Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) is sounding the alarm bells over a change to the state’s biennial draft budget that would create a joint legislative oversight committee to review the nonprofit every two years.
The group receives no government funding and describes the prospect of government oversight as “unprecedented” and “harmful”.
DRO is funded by the federal government and functions as a federally approved protection and advocacy program, according to managing director Kerstin Sjoberg, who explained how the process enables DRO to act independently of the state and to support people with developmental disorders.
Part of the group’s work is going to intermediate care facilities and speaking privately with people with developmental disabilities about their rights, Sjoberg said.
“It is also designed to ensure that there are no complaints of abuse or neglect or that we are not paying attention to significant conditions and issues,” Sjoberg said. “And we often run into problems like this when we go in and do the surveillance.”
DRO says State Senator Mark Romanchuk, who wrote the Protection and Advocacy Transparency Amendment, wants to set up a joint legislative oversight committee because he believes the group should not speak to people with developmental disabilities without a guardian.
But State Senator Mark Romanchuk, R-Ontario said he wrote the Protection and Advocacy Amendment on behalf of concerned parents and guardians.
“I have heard concerns from parents and guardians who have raised questions about the process of removing their loved ones from an intermediate care facility without consulting them. Families need to know that their voice matters. That’s what we offer to make sure their voices are heard, ”Romanchuk said in an email to ideastream.
The DRO visits to intermediate care facilities are licensed by the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities and must meet standards required by the state, but the watchdog group operates independently.
DRO is campaigning for the amendment to be removed from the state budget in the hope of attracting “the attention” of the members of the joint committee or, alternatively, that Governor Mike DeWine has a “line item veto”.
“What we cannot have is someone who disagrees with the type of work we should be doing, putting together a supervisory committee to examine our activities and limit our ability to do our job,” said Sjoberg, warning that the amendment remains, “Perhaps people with disabilities even have the impression that we are no longer fully independent lawyers and that they may be concerned about coming to us with their problems now.”
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