Beaverton man is county's new developmental disabilities manager
A Beaverton man and Pacific University alumnus is now leading Washington County's developmental disabilities division.
Colin Fitzgerald, 46, stepped into the role after serving 19 years with the county's human services department. Last July, Washington County Human services became two separate divisions: behavioral health and developmental disabilities.
This allowed Fitzgerald to step into the role of interim manager for developmental disabilities before landing the official title.
"I was extremely excited," said Fitzgerald about the promotion. "Since 2013, our program has grown by more than double, and we experienced a ton of transition and challenges during that time. I've been a part of that the entire time and worked through some of those challenges. It was exciting to the able to be in a supervisory role moving forward this division."
Fitzgerald has a bachelor's degree in social work from Pacific University in Forest Grove and now has more than 25 years of experience in the developmental disabilities field.
He says that his time at Pacific is what originally inspired him to get involved in the field. Fitzgerald remembers walking through campus one day and seeing a volunteer fair with representatives from Bethesda, formerly known as Good Shepherd Communities, a nonprofit that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
He went on to volunteer with the organization at one of its local group homes.
After gaining some experience with a paid position at the nonprofit, he landed his next role as a services coordinator with the county in 2001. Fitzgerald worked with individuals and families that were enrolled in the program and lived out in the community or in their own homes.
In 2011, he went on to manage services coordination, abuse investigations, intake and eligibility and administrative support teams. The county says Fitzgerald has been responsible for program oversight and ensuring compliance with Oregon administrative rules and state statutes, development and monitoring of the state contract and supporting the local developmental disabilities advisory council.
"Being able to support people experiencing intellectual disabilities in our community is important to me," he said. "Along with advocating for individual rights and inclusiveness and learning how to be responsive to the public and working for the public side for Washington County — just being good stewards of resources in our community."
Washington County's developmental disabilities division provides services coordination to children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The division is also responsible for intake and eligibility, adult foster care licensing, child foster care certification, abuse investigations, protective services, crisis referrals and supporting a growing provider network.
Fitzgerald plans to continue advocating for individual rights for people in the community while guiding them through the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
He says the division is currently engaged in working with state partners and local public health on vaccine distribution to individuals enrolled in services, as well as family members and caregivers.
"Honestly, a lot of the case management work that we're doing involves around ensuring people have their basic needs met with food, housing support, transportation to doctors or availability of virtual connection with physicians and other folks in their community," added Fitzgerald.
No matter what the future holds, Fitzgerald says it's important to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a voice in the community.
"We provide services and supports to a population that historically has been underserved and marginalized, and we understand how to connect people with services and resources in our community and we feel that our services and the advocacy support that we provide are important to furthering inclusiveness for people experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities in our community," he said. "Besides the advocacy piece, we are also ensuring that they're able to live the lives that they choose to live and are healthy and safe."
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