County’s Most Vulnerable Residents Will Continue to Receive Needed Services

The Warren County Commissioners and Forest-Warren Human Services (FWHS), in a joint effort, have found an additional funding source to help bolster Sheffield’s Ruth M. Smith Center.

The Ruth M. Smith Center, a signature entity in the Sheffield community, has been in continuous operation since 1922 providing child care, preschool services, community resources, and personal care to county residents who are elderly or have significant physical and mental health needs. Their contribution to Sheffield and to Warren County at large as an employer and a safe haven for some of the county’s most vulnerable adult citizens is undeniable.

“Most of our residents would not be able to live in the community without the services (we) provide,” said former Director and current Ruth Smith board member Janice Lyle. Among the services offered residents of the personal care home are medication management and compliance, representative payee services, individualized enrichment activities, mental and physical health monitoring and interventions, and the opportunity to live integrated with the community in a home and family-like setting.

As the center evaluated the 2019 budget, a need was seen for supplemental funding to shore up the agency’s major funding streams, which include benevolent donations and resident contributions in the form of social security benefits and boarding home supplements. Reaching out to the Warren County Commissioners, Ruth Smith administration was able to activate a partnership between the Commissioner’s Office and FWHS, resulting in an allocation from the State’s Community Hospitalization Integration Project Program (CHIPP) which has made the Ruth Smith a more sustainable operation.

The CHIPP allocation, made available annually as a line item on the State’s budget, is a diversionary initiative helping counties create and maintain community resources which help mental health consumers remain out of costlier and more restrictive environments like state hospitals and inpatient residential settings.

“Because we don’t have to worry about the safety and welfare of the individuals we serve who reside at Ruth Smith,” said FWHS Mental Health Director Julie Lacki, “we are able to focus on other issues so that (those residents) can remain in the community.”

According to FWHS Executive Director Ronna Tipton, while funding could have been routed to the center through that agency’s base fund, with a county match, “the CHIPP (funding) frees that money up to be used in other ways.”

Commissioner Jeff Eggleston was pleased that the shared effort of all three entities was able to keep a nearly century-old staple of the Sheffield community operational. “The Ruth M. Smith Center is a real treasure in Sheffield,” said Eggleston. “Everyone (at Ruth Smith) and in the community should be proud of all the Ruth M. Smith Center has contributed to Warren County.”

He added, “In this case, I am also proud of the directors at Forest/Warren Human Services for answering the Commissioners’ call and finding this untapped solution to the Ruth Smith’s ongoing funding challenges.”

The proposed additional funding, which has allowed the Ruth Smith Center to eliminate a majority of its operating deficits, was approved in a unanimous vote of the Forest/Warren Human Services Joinder Board in late February.

The Ruth M. Smith Center provides care to 28 residents, most of whom are enrolled with county mental health services, and employs a staff of 26 county residents, supporting the community by employing its citizens and participating in the economic and cultural landscape through the course of conducting business and helping its residents to participate in community life

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