Do you have a passion that really gets you going? One that makes you want to get out of bed early in the morning and start your day? One that encourages you to keep going even in the hardest moments? For me, one of those passions has quickly become helping people who are living with disabilities.
When I was elected as your state representative, I was hopeful I’d be able to advance the causes of those living with any kind of disability, and I intend to lobby on these folks’ behalves every chance I get.
In early March, a program called Think Ability First opened its first community garden in Duncan, and I was proud to be there when it happened. Think Ability is a non-profit organization that offers residential and support services for individuals who have developmental, cognitive or intellectual disabilities. It’s been around since 1982, and the organization has always provided excellent care options for people in its program.
Think Ability has day care services, group homes and semi-independent apartment options. The organization also offers in-home support for families. The employees really do it all. They’ve shown me just how much people can learn and achieve, even if someone has a disability. Adaptation is key, and the Think Ability employees understand that more than anyone I know.
Programs like Think Ability operate with minimal overhead. They depend on money from the Department of Human Services to help fund their programs. So when the Legislature underfunded DHS last session, it had the potential to affect Think Ability directly. And we nearly saw the result of that this spring.
Thankfully, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 2342 last week, which provides DHS with a $34 million supplemental appropriation for this fiscal year. The bill’s not perfect. I would’ve preferred to see the agency receive the full $42 million it requested, but the amount it’s receiving far exceeds having to make ends meet without the additional funding.
Opening that community garden is a huge step for Think Ability First and the individuals the program assists. The organization deserves every state dollar it receives.
I cannot overstate the importance of caring for our community members who are disabled. So often, I’ve seen these people treated as second-class citizens, and it breaks my heart. Every single one of us has a family member or a friend with a disability, and we ought to step up to the plate and lend a hand. This supplemental appropriation was crucial to helping organizations like Think Ability continue carrying the torch for people with disabilities, and I am proud that the House passed the bill unanimously.
As we move forward in the legislative process, please remember my office is always open to the people of House District 50. Please email me at Marcus.McEntire@okhouse.gov or call my office at (405) 557-7327 to discuss any policy interests you have. Thanks, and God bless.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.