For the last 30 years, Wasco, Hood River, and Sherman countries have collectively organized a County Developmental Disabilities Program funded by the Oregon Department of Human Services, which has been run by the Mid-Columbia Center for Living (MCCFL). 

County Developmental Disabilities Programs provide eligible adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities with services like case management of an individual support plan, resource referrals, 24-hour care, assisted living services and employment support.

Now, in the midst of a global pandemic when the residents of these counties need these services more than ever, MCCFL has claimed that it can no longer run this program and will be laying off 11 employees, 10 of whom are considered essential. 

In canceling the program, MCCFL has not identified anyone to take over the program, leaving their clients without the vital services they need.

“As front-line workers serving some of our communities’ most vulnerable individuals, this decision in the midst of a global pandemic, fire season, and the transition for students to begin remote learning, is more than disconcerting” said Sarah Smutz, a service coordinator at MCCFL.

As recently as June, MCCFL negotiated reimbursement rates that more than cover the cost of the program and the dedicated staff who serve the adults and children with developmental disabilities who rely on our services.

Anne Lamb, a mother of a child with special needs who lives in the area, sees the disruption of services as the most consequential result of MCCFL’s decision.

“As a mom of a special needs child who’s experienced barriers since birth, knowing that my child is comfortable with their case manager for years and then to have that security yanked away when it’s already hard for them to have a voice, is cruel. This is taking their stability away. It’s an outrage to mess with kids when they already have difficulties.”

As a public entity, before closing this program, MCCFL should have set up a time for public comments, obtained board approval, or at the very least, provided the public with notice. In closing the program, they did none of these things. Furthermore, MCCFL is continuing to make decisions about the use of public funds and resources behind closed doors. Recently, it set up a private, invitation-only Q&A session for Friday, Aug. 28, at 1 p.m. By limiting who can attend, MCCFL has again denied the public the opportunity to present their concerns.

 

Dennis Ziemer is media director for Oregon AFSCME Council 75.

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