Johnson Meets with Providers at Campus of Care

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio – The Causeway at Mineral Ridge is among several nonprofit service providers that have established operations at the Mahoning Valley Campus of Care since it opened in October 2020.

The organization, operated by The Workshops Inc. in Stark County, provides vocational and job training for adults with developmental disabilities. It was one of the stops for U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson when he visited the campus Friday afternoon.

“Our goal is to help folks increase their independence through employment,” said Rachel Doty, Workshops marketing director. “We believe in one thing, and it’s that we empower all to soar by empowering everyone to soar.”

The organization saw a local “void” for vocational training for disabled adults, she said. It has partnerships with brands including Rubbermaid and John Deere and has dedicated spaces in its building for training people to work in hotels, food service and other fields.

Johnson, R-6 Ohio, briefly toured the facility and participated in a short roundtable featuring the various entities operating at the site.

“This is going to going to meet the needs of a lot of people that otherwise would be struggling,” he said.

Local leaders led by Mahoning County Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti lobbied state officials to take over the former Youngstown Developmental Center when it was shuttered in 2017. Reopening as the Campus of Care in fall 2020, all but one of the buildings is now occupied.

The Western Reserve Port Authority, with county support, subsequently took over management of the campus and rehabilitating its various structures.

The campus, with its various wraparound services, is unique in Ohio and possibly in the country, according to Rimedio-Righetti.

“The only thing somewhat like this is in Chicago. That’s it. This has everything,” she remarked.

Among the operations Johnson visited during the tour was the Access to Healthy Foods Mahoning Valley center operated by Flying High Inc., which focuses on vocational training and rehabilitation services for people in recovery or reentering society from the criminal justice system.

Access to Healthy Foods works with the faith-based nonprofit Action Inc. to supply its mobile grocery truck. It has a commercial kitchen; plans call for preparing meals for the onsite Head Start program and for senior citizens, said Jeff Magada, executive director.

Another tenant, Cadence Care Network, will provide transitional housing and life skills training for foster kids who have aged out of the host family system.

One of the possibilities for the sole unoccupied building on the campus, which Rimedio-Righetti pitched to Johnson, was using it for transitional housing for women veterans with families who are homeless.

“You know, nobody’s talking about that,” Johnson said. “That’s a great idea.”

Other tenants include Alta Behavioral Services, Boundless Inc. and Compass Family and Community Services.

“This is very impressive. I mean, this is a community coming together,” Johnson said. “You’ve got state officials, you’ve got local officials, you’ve got county officials, from the port authority to the county commissioners.”

The campus has received financial support from a variety of sources, including foundations and federal, state and local governments.

“We’re open to earmarks,” Sarah Lown, public finance manager for the port authority, told Johnson.

About 1% of total discretionary federal spending each fiscal year is available for congressionally directed community investment programs, often referred to as earmarks, a term Johnson disdains because of its “negative connotation,” he said.

“You’ve got 435 districts throughout the nation. So you can imagine the competition for that money,” he said. “But it’s still a big pot of money.”

There is criteria that has to be met to qualify for the earmark funds. But there also are other ways to tap into federal resources, Johnson added.

He said he would take the information about the campus he will receive from Rimedio-Righetti and “see where we can be helpful.”

Pictured at top: U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson conducts a roundtable discussion Friday afternoon.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.