Nonprofit groups working to help people with developmental disabilities got special recognition from Arlington County Thursday during a ceremony at the Ballston Commons Mall. The event was the first in a series of programs as part of Including People with Developmental Disabilities Month. The groups were recognized for providing housing and other services to people affected by these disabilities.
“It’s all part of being inclusive and honoring those who provide a valuable service to our community,” said Arlington County Board chairman Jay Fisette.
Arlington County's Department of Human Services, according to spokesman Robert Villa, manages about 250 people with developmental disabilities, each with a case worker assigned to monitor his needs. More than 100 of them also receive housing from the nonprofit community, mostly in group homes or other facilities, depending on the extent of their needs.
"If you look at the way mental retardation is usually defined, it means someone has an IQ of about 70, and that IQ was determined before the age of 18," Villa said. "That leaves a variety of abilities and a variety of needs."
Affordable housing, Villa added, is a top concern for people with such disabilities.
"In Arlington, it is only the nonprofit groups that deliver residential services," he said.
Fisette stressed the importance of nonprofit providers during the ceremony.
“AFFORDABLE HOUSING is a critical need for persons with developmental disabilities," Fisette said. "Residential providers are major players in our effort to provide affordable housing and needed services to people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.”
The groups honored include Community Living Alternatives, Community Residences Inc., Community Systems Inc., Fellowship Health Resources Inc., Hartwood Foundation, Job Development Inc., St. Johns Community Services, Resources for Independence of Virginia, and Volunteers of America. Together, they house 95 people with mental retardation or other developmental disabilities. Some meet other special needs. Fellowship Health Resources manages people whose disabilities are compounded by other mental health problems. It currently houses six such clients in local apartments and monitored housing.
"We do a lot to develop the skills they need to manage their psychiatric problems," said Lyanne Trumbull, the group's regional director.
By placing its clients in homes that are within the local community, she said, Fellowship Health Resources teaches them how to handle living in a community, going to work and interacting with people. Some live independently, others with roommates or in small groups. This interaction, she added, serves as a kind of therapy.
"It's a little less stigmatizing that way," she said.
According to statistics from the Kaiser Family Health Foundation, a health research group, more than 6.5 million Americans have some form of mental retardation or other developmental disabilities.