GREENVILLE — Having been reappointed to serve another three-year term on the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council, resident Matt Harrison is a voice of awareness and action for those living with disabilities in Darke County.
“I feel very honored to be appointed by our Gov. Mike DeWine to sit on the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council,” said Harrison, who currently serves on the Children’s and Health Committee, Assisted Technology Committee, Public Policy Committee, and Community Living/Transportation Committee.
The Ohio DD Council is one of a national network of state councils, committed to self-determination and community inclusion for people with developmental disabilities. Improving independence, productivity and inclusion for people with developmental disabilities and their families in community life is the council’s mission, and members use their positions to advocate, initiate, demonstrate and educate society in order to improve Ohio’s capacity for delivering services to people with developmental disabilities.
Operating under the authority of the federal Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act of 2000, the council consists of 31 members, representing people with disabilities, and parents and guardians of people with developmental disabilities. Each member must agree to serve on at least two subcommittees.
When asked about what concerns he would like to see addressed by the council in his current term, Harrison was quick to respond. “The most important issue is Transportation for Darke County. We only have Greenville Transit System and they only go a certain distance, so…I would like for there to be more transportation options for the local areas and for the poor, elderly or DD individuals, with free or discounted service to their destinations.”
Another concern regarding transportation is that of support assistance for DD individuals on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
“The need for care providers still exists (to) transport individuals to medical and non-medical appointments, help with grocery shopping, or just one-on one-time on an adventure outside of the home,” he added.
Harrison also highlighted the need for greater access to housing for those in the DD community. “People with developmental disabilities and married individuals sometimes struggle to find adequate housing…designed especially for individuals requiring ramps…hand rails, wheel chair access to sinks and cabinets.”
Recently, the Ohio DD Council completed a statewide survey conducted with developmentally disabled individuals, their parents or family members, DSPs and other professionals, as part of its five-year plan to recognize and prioritize needs within the DD community. In looking to the future in the next few years, Harrison reiterated the need to revisit provisions regarding health insurance and public assistance, to provide greater access for the DD community.
“As a Developmental Disabilities Council member, I believe that Medicaid needs updating. It needs adjusted for people who cannot afford to go to doctors’ appointments or specialists’ appointments. Certain businesses just don’t accept Medicaid or Medicare,” said Harrison. “SSI also needs to be addressed. Rent in the surrounding areas is well over a $1,000 a month. How can an individual on a limited budget afford rent, utilities, food and additional living expenses? Noted, I am Special Needs, but I want the same liberties and everyday advantages that we, as Americans, take for granted – driving, having a nice home, and a family.”
When asked how people in Darke County can better support people with developmental disabilities, Harrison had a few personal insights to share.
“Upon meeting me, you might be hard-pressed to tell that I have a disability. Growing up, I was teased and made fun of,” said Harrison. “And because of that, it has motivated me to try harder to prove to myself, and others, that I can do what I set my mind to… I am active in the community. I volunteer with the American Red Cross. I am also an Aktion Club Member and a Darke County Self Advocate.”
Harrison’s strong faith in God has inspired him throughout his life. He attends church almost every Sunday and has participated in the Emmaus Walk. He meets many new people through working at Tractor Supply, and enjoys spending his free time visiting museums, festivals, car shows and other local events, accompanied by his Caregiver, Casper Shahan.
“Matt wants to help others in anyway he can,” said Shahan.
Have a question to ask or an issue to discuss? Just email Matt Harrison at Matth6183@gmail.com
Carol Marsh covers community interest stories and handles obituaries for Darke County Media. She can be contacted by email at email@example.com or by phone at 937-569-4314.