Than Johnson, who has served as the CEO of Champaign Residential Services Inc. (CRSI) since 1982, has announced his intention to retire at the end of 2019. Johnson was a member of the first CRSI Board of Trustees in the mid-1970s, then took a position with the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities until he returned as CRSI’s CEO. Johnson is a graduate of Triad High School, as is current president Scott DeLong, who will move up to the CEO position following Johnson’s retirement.
CRSI’s mission has always been to offer families and individuals residential, transportation, medical and habilitation choices, even when the only other options for severely handicapped individuals were to live with family or in large, state institutions. Johnson, along with Barb Keller and Mark Schlater, formed the management team for nearly 20 years and oversaw the development of CRSI from a small, private, not-for-profit business into one of the largest in the field of developmental disabilities in Ohio. It rose from serving 12 individuals to more than 700, with a workforce of 1,200 direct support staff in nearly 25 counties.
“It has been a privilege working with Than over these past five years as a CRSI board member,” said Brian K. Nicol, president/CEO of The Peoples Savings Bank. “Being a relatively new member to the board, I have been able to witness first-hand the things that Than has been able to accomplish, and I have learned more of what he has done the longer I have been involved. His many contacts in the local, state and federal governments have helped to contribute to the great success of CRSI. He truly is the face of CRSI and a tremendous advocate for the developmentally disabled. His long history working on behalf of individuals with disabilities will always be remembered and appreciated. I wish Than a well-earned retirement and I have a feeling he will still be very active in our community for the betterment of all.”
CRSI has played a major role in both state and federal public policy development with Johnson being both president of the state (OPRA) and federal (ANCOR) associations. He is on both boards as their longest-serving member.
When asked what he takes pride in beyond his administrative role at CRSI, Johnson noted that CRSI plays a major role in four current Champaign County services:
– CRSI approached the county commissioners and then-county home administrator Dale Long about a partnership expanding their services at the former county home by establishing a 20-person unit for individuals with chronic medical issues. That partnership brought into Champaign County nearly $45 million in federal/state dollars that were predominantly used for workforce development.
– CRSI, along with the United Way of Champaign County, requested matching for a grant to start countywide transportation. The commission agreed and, along with CRSI agreement for the use of vehicles, provided for countywide transportation. Tom Botkins was the first director and secured the grant funding.
– CRSI, Johnson and then-Chamber director Mary Lee Gecowets worked with the state legislature to obtain, over a period of six years, capital grants nearing $2 million that were matched by community partners to establish the Champaign Family YMCA, which individuals with disabilities continue to enjoy along with the community.
– Johnson was on a county-appointed advisory board that recommended the eventual sale of the county home to Vancrest, along with CRSI owning the license to the 20-person specialized habilitation unit that provided an additional $2.4 million funds for the county operating fund. CRSI provided the lobbyist that assisted in writing language approved by the state legislature to make the sale occur after the state held up the action.
Johnson said he is looking forward to the continued success of CRSI as DeLong moves into the CEO position.
“As I look back at my career, the major shift in residential funding for services shifted from a local levy/state funding model to a state/federal funding model,” he said. “That effectively moved the rate setting and rule/policy development to a combination of both public entities under the federal Medicaid program. This shift started under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Therefore my emphasis in shaping public policy led to serving as president of both our state and national associations in order to be more effective.”
In his retirement, Johnson said, he plans to assist governor-elect Mike DeWine as a search committee member for various state-level positions.
“I’ve been fortunate to serve as president or as a member of the Search/Transition committee of four of six local Champaign County Chamber CEOs, two of three Champaign Family YMCA CEOs, six of seven State Association’s CEOs, and two of three National Association’s CEOs,” he said. “Finally, I’m currently serving on Transition committee for Gov. DeWine’s selection of the next state Cabinet Director for Department of Developmental Disabilities.
“It’s been an enjoyable series of experiences,” Johnson added. “It’s been a lifelong wonderful journey that I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to be with individuals with disabilities, CRSI board members and our dedicated staff.”
Christopher Selmek can be reached at 937-508-2304