Too much of what we hear about nowadays is just the partisan fighting in government. There are, though, some good things happening, including a recent bipartisan funding accomplishment that Maine’s federal delegation worked to make happen.

SKILLS, Inc., a local nonprofit that supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, will be receiving $1.5 million to help fund the rebuilding and renovation of residential properties in Waterville.

The announcement of this funding for the Waterville residential site is especially timely as it came during March, which is recognized as Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The theme for the 2024 observance is “A World of Opportunities.” The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities explains the theme as “We’re celebrating people and working together to remove obstacles. Our goal is to build a community that’s committed to creating a world where everyone can do well and succeed.”

That is definitely a worthy goal, and one that we should all be working towards, at all levels of government. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the same opportunities as their neighbors, and funding this project for SKILLS’ residential programs is an excellent example of ‘working together to remove obstacles.’

At SKILLS, they work every day to remove obstacles and provide the tools and support that help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to better access opportunities and live a fulfilling, well-rounded life as an active member of the community. The recently announced federal funding is specific to their Waterville site, but SKILLS is based in St. Albans and supports people in communities throughout central Maine. They offer community support programs in Pittsfield, Skowhegan, and Hinckley; their driver education program is based out of Palmyra; and they have residential programs in several other locations.

As the state representative for communities where the organization has a presence, as well as a member of their board of directors, I have seen directly how their work has a positive impact on the lives of people in central Maine. People need community, and people need purpose — SKILLS works to make both more accessible to countless people every day. The mission of SKILLS is guided by the belief that everyone deserves a safe place to live where they feel a sense of belonging, can foster relationships, and participate in the community.


When this updated and new accessible, affordable housing is completed in Waterville, there will be space for 12 people to live independently, but with 24/7 available support. SKILLS aims to help people live as independently as possible. One of the houses at the Waterville site will also be designed specifically with the physical requirements of aging-in-place in mind, addressing a crucial gap that exists not only for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in our region, but for the wider population throughout the state.

Housing location matters for access to opportunity. These folks will be living in the community they know, close to a variety of options for working and volunteering, as well as close to services they need, such as healthcare or transportation options.

It’s an unfortunate fact that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities — as well as many older adults in general — end up having to leave the area they know in order to be closer to services. In some cases, this results in people going into long-term care or nursing facilities, which may not be the right level of care. Plus, space is already at a premium in these facilities across the state.

We can do better. People should be able to have choices about where they live, be able to stay in the community they want to be in, and be where they have access to the kinds of opportunities they want. I am glad to know that with this recently announced funding, our federal delegation and SKILLS are working to make this happen. Their collaboration is building opportunities.

Removing barriers and creating opportunities for people to thrive is making individuals’ lives better and strengthening our communities.

This Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month — and all year — I’m proud to know that such positive steps are happening right here in central Maine.

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