ASHTABULA — The Ashtabula County Board of Developmental Disabilities has a new superintendent who has been settling into the role.
Toni Scurpa, a resident of Pennsylvania, officially started on the job July 1 and she has been making the rounds of the county and getting to know people in various parts of local government.
Scurpa previously worked for the Mahoning County Board of Developmental Disabilities for 29 years as the director of community services service and support administration.
Scurpa said she wanted to grow in a leadership position, and she had long contemplated seeking a superintendent role for a board of developmental disabilities.
Ashtabula County seemed like a good place to seek out such an opportunity, she said, and the small-town atmosphere is something she liked.
The Board of DD exists to serve the public so that individuals can live the best lives possible in their communities, Scurpa said.
“I’m very passionate about what we do in supporting individuals and their families,” Scurpa said. “There were other times when I had been asked to apply for similar positions in other parts of the state, but I wanted to make sure it was the right fit.”
One challenge Scurpa sees is explaining to the public what the board does now that Ash Craft Industries is privately operated and Happy Hearts is run and funded by the Educational Service Center.
Although the board no longer provides direct services due to changes in state law that required boards to get out of direct care by 2021, Scurpa said the board still funds the Medicaid waivers that pay for a variety of services children and adult receive.
Although the educational piece of Happy Hearts is no longer under board direction or funded by the board, Scurpa said nearly 150 children with disabilities are served in the county by the board outside of the school setting.
Among them 78 are children who receive caseworker assistance and 68 are in the early intervention program. More than 280 adults also receive assistance, she said.
Services provided through Medicaid waivers include things like in-home nursing assistance and adaptive and assistive equipment help and installation, Scurpa said.
The board serves 429 total individuals from ages 0 to 21, Scurpa said, and 263 of those individuals are on Medicaid waivers.
Getting the public to understand this has been tough, she said, but the message needs to get out there in light of the board’s upcoming levy renewal attempt in November.
“As the boards have transitioned out of providing the educational piece people don’t understand what we do,” Scurpa said. “We still are needed because we fund and provide services for people to attend any day program in the county and to live in the community.”
Scurpa said she is most looking forward to collaborating with other community agencies and building relationships.
“I think that’s important,” she said.
The board needed to get Zeitler’s replacement right since Zeitler had been on board for 40 years and took with her much institutional knowledge, according to Ashtabula County Board of Developmental Disabilities President Andrew Misiak.
There were 25 applicants for the position, and that list was ultimately narrowed to two after 13 of the 25 were called in for first interviews.
“Although she’s got big shoes to fill, Toni is the best person for the position,” Misiak said.
Scurpa will earn $96,000 annually in her position.