Thursday, April 10, 2003

MRDD services won't be withheld


Warren Co. agency informs 122 families services to stay

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LEBANON - Warren County's Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities agency has sent 122 letters to its families letting them know services will not be cut.

The letters come after at least eight families who also are served by Help Me Grow of Warren County contacted MRDD officials in the past week, said John Lazares, MRDD's superintendent.

Last week, Help Me Grow's operators sent letters to its 238 families, warning them that services from the disabled baby program may be slashed because county officials won't give Help Me Grow access to its state funding.

"We don't want our families to think that services won't continue," Lazares said.

He added that he didn't think Help Me Grow's director, Carolyn Tepe, and her boss, Larry Sargeant, were correct in blaming Help Me Grow's financial woes on the county. Tepe and Sargeant also have blamed Help Me Grow's funding problems on the overall mix of funding for the program at the state level.

County Administrator Bob Price has said Help Me Grow has not been submitting applications for families that would be eligible for state money.

"The commissioners have funded the program correctly," Lazares said. "I disagree with some of the accusations that have been made. The commissioners have lived up to their responsibility for providing services to children."

Nevertheless, County Commissioners Larry Crisenbery and Mike Kilburn have been critical of Help Me Grow, saying it might duplicate services other county programs already provide. Both have indicated they would not support the program, which means Warren County's state-earmarked money for Help Me Grow would go to the same program in other counties.

Commissioner Pat South said state policy shows services a child is entitled to receive cannot be delayed or denied because ofdisputes between agencies regarding financial or other responsibilities: "That Help Me Grow letter violated the entire premise of the program by putting fear into the families that they were going to be dropped," South said."I can guarantee our board will not allow any services to be dropped or stopped for this year or next."

E-mail jedwards@enquirer.com.




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