreed, "We have a profound respect for the position of power we are in. We don't take that lightly."

Program admission

Residents are accepted to YDC through the MRDD board in their home county. Like the other centers around the state, YDC allows residents to be as close to home as possible.

"Bringing people home is a rich part of our history," Young said.

The program was initially a transitional institution, but in 1982 the YDC started also focusing on individuals with deep-seated developmental delays.

Eighty-five percent of residents at YDC are unable to speak, but communicate in other ways. Direct service workers are intensively involved with residents, Young said.

YDC employs 247 individuals on its staff, 20 percent of whom have worked for YDC for all 25 years of its operation.

Some estimates by the YDC have determined that it has put more than $300 million into the local economy through work programs for residents and staff.

Residents, their families and a group of professionals are all involved in treatments of individuals, Young said. "We have never had an empty bed. We are the only business that doesn't advertise and recruit customers," Young said. "They seek us. They want to be here."

In the future, YDC may gain residents from the Apple Creek Developmental Center in Wooster, another state facility which has been targeted for closing. Former Apple Creek residents may transfer to YDC, Young said.

YDC's Community Advisory Council was honored at the anniversary celebration. The council includes Emma Jones, Mildred Bradley, Mae Kaminski, Dr. Kenneth Walla Sr., Sadie Ivanchack, Gladys Morrison, Tom Babb, Donna Conkle, Willard Stamp, Inez Gaumer, Larry Korland and Jill Jenner.

The original mailbox and office chair that Young purchased for the center were also to be displayed Friday night in honor of the occasion.




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