The Hearing Speech & Deaf Center (HSDC) provides care to thousands of Cincinnatians and their families. HSDC provides audiology services, speech therapy, occupational therapy and community services for the deaf. HSDC is a nonprofit and no patient is ever sent away for their inability to pay. They are committed to supporting and advocating for individuals and families as they overcome challenges associated with communication. We sat down with CEO J.B. Boothe to learn more about this vital resource for the communities of Cincinnati.
What is HSDC?
We are a small nonprofit and have been in the Greater Cincinnati area for 92 years. We started in 1925 as the Cincinnati League for the Hard of Hearing by a woman named Anna Pattison. She was the wife of the Ohio governor at the time. At the beginning, it was more of a social club so that the deaf and hard of hearing could come together for social gatherings.
It wasn’t until about the 1950s that we actually became a clinic. Jean Rothenberg started the clinical services aspect of HSDC. Rothenberg experienced hearing loss after the birth of her children. She stared looking for services here in Greater Cincinnati and couldn’t find any help. So she went to Cleveland and she went to New York. She was eventually able to find help, but she was from Cincinnati and she came back here and really made it her life’s work to bring services to the greater Cincinnati area. She partnered with the League for the Hard of Hearing and then The Hearing Speech & Deaf Center was born. We’ve grown and changed as the years have progressed.
What are some of the services you provide?
The office at 2825 Burnet Ave is our Main office and acts as our base. In this facility we provide audiology, speech therapy, and occupational therapy for children and adults.
We also provide community services for the deaf, which include our deaf advocacy. Deaf advocacy services offer opportunities for a deaf individual to come into our office at any time and see a deaf advocate. We have two deaf advocates on staff, and they assist with any issues a deaf person might have. If there is an issue with the cable company, we pick up the phone to call them and get it resolved. An issue with a landlord? We do the same thing. Our deaf advocates work with individuals to help them solve daily struggles.
In addition, we provide American Sign Language interpretation services. We have interpreters on staff that are scheduled out all over greater Cincinnati to provide sign language interpreting for the deaf. We primarily travel to schools, colleges, doctors appointments, the emergency room, and anywhere else we’re needed. We’re a 24hr, 7-day-per-week service. When deaf people go into surgery, we’re there with them around the clock. When they need to appear in a courtroom, we accompany them. We go anywhere a deaf person would need to communicate with a hearing person.
We also hold many events for the deaf in the greater Cincinnati community. We have deaf day at the zoo every year and average about 500 attendees. We also hold deaf day at the Newport Aquarium, which brings in several hundred folks. Other events include deaf day at the Reds, job fairs for the hearing impaired, etc. At our last job fair we had 3 deaf individuals who were hired on the spot, which was really great. We also hold a deaf college fair, and have a summer signing camp for kids. At the camp we let the kids bring their siblings to learn. We even have a signing Santa for Christmastime! Our kids love that Santa can understand them and communicate with them using sign language.
What services do you provide for early detection of a speech/language disability?
Our mission is to remove obstacles to communication. Even though we have a wide range of services, they all come back to removing obstacles. With occupational therapy, we found that some children weren’t progressing because of some of the sensory motor deficiencies they have. We began to combine occupational therapy with speech language pathology, and the kids are able to progress much more quickly. We help get them on par with their age group and ready to go to school. Another huge thing we do is screenings at early learning centers, preschools, and kindergartens with our speech pathologists. We do this so that if a teacher or a parent hasn’t really noted that a child has a speech/language delay, then the professionals can recognize it. Early discovery of a speech language disorder is huge. Even just a six month delay in initiating services when the child is starting to talk is serious. We have some great stories around success with the children we serve, which is really great.
How did you become the CEO of HSDC?
I’m an occupational therapist by background, but I’ve been in management for many years. I have worked primarily in adult physical rehabilitation, occupational, physical and speech therapy for most of my career. I started as a treating therapist, but then took on a role as a manager and director. Moving into the CEO role was really the next appropriate step for me in my career.
I also wanted to get into a true non-profit setting. I’ve worked in a lot of hospitals that are non-profit, but that’s a totally different world than this type of agency. With this type of agency, you really can see the labor of your work. You’re able to connect with the people you serve much easier. You’re surrounded by people that are here because they want to be here. The folks that we work with are here because they feel really good about the work that we do everyday. It’s a good role.
How did you first get connected to Flywheel?
I was at a Leadership Council for Nonprofits meeting and talked to Jenny Berg, who is the Executive Director. She then introduced me to Bill Tucker, the Executive Director at Flywheel Social Enterprise Hub. Bill told me what Flywheel was all about. At the time, we were trying to secure a grant for our C-print services from a foundation. Even though we had assembled a nice proposal, they wanted us to have a feasibility study completed before they would provide us with a grant to start the program. So that led me back to Bill.
Flywheel completed the feasibility study for us, and it proved that there was absolutely a need for C-print services here in greater Cincinnati. I was able to include their feasibility study results in the proposal for the grant, and we were able to secure the funds! We just found out we were awarded the grant in spring of 2017. Without that feasibility study, I don’t think we would have been able to secure the grant.
What are your C-Print Services?
As a facility that advocates for the deaf community, C-print services are something that a lot of people offer remotely. However, many schools like to have the captionist in the classroom to create a better experience for deaf students. C-Print is where a captionist has a computer and types what they hear an instructor teaching. The captionist is capturing what is said in real time. The deaf person has the computer in front of them so that they can follow along with the rest of the class. The captionist captures questions asked by students in real time, too. That way, the deaf person knows the question that is being asked. The nice thing about C-print services is that once the class is over, the student is provided with the transcript as well. The students exert so much energy focusing on reading what is being said, and they obviously can’t hear the lecture, so they struggle with taking notes like you and I could. This way the students can take their notes home with them from the class. It’s such a great, useful service.
Why are programs like HSDC important to individuals and their families who receive your service?
We are one of the only centers in town that provide deaf advocacy. There are other sign language interpreting agencies, but we’re the only non-profit that does the other piece: helping folks outside of just communication through interpretation. We’re also one of the only agencies in the area that will serve Medicaid clients and provide charitable services. For example, Children’s Hospital will serve people that have Medicaid for audiology and speech, but the private audiology storefront clinics really don’t serve the Medicaid population.
The reason these locations don’t serve the Medicaid population is because you lose money on almost every Medicaid patient that you serve, but here that’s our mission. We’re a nonprofit and we aim to serve everyone. Our mission statement discusses the need to remove obstacles to communication, but in addition to that it’s to also to serve those who need our help regardless of their ability to pay. We have a mixture here because we provide state of the art care and we provide services in all areas. Because of that, we get people who have private insurance as well. The majority of people we serve, however, are those who either can’t afford services otherwise or they’re not able to obtain them because they’re not provided outside of our agency.
We really are a major resource for this community. Before the Affordable Care Act, there were a lot more people who didn’t have insurance coverage. Our charitable services program would pay for what was needed. We’re a lifeline for some of these folks.
To learn more about the Hearing Speech & Deaf center, or to access services, visit their website!