In the early 1970’s, the only funding that existed for individuals with developmental disabilities outside of institutions and some local county funding was state based for foster settings.
OPRA was founded in 1974, mainly from the work of three individuals - Chris Lohrman, from Buckeye Community Services, Bill Gibson, from ADD, and Hattie Larlham, who began the Hattie Larlham Foundation. OPRA began as a loose association of a handful of providers who sought collegial support and counsel to understand and address the commonality of concerns of these two new methods of funding. The first employee of OPRA (called at this time, The Ohio Provider Residential Association), was Linda Waddle, who took on the task as a part time employee. Because Bill Gibson was located in Columbus, he took on the lion’s share of work and contacts in dealing with the Department of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities. ADD’s offices were often the place where the rag tag group of early providers met for meetings. Bill Gibson deserves much credit for the development and sustenance of OPRA during those early years. Other leaders of OPRA who deserve mention are John Begala, currently the CEO of the research foundation in Cleveland “Community Solutions", Chris Lohrman, who went to develop the VOA array of services in southwest Ohio, Nancy McAvoy, who later worked with ODDS, and Maureen Corcoran, who left to become Medicaid Director at Job and Family Services. The current CEO and President is, of course, Mark Davis.
Additionally, during this period there was a torrent of energy focused on “deinstitutionalization” across the country, and certainly in Ohio, and in particular, Orient State Institute in Columbus and Apple Creek State Institute in Cleveland. And so, in 1974, after appeals and calls from across the state from advocates and families, the Ohio Legislature recognized the need for neighborhood housing to address the enormous pent up need of support for individuals not only living in institutions and wanting out, but also individuals living at home with their families, and who were no longer able to give proper care. The Purchase of Services (POS) law allowed for the state to license and pay for the support of individuals living in the community. POS funding provided the support also for larger residential programs that around 1980, because of a change in federal law, converted to the kind of funding applied to nursing homes, Intermediate Care Facilities for Mentally Retarded (ICF/MR).
As issues arise, OPRA stands to support our members for the best outcomes for Ohioans with developmental disabilities. In recent years, when there was movement to cease funding of ICF/MR programs, the Partners for Choice and Quality Care was established. This is an alliance of individuals, families and providers of DD services that was successful in showing the value of the ICF/MR program, still in existence today.
In its four decade history, OPRA has grown from a loose association with very few resources to a non-profit organization that represents over 70% of community-based providers of services to individuals with disabilities. Today, while still offering community-based services in supervised residential settings, we also are providing foster and respite services to adults and children as well as day services, vocational services, supported employment, and employment assistance.
OPRA's logo, 2006