Supervisors Meet with Concerned Families About the Future of Options of Linn County

By Jill Kasparie, KCRG-TV9

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A Linn County organization helping the disabled is in for some big changes.

Options of Linn County is a sheltered workshop for those living with disabilities. It provides work and a small paycheck for clients.

County supervisors said federal officials are pushing the disabled to leave the sheltered workshop and get jobs in the community.

Right now, the county is trying to determine if or how their model can abide by the federal rules.

That likely means big changes for the program.

Tuesday night family members of Options’ clients gathered to discuss what this could mean for their loved ones.

Many are confused and concerned.

They’re hoping something happens so their children can continue working at Options.

“I am here to support my son who has disabilities,” said Kim Pierson.

Many people had similar stories about what Options of Linn County means to their families.

“My daughter is in a safe place. She is leading a productive life,” said Nancy Rhodes.

That’s why so many people packed the meeting, to find out what’s next. The board of supervisors said things will need to change due to funding issues and rules being enforced by the federal government.

Parents, Options staff and community members were visibly frustrated.

“They can’t do this with our children can they, without us saying what’s best for them?” one woman said during the meeting.

“Any politician who will listen knows that Options of Linn County is a great place for the special needs population,” said another man.

“None of us want this to happen, where we are really having to change and transition and shut down a shelter environment in which people with severe disabilities are earning a wage of some kind,” said Supervisor Ben Rogers.

“We believe that it is a better choice to try to craft a thoughtful solution that may not be perfect and will likely disappoint some, but may find a way for us to maintain some of our services,” said Supervisor Linda Langston.

In the end, it’s scary for parents to think about some of their children holding jobs in the community.

“We know that she’d be vulnerable in other situations where it isn’t protected,” Rhodes said.

It’s even scary for clients to think about changes coming to Options of Linn County.

“Bad, bad, bad and double bad,” said Options Client Nathaniel Pierson.

A task force is currently working on plan of action that should be ready within the next month or two. The county said it will make any necessary changes by June of 2015.

l Comments: 319-398-8268; jill.kasparie@kcrg.com

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