Cuyahoga HHS Levy protects special needs preschoolers

Cuyahoga HHS Levy protects special needs preschoolers

CLEVELAND -- Four-year-old Ex-zavier Williams is a busy, bouncy, curious and happy young man.

He attends the Catholic Charities Early Learning Center in Arbor Park.

But he likely would not be there were it not for the Starting Point program, paid for entirely by dollars from the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services Levy (HHS).

Just before he started preschool, he was diagnosed with epilepsy.

At first, it was overwhelming for his mom to deal with. She was anxious about sending him off to be with other children, especially if the preschool staff did not know how to handle a potential seizure.

"I would not have felt comfortable without teachers knowing," she said, admitting she might have kept him home.

Michelle Rodgers is a nurse with Starting Point. She is one of two nurses who put together treatment plans for families, caregivers and teachers to deal with medical problems.

"We see kids with autism...We see kids with seizure disorders. We see kids with diabetes...If a child has a problem, we have to know how to help the child, and it's scary," said Rodgers.

She trained the staff at Ex-zavier's preschool.

And shortly after Ex-zavier started, they were put to the test.

Ex-zavier's seizures happen when he sleeps. He takes medicine to try and prevent them.

The staff was trained to call 911, wait five minutes after detecting Ex-zavier's seizures and give him a specially administered prescription to halt the seizures.

Staffer Carmina Stroia sprang into action.

"I didn't know what to do...but I kept hearing (Rodgers') voice telling me what I should do next and the questions kept coming back in my head," said Stroia.

And she was thrilled when paramedics told her she got it right.

The Starting Point programs depend entirely on HHS dollars.

"The special needs program is 100 percent funded through the Health and Human Services Levy. It is critical that it happen. If it doesn't, this program will go away," said Constance Walker, the program manager.

The levy also supports MetroHealth Medical Center, substance abuse programs and senior and mental health.

It's not an increase. It's an eight-year renewal that would produce $130 million a year, costing homeowners $147 dollars for every $100,000 of value.

Polls show the levy passing. Cuyahoga County voters have been historically supportive of health and human service issues.

But the new forces at work in this election are a cause of concern for levy backers.

"This is the same ballot the presidential primary candidates are on, and we've seen it's a different electorate, and I don't know if they'll support the levy. It's scary," said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.

Shariece came up with her own idea to promote the levy. She's giving personal messages on levy literature to friends and relatives. For her, it's personal.

"For the weight to be lifted off you and to know you are safe and the teachers are safe and know what to do and the child is safe in their hands...It's a blessing," she said.

One that will continue only if voters renew the levy.

Those interested in seeing if the Starting Point program can help their child can call 216-575-0061.


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment