Grants will support Ohioans with developmental disabilities


COLUMBUS — Two local organizations will be receiving funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to enhance the lives of Ohioans with developmental disabilities and their families.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) Director Kim Hauck recently announced that $14.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money will be distributed across 67 Ohio counties.

West Central Ohio Network (WestCON), which serves Auglaize, Champaign, Shelby, Darke, Hardin, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Preble, Sandusky, Union and Wyandot counties, is the recipient of the funds which will be used for local residents. A total of $225,000 will come to WestCON for use in all the counties. Another $215,000 will go to Auglaize County.

“WestCON is comprised of membership of 12 county boards of developmental disabilities, including Shelby County. The grant dollars will be used to purchase two disability restroom trailers that will be shared between the member boards. These trailers will be made available at various events within the communities, including Shelby County. These restrooms will enhance inclusivity and accessibility for all people living with disabilities in our communities. We are excited to be able to offer this to the Shelby County community,” said Leigh Anne Wenning, WestCON board president. Wenning is also the superintendent for the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

The trailers, she said, will be used at the fairs in each county that WestCon serves. Bids are currently being taken for the trailers.

Auglaize County also applied for a separate grant, said Renee Kohler, Auglaize County Board of Developmental Disabilities superintendent.

“Auglaize County was awarded $215,000,” said Kohler. “A majority of that has been earmarked for specific collaborative endeavors.”

The funds will be used according to the categories listed in DeWine’s announcement:

• Improving infrastructure to make communities more accessible: $75,000 for accessible playground equipment and playground communication boards (our goal is to purchase 10 communication boards to donate throughout Auglaize County)

• Universal Changing Tables: $133,000 toward the collaborative purchase of a mobile unit as well as permanent units, including mobility lifts where applicable, and signage

• Inclusive Conferences and Meetings: $7,000 toward a grant for People First of Auglaize County to help their members and support staff attend the Annual Synergy Conference in October 2024; This event is designed to create connections that encourage collaboration, innovation, and growth. Grant dollars will be used towards registration, travel accommodations, and other expenses incurred by individuals and their providers who play such an important role in transporting people to and from the venue and ensuring they are comfortable throughout their stay.

“We are still awaiting the final implementation guidelines from DODD, so we do not have our process fully identified yet, although we are starting to have conversations with entities and organizations that have already reached out about adding universal changing tables to make their spaces more accessible,” said Kohler. “Once we have our process identified, we will open the local grant application process.”

“These investments are truly going to make a difference for people with developmental disabilities and their families by giving them more access to the communities where they live,” said DeWine. “People with developmental disabilities deserve opportunities, a reliable workforce, and an accessible state to live, learn, work, and succeed in.”

These funds are part of $56 million in total ARPA Home and Community Based Services money allocated to DODD in the state budget signed this past July. All county boards of developmental disabilities and Councils of Government (COG) could apply for funding.

With these funds, people with developmental disabilities, their families, and Ohio communities will see investments in things like universal changing tables and accessible public places and parks. Highlights of the county projects include:

• Empowering people with developmental disabilities to live and engage independently, 32 applications received for $2.5 million;
• Improving infrastructure to make communities more accessible, 43 applications received for $7 million;

• Adding universal changing tables in public places, 49 applications received for $4.4 million;

• Creating more community experiences for people with developmental disabilities, 27 applications received for $600,000;

• Ensuring conferences and meetings are inclusive, 17 applications received for $220,000; and

• Increasing outreach efforts to unserved and underserved populations, 15 applications received for $140,000.

DODD Director Kim Hauck added, “For many people with disabilities and their families, an inclusive community starts with an accessible community, and I want to thank county boards and their local partners across Ohio who have identified ways to make this a reality for them.”

Kim Boulter and Jennifer Cunningham, leaders of Changes Spaces Ohio, an advocacy group dedicated to adding universal changing tables in public spaces are celebrating this announcement as the largest investment by any state for universal changing tables. “Our campaign began with our sons, Matthew and Aiden, and quickly spread through the developmental disability community and beyond. We have advocated for many years, spreading awareness and resources and we are so thankful that Director Hauck, Governor DeWine, and the Ohio General Assembly heard us and grasped the mission so that real change can occur in Ohio.”

These funds build on the $1.5 billion investment in Ohio’s DD system from the DeWine-Husted state budget and $210 million in ARPA Home and Community Based Services money already distributed to providers. Another $42 million in ARPA money will also be available to better support people with disabilities and their families, the developmental disability workforce, youth with complex needs, transformative technology, the waiver redesign initiative, and more.

Thanks to the Accessible Ohio Initiative through Director Kevin Miller and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, more resources are now available to local communities and business looking to be more accessible. Learn more about Accessible Ohio at

For more information and updates on project developments, visit DODD will communicate funding opportunities and post grant applications at

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