Developmental Disabilities Month — Putnam Sentinel
Representatives from the Putnam County Board of Development and People First attended the official proclamation of March as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Those pictured above are (back row, left to right): Christine Smith, Stephen Courtney, Craig Wiswell, Michael Lammers, James Burkhart, and Mike Boaz; and (front row, left to right) John Love, Barb Moser, and Julie Molina. (Putnam Sentinel/Martin Verni)

PUTNAM COUNTY — “The most effective way to increase awareness is through everyone’s active participation in community activities, and the openness to learn and acknowledge each individual’s contribution,” said County Commissioner Michael Lammers as he read aloud the proclamation declaring March 2018 Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month.

The official proclamation took place last Thursday, March 1, inside the county commissioner’s offices in Ottawa. Present for the reading were representatives from the Putnam County Board of Developmental Disabilities, many of whom also serve as leaders in the agency’s People First chapter, a statewide self-advocacy group for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The theme for this year’s awareness month is “Celebrate Community.” Today, March 7 many of those same individuals will be joining with other family members, friends and community allies at the statehouse in Columbus to talk about exactly what that theme means to them, and to advocate policy issues which impact the lives of people with developmental disabilities.

Following the official proclamations reading on March 1, those present had the opportunity to question commissioners John Love and Michael Lammers on matters which concern them. Commissioner Vincent Schroeder was unavailable due to a routine medical checkup.

“Who makes Ohio laws?” began Barb Moser, Vice President of the local People First chapter. “I have an idea for a law. If anyone wants to buy a gun they need to have an evaluation.”

Answering Moser’s question, Love said, “Our legislature’s down in Columbus. That’s the Senate and House of Representatives. We do things here called, ‘resolutions,’ like we just did now [with the proclamation on March being Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month]. That’s a little bit different. It has some bearing as law, but at the same time those laws are actually made down in the Senate and House of Representatives.”

Craig Wiswell said, “They are changing the state law for concealed weapons. They are trying to move it up to 21 years old. The President is trying to raise the age limit to have a concealed weapon to 21. He just brought it up the other night. And, one other thing, the flooding has to stop.”

“We just said had a meeting about stopping the floods,” quipped Lammers, “God wasn’t there today, but we’re getting him there tomorrow.”

“He’s going to be invited to the next meeting, “ added Love, before saying seriously, “Good point though. Thank you. We’re living with [flooding issues] just like you are.”

Wiswell also brought up Love’s retirement from the commissioner’s office, saying, “Another one, I see you’re stepping away.”

“That’s right,” responded Love. “I’m finishing my third term, that’s 12 years…I just think that it’s time for somebody else. I appreciate the people who have been behind me. I just feel, like I said, it’s time for me to move on.”

Stephen Courtney asked about transportation services, saying, “Transportation for individuals with disability that don’t have provider services. Or, they do, and there aren’t enough staff to transport them to work or other activities.”

“That’s a big issue that needs to be addressed,” said Lammers. “I’m not sure at what point we can address it. There are related transportation issues as well, such as the council on aging providing transportation for elderly people. This is definitely an area that I think would help employment opportunities. I definitely want to take that to the table.”

Jim Burkhart asked what can be done about, “People who don’t treat us very good.”

“That’s an attitude that I think is probably better now than it was 30 or 40 years ago, which you might be able to attest to,” responded Lammers. “Part of this awareness that we’re doing today is to help that. Let me put it this way, anyone bullies you, just let me know. I have your back.”