Federal funding to help Arc Central Chesapeake Region expand space, services


EASTON, Md., – A large chunk of federal funding is set to help a crucial resource on the Eastern Shore expand its services.

Expanding the Impact

Every day, The Arc Central Chesapeake Region provides life-changing services for those living with developmental or intellectual disabilities. And now, they’re broadening their impact with this money. The funds were secured by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen.

“This area has been traditionally underserved in dealing with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals. We know that, and we want to do something about it,” said Sen. Cardin. “We look for organizations that are reliable, that can provide services, and are meeting needs that we’ve left behind in the past. It’s the right thing to do for the people who need the services, it’s the right thing to do for strengthening our community.”

How the Funding Will be Used

Arc President and CEO, Jonathan Rondeau, says the $1 million will help ensure that those living with disabilities can do so with respect, dignity, and to their fullest potential.

“$250,000 of that federal funding secured by the senators will support eight additional clinicians by the fall of 2024, both here on the Eastern Shore and in Anne Arundel County,” said Rondeau. “The federal funds secured by Senators Cardin and Van Hollen include $750,000 to support Port Street Commons, a truly unique community resource.”

Port Street Commons is set to break ground in June. It will be Arc’s new headquarters, including a professional development center, a community hub, and a behavioral health suite. Plus, the site will house nine two and three bedroom apartments, targeted to community members with the most modest needs.

Arc’s housing subsidiary, Chesapeake Neighbors, is assisting on that front.

“Those apartments will include a mix of affordable, and permanent supportive housing,” said Rondeau. “Our state is in crisis, and no community in Maryland has enough affordable housing to support its residents. This lack of options has left families with moderate incomes desperate and struggling.”

Breaking the Stigma

However, lawmakers say it’s about a bigger mission than just expanding services and housing options.

“We want to make sure that we end the stigma applied decades ago, with respect to individuals with disabilities,” said Sen. Van Hollen. “To make sure everybody – everybody – in our community is treated with respect, and dignity, and has an opportunity their full potential, that’s really what this is all about.”

It’s a message similar to the one that began Arc’s mission more than 60 years ago.

“In 1961, doctors still told parents to put their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities into institutions,” said Rondeau. “The Arc is a part of a movement of families who knew that was wrong, and knew there were different ways to provide services.”

Arc’s Journey to Here

Arc Central Chesapeake Region started serving its community in 2007.

“Every day, we receive calls com people with disabilities, and their families, wanting more choices around services; people needing access to housing, and people looking for tailored mental health care,” said Rondeau.

In 2020, the organization received a small community grant to help deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s when they began to hold group therapy sessions with program participants.

“These group therapy sessions were intended to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities process the emotions they were experiencing because of the pandemic. What we found was a deeper need for connection and understanding,” said Rondeau.

However, it became quickly apparent through those group sessions that the organization needed to do more, says Rondeau. They then began focusing on a more holistic, trauma-informed approach, meeting people where they were.

“In just over the year and the half since we began, we’ve added two clinicians, to have a total of three to our team, and are serving nearly 130 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in monthly counseling sessions,” said Rondeau.

More Resources Needed on the Shore

Rondeau says it’s not just individuals living with disabilities who reach out to them for help. He says the organization also frequently fields calls from other providers who don’t have enough resources.

“Across the shore, there are a few single providers that serve each county. By contrast, Anne Arundel County, where the Arc also operates, offers choice of over 30 providers. The lack of options profoundly affects people with disabilities, and their ability to live the lives they choose,” said Rondeau.

Looking ahead, Rondeau says the new funding is just step one in a journey to bolster those resources.

“We need additional space to innovate and grow,” said Rondeau. “People with intellectual and developmental disabilities often encounter cooccurring mental health diagnoses. As you likely already know, there are not enough resources for people with disabilities to access essential mental health supports.”