Summit DD moves to Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton

by Martin McConnell

Summit DD, a local government board that specializes in aiding those with developmental disabilities, has moved its administrative offices out of the former Tallmadge headquarters. The board now resides in two sister buildings across Summit County with offices in Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton.

Summit DD was known as Weaver School and Workshop from 1971 until 2007, when the school was able to transition to a community-based program. Until this most recent move, Summit DD used the former school as its administrative offices.

Communications Director Billie Jo David has been working at the organization since 2007. She noted that part of the reason for the move was a downsizing. The 28.5-acre former Weaver School building was simply too big for the roughly 300 employees working for Summit DD.

“We were in our big Tallmadge building that was way too big for us,” David said. “We downsized, remodeled and moved in, so this is where we will be for the foreseeable future.”

The shift was also partially due to a federal law that fundamentally changed the way Summit DD had to work. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health Care Finance passed a “Conflict-Free Case Management” law, which changed the board from an adult job program with a workshop floor to the remote work center and hub area that it is today.

“This used to be a workshop where people with developmental disabilities would have been doing piece work like putting KONG [dog toys] into boxes,” David said. “We provided Medicaid-funded services, which come from the federal government, in the shop. However, we were also authorizing those federal funds. That was the conflict of interest.”

The new facilities in Cuyahoga Falls and Barberton have been renovated for accessibility, environmental friendliness and efficiency of movement across Summit County. The board aims to connect to the community and use extra money from cost-efficiency through green energy to provide as many services to those with disabilities as they can.

“That money gets reinvested into services for people,” David said. “The other thing is that between the two buildings, with the north and south connection along main highways, our staff can access families quicker, because we’re closer.”

Russell DuPlain is the director of IT and facilities at the board’s Cuyahoga Falls location and stressed that the board made the new renovations with security as a top issue. Not only does the board want people to feel safe inside the new facility, but their data and personal information to be safe as well.

“Security’s always at the forefront for any organization these days,” DuPlain said. “I’m kind of a stickler for IT security and things in that realm. But you have to be, because there’s so many cyber threats out there these days.”

Above all else, the remodeled facility wants to be accessible to anyone of any ability. For Summit DD, the chief issue of the redesign was safety, accessibility and health.

“We added ionizers onto the HVAC systems to help kill airborne germs and viruses,” DuPlain said. “Things like that were factored into design to hopefully make them healthy spaces to be.”

David noted that the board does not manage services for those with developmental disabilities itself. Rather, it uses the space to plan meetings for those services, so such services are fully integrated into the community.

“Instead of having parents bring their little kiddos to this building to get their early intervention services, our developmental specialists go to the individuals’ homes or playgrounds,” David said. “Connecting to the community, getting there faster. We’re a remote workforce now.”

The board’s 2nd Street location in Cuyahoga Falls is especially useful for community integration as it is in the middle of the downtown area. David explained such a centralized location allows for many areas of community outreach and a much happier and healthier community for those with developmental disabilities.

“Especially in Cuyahoga Falls – we’re right in the middle of downtown – that allows us to connect so much more to the community,” David said. “I hope that that corresponds into employment opportunities for people with developmental disabilities or recreation activities. The city of Cuyahoga Falls has been amazingly welcoming to us.” ∞