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Needs Assessment Update

Throughout the month of June, the Maryland Center for Developmental Disabilities (MCDD) at Kennedy Krieger Institute held 16 community forums across Maryland, with support from the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Council (DDC), the Maryland Disability Law Center (MDLC), People on the Go, the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA), and other partners. Participants included individuals with developmental disabilities, family members and caregivers, service providers, and members of the public. Altogether, 238 people attended.

Forum discussions included a variety of viewpoints and highlighted the strengths and weaknesses of Maryland's current developmental disability system. Participants described their experiences with the system, focusing on areas that are currently working well, those that are not, and potential solutions to the problems. Although the Eastern Shore, western, central, and southern regions have unique resources and needs, forum attendees noted similar strengths and weaknesses throughout the state.

Maryland's strengths include advocacy groups formed by parents and caregivers, self-advocates, and other service providers; integrated recreational and athletic activities; and services for infants and young children. Overlapping weaknesses include poor access to primary and specialty health care services; a lack of affordable and accessible transportation; a need for more affordable and accessible housing; inconsistent information; and too little training for professionals who serve the developmental disabilities population.

Throughout this process, participants spoke of the realities faced by families and caregivers. One individual wishes to see a "fully cooperational system [where] everyone gets what they need with as little hassle as possible." Another participant stated, "At the forum I attended, many intelligent ideas were shared and discussed. But will any of them be put into action? Ultimately, action is the only thing that really matters -- so what exactly are we going to do first?"

MCDD believes that positive changes require action. During the forums, several attendees shared their solutions and visions for the developmental disability system in Maryland. MCDD will use these suggestions, along with the information gathered through the needs assessment process, as a basis for MCDD's next five-year plan. As a part of this plan, MCDD will work with partners in the areas of research, training, community service, and information dissemination throughout the state. Moving forward, MCDD will develop ways to spark new partnerships and improve the service delivery system that addresses the needs of people with developmental disabilities.

Overall, this forum generated important information that will help MCDD in developing its plan and action steps. As one forum attendee noted, "It is encouraging to see service providers, parents, professionals, and the population served coming together for the common goal of serving those that depend on us for a voice. As a parent and advocate for my daughter, I see these forums as positive steps in ensuring needs are recognized and efforts are being made to meet those needs." To continue this conversation and produce new partnerships, MCDD is staying in contact with forum participants.

Advocates, family members and caregivers, service providers, and others are encouraged to attend our final community forums:

Date: Thursday, October 6, 2011
Time: 1:00-3:00 p.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m.
Location: Coppin State University, 2500 North Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21216

The forums will be held in the Talon Center, Room #218 A & B. The Talon Center is Bldg #4 on the campus map. Parking is available in Lot G.

Map link: http://www.coppin.edu/CapitalPlanning/CSUCampusMapAug2010.pdf

In addition, you are encouraged to participate in the needs assessment survey by going to www.surveymonkey.com/s/_MCDD_Needs_Assessment_Survey. If preferred, you may request a paper survey by contacting Aisha Mason at masona@kennedykrieger.org or by phone at 443-923-9555.

Jennifer White
Master of Science in Public Health Student, Reproductive, Perinatal and Women's Health
Population, Family and Reproductive Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Class of 2012