Employees at Brookhill Industries are shown modifying automobile parts. (Putnam Sentinel/Anne Coburn-Griffis)
Employees at Brookhill Industries are shown modifying automobile parts. (Putnam Sentinel/Anne Coburn-Griffis)

OTTAWA — With the May primary election less than a month away, campaign signs and billboards are popping up faster than daffodils. A sign that you will not see officially is one which promotes a 1.6 mill levy to support existing services at Brookhill Center and Industries.

According to Bill Clifford, Superintendent for the Putnam County Board of Developmental Disabilities, the decision was made to spread the word via flyers, face-to-face meetings and an open house on April 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. which will include tours as well as a lunch that will be served until 1 p.m.

“I think getting the word out about what we do is important,” said Clifford. “Most every Putnam County citizen knows the name ‘Brookhill Center.’ When they go by our buildings, they know it’s where some of the folks with developmental disabilities do services. But what happens inside these buildings is probably foreign to the general population.”

There are two facets of service provided at Brookhill Center and Industries. The early intervention program is headquartered in the northeast building on the campus located at the junction of State Routes 115 and 108. Early intervention is geared for children age birth to three.

“We work with infants and toddlers, but as importantly, we work with those family members so when the services aren’t delivered here, the physical, speech or occupational therapies, then family members can emulate what’s going on in the homes. The goal is that by the time they’re age three, we at Brookhill never see them again. That’s not to say that happens with everyone, but many of those infants and toddlers, it was just enough intervention to get them over the hump.”

Brookhill Center serves about 130 adults. Out of that 130, about 100 are receiving services directly at Brookhill Industries.

On the day that Clifford was interviewed, there was a noticeable difference in noise level and atmosphere between the two buildings. Clifford explained that the noise level is higher at Brookhill Industries because of the factory-type setting.

“You have about 100 individuals in a cavernous area,” he said, adding that the Early Intervention and Family Services building includes more classroom settings. “We have early intervention at one end, and down further are adults who either aren’t working today, choose not to work, are retired, or they have such sever cognitive and physical limitations they need specialized services. We have five settings like that in this building.”

The primary focus at Brookhill Center has been sheltered employment. According to Clifford, more effort is being given now to community employment. Brookhill Industries employees build a number of items and parts for local manufacturers, everything from the small notches squares of cardboard that pad the corners of washers and dryers to refrigerator shelving. One are of the building is devoted to building wooden pallets.

“We’re also working closely with public schools in a transition-to-work program.” During the summer of 2013, participants in that program worked in a variety of Putnam County locations, including the Meadows of Kalida and the YMCA in Ottawa. The 2014 school-to-work program is already underway.

Clifford said the Putnam County Board of Developmental Disabilities decided to seek a levy for several reasons. The Brookhill Center and Industries buildings are over 35 years old. All individuals who are served by the center require bus transportation, with the exception of infants who are driven to and from by their parents. There are over five bus routes that travel over 800 miles a day.

“In the last five years, the State of Ohio reduced assistance to our program and every governmental entity. We lose about $400,000 a year now,” said Clifford. “You have a choice as a county board. You can reduce services, retool and be more efficient at what you do, or go back to the local taxpayers. This program has always had the distinction of lean and mean—there’s not a lot of anything essential functions.”

Sixty percent of Brookhill Center’s funding comes from local dollars, he said, adding that the levy will cost each Putnam County taxpayers $56 for every $100,000 home value. Thirty percent of the center’s funding comes from Medicaid, and ten percent is from the state. PCDD operates six group homes in the county in various communities. Any time someone is in the home, a staff member must be there. Individuals who are able to live on their own still have need of drop-in staff. Others still have high emotional needs which require round-the-clock care.

Despite the scope of its outreach, Clifford said Brookhill Center and Industries is a small program compared to those in other Ohio counties. PCDD shares a business manager with Van Wert County. Clifford himself is part-time.

“I would say we’re second to none in terms of what we provide,” he said.