By Sandra Zunino
Thanks to the Arc of the Central Chesapeake, people with developmental disabilities in Anne Arundel, Queen Anne’s, Talbot, Dorchester and Caroline counties have a system of support for themselves and their families.
The organization began as The Association for Retarded Children formed in 1947 on a national level by a group of parents to advocate for school services for children with mental retardation and other severe disabilities. The Anne Arundel County Association for Retarded Children, Inc. was incorporated in 1961.
Renamed The Arc of Anne Arundel County in 1991, the association grew and expanded services to meet the needs of citizens with developmental disabilities in all five counties. In 2006, an office was opened in Easton to better serve people on the Eastern Shore. A year later, it was renamed The Arc of the Central Chesapeake.
“The services are slowly growing,” says Executive Director Kate Rollason. Currently, The Arc, maintains 66 homes and apartments for more than 127 citizens with developmental disabilities. For adults with developmental disorders, The Arc finds roommates, apartments and homes of their own.
For families with developmentally disabled children, Arc staff offers respite care, a very important service says Kate. In fact, according to national research, respite care is one of the most valued services for the family of a child with a developmental disability. “The family does get distressed and tired,” she says. “Respite care helps the family stay together.”
Arc staff may visit the home a few times a week and take the individual out to do community activities such as visit the YMCA. “It might be that they help with budgeting and making sure bills get paid,” she adds, “or provide care so the family can take a break and go out for another child’s activity.”
To make community living more affordable, The Arc helps families apply for access to government benefits including rent subsides, food stamps, SSI, energy assistance, Medicare and Medicaid.
“We also provide lower level family support services such as reimbursing co-pays for medications,” explains Kate. “Some people are taking 15 medications a month and that is more than what the family can afford.”
While this may not cover the entire expense, it can help especially in the current economic climate. “Many families are faced with very difficult choices,” says Kate. “It has become more difficult to make these decisions such as if one spouse has lost a job.”
“Nobody should have to choose between how much food to put on the table for the family and how much they can afford medication,” she adds.
Arc staff completes an extensive general training program as well as learns CPR and first aid. Additionally, staff members will undergo specific training to help the person they will be working with as certain disabilities such as autism require specialized attention.
A non-profit organization, The Arc receives funding through grants, sponsorships, donations and fundraising activities and depends on the help of many hardworking volunteers. For more information about The Arc of the Central Chesapeake and the many services offered, visit www.thearcccr.org or call 410-268-8085. An application for services is available online.