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Forum gives community opportunity to share ideas for services

PLATTSBURGH The state asked and the community responded. Representatives from the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities hosted an open forum at the May Currier Center on Tom Miller Road Sept. 11 as one of several public meetings seeking input about services for the developmentally-disabled. Helene DeSanto, director of Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services, a division of the state OMRDD, said the forum received a great turnout which resulted in very, very valuable feedback. DeSanto, who oversaw the forum, said there were several opportunities for one-to-one interaction with state officials, service providers and those either with developmental disabilities or their family members. I think hopefully people who were there got valuable information from us, said DeSanto. Our purpose is to make sure people are aware of the services we provide and get some input from them as to any issues or problems they may have. We want them to guide us in terms of expressing the needs that they see in their local areas and experience as families. Desanto, whose office is based in Tupper Lake, said the trip to Plattsburgh gave her much first-hand information about what families are dealing with throughout the rest of the North Country. While no new pressing issues were raised, she said, several ongoing issues such as a need for additional services for those with autism, were raised. Todd M. Castine, director of clinical services for the Clinton County Advocacy and Resource Center in Plattsburgh, was one of the local agency representatives to address the topic of autism. The center is pursuing increasing services for the autistic and their family members, to which additional state funding would be needed. Castine said he appreciated the forum, which also gave an overview of what the state can do to assist those who need services. I think that the forum went quite well, said Castine. This was a well-attended meeting, and I think that it showed the Sunmount representatives just how much the individuals of the North Country care for and look out for our developmentally-disabled population. Castine added he was glad he could take the opportunity to share the needs of the autistic with the state, stressing the importance of funding support programs. DeSanto said the state has received a large amount of advocacy from families who are dealing with individuals with autism, and she acknowledged the work of services like the Clinton County ARC provide valuable outreach and services. Plattsburgh is a great community in terms of people being organized, in terms of families speaking on behalf of their needs, she said. A forum like we had serves to underscore the needs throughout. Those who missed the forum who still wish to provide feedback or obtain more information about the state Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities or Sunmount Developmental Disabilities Services, may call 561-8190.

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