SIDNEY — Blaine O’Leary, of Sidney, recently represented Ohio as one of a 30-member state delegation to the Disability Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C.
According to Jessica Guillozet, community connections facilitator of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities, he is the first person from Shelby County to have done so.
O’Leary attended the conference on behalf of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. He is in the third year of his first term on the council, having been appointed by Gov. John Kasich in 2016.
The policy seminar in April gave participants the chance to discuss key issues with each other and with their representatives on Capitol Hill.
“I went to different sessions,” O’Leary said about his experience, “to learn about safety, daycare services, STABLE accounts and transportation.”
Among the speakers was Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire.
O’Leary, a self-advocate, meaning someone with developmental disabilities, got to speak with Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, 4th District.
“I talked to him about Medicaid. The topic is that our services are being cut if we get a job and make $1,900 a month. With Social Security, we can only have $2,000 in a savings account,” O’Leary said. The system acts a disincentive for people with disabilities to work and makes it difficult for them to be independent, support a family or plan for a future. He also discussed transportation issues with Jordan.
“I told him how public transit closes at 4 p.m. in Sidney, so people who work the night shift might have a ride to work but won’t have a ride after work. It’s a serious issue,” O’Leary said.
Traveling with his stepmother, Betsy O’Leary, the 2013 Fairlawn High School and Upper Valley Career Center graduate visited the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument, Chinatown and the Korean War memorial while he was in Washington.
O’Leary plans to speak about his trip and the conference as a presenter at the local Aktion Club meeting and at the next meeting of the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.
His advocacy will continue. He just became chairman of the Employment Committee of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. He also sits on its Assistive Technology and Communications, Community Living and Public Policy committees.
“We get federal funds. Every five years we do a five-year plan to create new and improved outcomes for people with develomental disabilities. Then we award grants to programs dedicated to achieving those outcomes,” said Paul Jarvis, liaison officer of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. “Blaine helps to decide on those grants.”
In July, O’Leary will attend the Reinventing Quality Conference in Baltimore, where he will participate on a presenting panel whose topic will be Creating and Managing a Culture of Quality: Engaging Stakeholders to Build a Robust Critical Incident Prevention and Response System.
In Sidney, O’Leary is employed by the Spot and serves as an advocacy consultant for the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities.