By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Greater Cleveland recently received funding allocations from United Way of Greater Cleveland to support its family-based case management and employment services for individuals with disabilities.
Operating for more than 65 years, UCP of Greater Cleveland provides services to individuals with a wide range of disabilities, not limited to cerebral palsy. The agency serves more than 1,000 children and adults throughout Northeast Ohio each year.
Services are divided into two parts, Leafbridge, which provides services for children, newborn to age 22, and Oakleaf, which is dedicated to improving the lives of adults with disabilities through maximizing function, independence and quality of life.
United Way of Greater Cleveland allocated $127,616 to the agency for the 2016-17 fiscal year, which will support LeafBridge case management services and OakLeaf Partners employment services.
LeafBridge is the agency’s founding department and has remained at the heart of its mission since its inception serving over 500 children annually. Working as a team, licensed physical, and occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists and social workers collaborate with parents to design treatment programs that will promote their child’s development in all areas of health and wellness.
“As a part of children’s services we offer — thanks to United Way — case management services that support all of the therapies children are given,” said Trish Otter, president and CEO of UCP of Greater Cleveland. “So that sets us apart from [a] therapy unit of a hospital or other organizations. When a family of a child with a disability walks into UCP, we serve the family very holistically.”
“Our approach [is] ‘Yes, your child needs occupational or speech therapy, but what do you need as a family in order to overcome all of the other obstacles that you’re dealing with?’” she said.
Oakleaf provides employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities, including an in-house job training center and community-based employment opportunities.
UCP of Greater Cleveland has contracts with several companies, providing work opportunities at their main building for individuals who need higher levels of assistance. Those working in the workshop are paid piece-rate, and can perform jobs including sorting plastic parts for the Ford plant, shredding secure documents or packaging Christmas mailings.
United Way of Greater Cleveland funds support the community-based employment programs at UCP of Greater Cleveland. This service helps individuals find and retain jobs in the community through job readiness, coaching and placement. Participating employers include Cleveland Clinic, Heart to Heart Pet Grooming, Oatey Company, Forest City, and PNC Bank.
“We are serving more people every year,” Otter said. “And that leads to more becoming employed and becoming self-sufficient, not having to be dependent on their families, government funding or both.”
While these are separate departments at UCP of Greater Cleveland, Oakleaf and Leafbridge do share some staff and work together to make sure major transitions for clients go smoothly, such as transitioning from school to work. The departments also offer assistive technology services, which provide assistive technology assessments and training to help children and adult clients access the world around them.
Paul Clark, who serves on United Way of Greater Cleveland and UCP of Greater Cleveland’s boards, commends the relationship the two organizations have.
“As a board member of both United Way of Greater Cleveland and UCP of Greater Cleveland, I have personally witnessed the tremendous impact of United Way dollars on those served in the community,” Clark said. “Families with children with developmental disabilities benefit greatly from LeafBridge’s case management services, thanks to United Way. Oakleaf’s adult clients seeking job training and placement receive the necessary and very individualized services they require in order to obtain employment and to find their place in the community. These unique services offered by UCP’s Centers of Excellence make a tremendous difference in the lives of those served and would not be possible without the support of United Way.”