The Mission Statement of the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities focuses on individuals reaching their full potentials and having the same opportunities and life experiences as all other citizens. While the Board was created by state statute in 1967, the history of services for persons with developmental disabilities in Lucas County dates back to 1938.
It was then that Mrs. Josina Lott of Toledo began educational programming for persons with developmental disabilities in her dining room. The present programs of the Lucas County Board of Developmental Disabilities have evolved from those early classes. Mrs. Lott called her first classes “an experiment” to prove her contention that “every child, regardless of mental or physical disabilities, should receive an education.”
The number of students grew and Mrs. Lott took her students to the basement classroom area in the Rosewood Presbyterian Church. When the student enrollment hit 55 it was evident that the school had outgrown its church basement location. With the assistance of parents, the Chamber of Commerce, Toledo Board of Education and the Juvenile Court, Mrs. Lott incorporated the Lott Day School as a not-for-profit institution. It moved in 1945 to a building at Heffner and Kelsey in East Toledo which was leased from the Toledo Board of Education for one dollar a year.
The Lott Day School was described in its brochure as a “story of hope.” The brochure said, “Through the non-profit, non-sectarian work of the Lott Day School, many young lives are changed from problems into people with futures.” Tuition was $95 per semester.
In a 1944 interview, Mrs. Lott said her success lay in adjusting to the child, rather than expecting the child to adjust to the teacher. The earlier specialized training is given, she said, the sooner the child reaches his highest capacity.
In 1950 Lucas County was one of the original seven counties to form the Ohio Association for Retarded Children. Toledoan Jay Schuer was elected president of the organization in 1956. He would later preside over the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation.
Meantime, Mrs. Lott was also concerned about the children who had been in school a number of years, had reached the limit of their academic capacity, but were still unable and unprepared to contribute to their own support. She proposed a new idea, an adult “training-for-earning program.” This was developed as an extension of her Lott Day School to help young adults learn job skills. She asked the school auxiliary for $170.00 to start the program.
In the mid-1950’s several parents of children enrolled in Mrs. Lott school, who were affiliated with the Lucas County Association for Retarded Children, or LARC, formed the non-profit Sheltered Workshop Foundation, the precursor of Lott Industries.
In 1958 a delegation from LARC convinced the county commissioners to place a levy on the ballot to raise funds to help educate children with mental retardation. The .3 mill levy passed. It was the first local tax levy in Ohio to support the education of children with mental retardation.
Mrs. Lott’s school in 1959 merged with a county program operated by the Child Welfare Board. She continued as principal. In 1961, a 55 acre tract of land in south Toledo was selected as the site for a new school. Larc Lane School opened in 1962. When Larc Lane School opened, Lucas County was recognized as the only county in the nation with a program for children with mental retardation that operated without any cost to parents.
In 1965, ground was broken for a new adult facility to be built across the street from Larc Lane School. When it opened, it was heralded as “the only workshop of its kind built by tax money specifically for the retarded adult.” This facility underwent major renovation in 1988 to accommodate the new community-based supported employment program. Also in 1965, the adult employment program began doing business as Lott Industries.
The State of Ohio created county boards of mental retardation and developmental disabilities in 1967. Programs for persons with mental retardation and/or developmental disabilities would no longer be administered by the Child Welfare Board. Jay Shuer was elected the first Board chairman.
When the Board was created in the late 60’s, student enrollment was 576. There were 170 adults in sheltered employment. By 1985, enrollment in the children’s area had increased to 515. Adult Services enrollment was 826. Today, the number of individuals touched by the Board is upwards of 5,000.
Jay Shuer School in Oregon opened in 1971. That same year, the adult services program expanded with the rental of a building on 12th Street in Toledo. In 1975, the adult program expanded again with the acquisition of a building on Ashland Avenue. In 1976 the vacant Imperial Wayside Furniture store on Telegraph Road in north Toledo was purchased to be used as yet another adult facility. Also in 1971, individuals in Lucas County participated in the first Ohio Special Olympics that was held in Cleveland.
Josina Lott died in 1973 leaving behind her a legacy that continues to grow. She was inducted into the Toledo Civic Hall of Fame in 2000.
In 1990, Lott Industries made history, becoming the first employment program for persons with developmental disabilities to be awarded the prestigious Ford Motor Company Q1 Preferred Quality Award. Then superintendent of the Board, Fred DeCrescentis, said, “The awarding of Q1 to Lott Industries proves persons with developmental disabilities can be of value and make substantial contributions to the community.”
The facility on Ashland Avenue was closed in 1991 when a new adult services center was opened on Holland Road in Maumee. That same year, because of a declining school-age enrollment, the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities stopped programming at Jay Shuer School.
In 1991, the Lucas County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities created a new not-for-profit corporation, Community Living Options, to administer the supported living program. Another not-for-profit corporation, Preferred Properties, was created in 1992 to administer the supported housing program.
An adult services center on Hill Avenue opened in 1994. Also in 1994, the Early Intervention Program relocated to the new EduCare multi-services center. At dedication ceremonies, the Director of the Ohio Department of MR/DD said the opening of EduCare is an example of how Lucas County “is at the forefront in providing services to children and their families.”
Larc Lane School was closed in the mid-90’s. Children with developmental disabilities were now enrolled in public schools. The building was renovated to accommodate the ever-increasing seniors program. The building current houses the Departments of Service and Support and of Provider Supports.
In 2002, the functions of Community Living Options were incorporated into Board operations.
In 2009, at the urging of self-advocates, the term mental retardation was removed from the name of county boards. The advocates argued that use of the “r” word was a constant reminder of the many negative stereotypes that mask the true talents and capabilities of people with disabilities.
Two directives from Medicaid initiated a major reorganization of how services to people with developmental disabilities are provided. The Board could no longer be the entity that administers Waiver dollars and also accept those dollars to provide services. Medicaid also wants services provided in non-segregated environments.