In April 1991, a group of citizens in Osage County began the quest for services for the developmentally disabled and the physically challenged. They were Gerald Starke, Floyd G. Wilson, Cathy Smith, Judy Muenks, Enrique Piedra, Lisa Sandbothe, Felix Juergensmeyer, John Stratman, Regina Heckman, Margaret Brune, Ron Mertz, and Susan Harding. In 1992, this group of individuals was successful in getting the tax levy passed that began generating the revenue used to begin the process of forming a Senate Bill 40 board.
The Osage County Commissioners selected and appointed a board of nine people. The original board members were Barry Hoskins, John Stratman, Margaret Brune, Alice Lock, Rita Starnes, Kenneth Kliethermes, Felix Juergensmeyer, Bennie Baker, and Lisa Sandbothe. This board worked hard to establish bylaws for the organization. They took trips to visit other Senate Bill 40 organizations, taking note of the kind of programs, size of staff, amount of expense, and the process of getting the organization started.
In June 1993, Virginia (Jennie) Ames was selected as the first Executive Director for the organization. The original office was located at 104 E. Main St in Linn, MO. Jennie was tasked with the duty of setting up this office space and implementing this new organizations goals. Jennie furnished the office with furniture and equipment from surplus property and made a basic outline of the organizations first steps: create awareness; create a brochure; meet with local clubs and churches; and create a policy and procedure manual. The following services for the developmentally and physically challenged were set as a priority: transportation; respite care; community integration; supportive employment; and independent living.
During the years 1994-95 the emphasis was placed on obtaining transportation to the sheltered workshop and creating social activities. Osage Co. Special Services contracted with Oats to provided transportation to the sheltered workshop. Ten clients were provided transportation. Trips were taken to Main Street Opry, Lake Ozark, Grant’s Farm, and Six Flags. Other activities included, swimming lessons, Linn fair, nature trail, YMCA weight room, fishing, bowling, hayride and Valentine’s Dance.
The next priority was to get a HUD grant to build an apartment complex so consumers could live independently. There were many meetings with parents, guardians and representatives from the Rolla Regional Office. The Board agreed on an eight to ten bedroom housing complex. The first step was to apply for a HUD grant. To do that we would needed a 501 (c) (3) status, which was completed in 1996 (Osage County Community Living, Inc). Some additional revenue from our budget was necessary to purchase land. An application was submitted to HUD and in 2000 the agency was awarded the HUD grant. The building was named The John H. Stratman Apartments. In November of 2001 the building was opened with three residents. During these years we also applied and received grants for vans from MODOT and began providing our own transportation. At this time OCCL, Inc. also became a United Way agency. We began receiving money from United Way to help supplement out transportation program and that partnership is still going strong today.
Shortly after the apartments opened, we began an after school program for special needs children, who because of their disability or age cannot find someone to watch them. This program slowly grew into a day habilitation program called the Ability Center and was housed in an office building and a rented house. In 2007 our organization applied for and were awarded the Economic Development Block grant. This was a 50/50 match grant that we used to build what is now the Ability Center. This building also houses our administration offices, and Targeted Case Management offices. The current Ability Center/Office is located at 1006 E. Jefferson St., Linn, MO, across the street for the John H. Stratman Apts. The Ability Center currently serves 6 consumers.
In 2008-09 the state began a push for the counties to take over Targeted Case Management. In 2009 OCSS hired two case managers and 6 months later added a third due to the amount of consumers served. With the addition of case managers our consumer census grew and we now average between 90 to 100 consumers served at one time.
In 2013 Jennie Ames decided it was time to hang up her hat and so interviews were conducted for her replacement. In December 2013 the new director, Megan Reichart, was hired. Megan had served the agency for 4 years as a case manager prior to taking over as the Executive Director.
In moving forward, it is our mission to provide services and supports to help persons with developmental disabilities. These services are designed to meet the consumers’ physical, social, and psychological needs and to promote health and security.