Commissioners allocate $850,000 to help disabled

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DDRC will buy new group home

By AJ Vicens

The Developmental Disabilities Resource Center will be able to help between 12 and 16 more people get off a decades-long waiting list this year after the Jefferson County commissioners approved more than $850,000 in funding.

Art Hogling, DDRC's executive director, said the money will be used to help more than a dozen more people by purchasing a new group home, expanding transportation services and installing fire suppression systems in three of the DDRC's existing buildings. The additions would also create 20 jobs, Hogling said.

The extra money will also create room for additional non-residential clients, Hogling added.

The DDRC is the Lakewood-based county contractor that serves Jeffco's developmentally disabled. It is a state-created organization that gets most of its $45 million annual operating budget from state and federal funds. The remainder comes from a dedicated Jefferson County mill levy. Since the money for the work is coming from the county's mill levy, the DDRC needed the formal allocation.

Jeffco Commissioner Faye Griffin was surprised that the additional money would help just more than a dozen people.

"That's it?" she asked Hogling.

Hogling explained the significance of helping a dozen or so more developmentally disabled people, calling the situation "tragic."

"A person is put on the waiting list (for DDRC services) at age 14," Hogling said. "The wait in Jefferson County can be 30, 40 years."

In most cases, a family with a developmentally disabled child will have to take care of the child for decades, Hogling told the commissioners.

"Many of the people are elderly and taking care of their 60-year-old developmentally disabled child," Hogling said. "When we get the opportunity to get extra slots from the county, we're very aggressive."

Hogling explained that the state legislature funded the center to the point it could add new spots in the 2008 session, but the economic climate in the beginning of the 2009 session means the money likely won't be there much longer.

"The way the state budget is going, they'll be pulling back resources if you're not using them immediately," Hogling said.

"We have a window to fill slots," Hogling said. "But that window is going to be down for quite a few years."

"This is a one-time amount we have, and we can pay for it," said Lynn Johnson, director of the Jefferson County Department of Human Services. She added that the funding "gives us the opportunity to reach out to those who really need it."

"Were we not here to serve these folks, there'd be no place else to go," Hogling said.

Contact AJ Vicens at aj@evergreenco.com, and check www.columbinecourier.com for updates and breaking news.