GovernmentThe Putnam Examiner

Putnam Legislature Creates Office for Individuals with Disabilities

We are part of The Trust Project

The Putnam County Legislature voted unanimously last week to create a new full-time coordinator position in the Office for Individuals with Disabilities.

The post will be part of the Department of Social Services and Mental Health (DSS/MH) office and is a significant step toward fulfilling Putnam County’s pledge in its ThinkDIFFERENTLY initiative.

ThinkDIFFERENTLY is a call to action to change the way individuals, governments, businesses and communities think about and interact with those of different abilities. The goal is to create a more welcoming and supportive environment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

“Caring for a loved one who is differently abled, who may require unique and special needs, is a lifetime commitment,” said Putnam County Executive Kevin Byrne. “Navigating the system, let alone the world, as a caregiver or individual with IDD is extraordinarily difficult and too often becomes a full-time job. Residents in this county do it every day and we have a responsibility and opportunity to help them.”

Byrne said the action taken last week is one step to serve the needs of the county’s residents.

The coordinator position was created by eliminating two currently funded, vacant part-time positions in DSS/MH. The salary for the post will be $85,000.

The coordinator will be responsible for helping connect individuals with IDD and their families with services available to them, as well as be a community liaison to the various organizations that exist to help and advocate for families and individuals with IDD.

“This move is a welcome one for me personally,” said Paul Jonke (R-Southeast), chairman of the county legislature. “As a parent of a child with a developmental disability, as someone who’s family has had to struggle with the system in place, I know how much of a real opportunity this is for government to make a positive impact on a lot of people’s lives.”

Congressman Marc Molinaro was one of the founders of the ThinkDIFFERENTLY movement, having started the initiative in 2015 when he was Dutchess County executive.

“Over 100 municipalities across the nation have formally made the pledge to ThinkDIFFERENTLY and I’m ecstatic to see that Putnam County is taking actual steps forward to that end,” Molinaro said. “How do we make the system easier for individuals to navigate? How can we break down barriers?

In 2017, then-assemblyman Byrne held a forum with former county legislator Barbara Scuccimarra and Molinaro about ThinkDIFFERENTLY. Shortly thereafter, Putnam County adopted the ThinkDIFFERENTLY resolution, formally committing to the ideals of inclusion.

For more information, visit

We'd love for you to support our work by joining as a free, partial access subscriber, or by registering as a full access member. Members get full access to all of our content, and receive a variety of bonus perks like free show tickets. Learn more here.