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New provider coming to Richland County

New provider coming to Richland County

April 6, 2017

(Editor’s Note: The following is part of a series of stories about the provider partners that work with Richland Newhope who offer services for people with developmental disabilities in Richland County.)

Chris Allison wasn’t planning to work in the developmental disabilities field after completing college.  That was until he visited his brother, Christian, who lived in a group home in Columbus that also housed juvenile delinquents.

Christian has a duel diagnosis of autism and bi-polar disorder and moved into the home at age 18.  A visit one night from his brother changed both of their lives.

“I saw something that I didn’t really like, and I took him out of there,” said Allison.  “I’ve been taking care of him ever since.”

Within three months in 2011, Allison became an independent provider and, after hearing stories similar to his own, he decided to start his own company – Open Arms Health Systems.

“I was 21 when I started,” says Allison.  “I had never started a business before.”

In 2013, he began the process of expanding the business to include a vocational training program.

“Our goal is to make sure that the individuals go from novice in a vocation to experts so that way they can have competitive work out in the community,” says Allison.

The training program involves eight different vocations, ranging from culinary to construction.  It pays minimum wage, teaches reading, writing, math, and social skills, and guarantees employment at the end of the program.

Open Arms also operates a day program in Franklin County, which currently serves 150 people, and provides transportation services.

The agency established itself as a provider of residential supports in Richland County last October.  The majority of the individuals served are on a Level 1 waiver and need about five hours of staffing a week.  By March, Allison says they already had about 27 clients and four staff.

Now, Open Arms is planning to open a day program on June 5 in a facility located at 928 Springmill St. in Mansfield.  It’s expected to be able to accommodate 50 to 75 people.

“We will be teaching literacy.  We’ll go into the community,” says Allison.  “We want them doing the things that they like to do and facilitate them.”

An open house will be held April 21 from 2-4 p.m.

Allison says, within just a few years, Open Arms has grown into a multi-million dollar company and employs nearly 250 people.  By March of 2018, he hopes to start a vocational training program in Mansfield and eventually expand his organization into all 88 counties in Ohio.  He’s also starting EmpoweringU – a vocational college where individuals can earn a degree in a vocation of their choice.

As CEO, Allison says he has worked all the different jobs in his company, from providing residential care to doing third shift transportation.  He has even been remodeling the space that will house Mansfield’s day program.

“My personal mantra is I want to give everyone the same care I would want them to give my brother; putting the individual first is it,” he adds. “I’m going to make sure that we are going to give as best care as possible for as long as we exist.”

For more information, visit the Open Arms Health Systems website.

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