Columbus, Ohio – The Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman presented its Excellent Advocate Award to the Honorable Dixie Park of Canton, Ohio. Judge Park ensures that individuals served by Stark County’s probate court have a voice for their rights, independence, and dignity. She also ensures that guardians in her county are held to high ethical standards.
“All Ohioans, regardless of their mental or physical ability and access to support, deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from the fear of abuse or exploitation. Judge Dixie Park has made that a reality for thousands in Stark County and countless others statewide,” said Erin Pettegrew, Deputy State Long-Term Care Ombudsman for Ohio.
Ohio’s Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman advocates for people receiving home care, assisted living, and nursing home care. The Office presents the Excellent Advocate Award to individuals who demonstrate remarkable character in protecting the rights of long-term care consumers through advocacy, service, collaboration, process improvement, or other accomplishments. Judge Park was presented the award and special commendation from Ohio Governor Mike DeWine by retired State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Beverley Laubert and Regional Ombudsman Program Director Sam McCoy during a special meeting on Oct. 21, 2021, in Canton.
In 2004, Judge Park became the first woman elected Judge of the Probate Division, Stark County Court of Common Pleas. A year later, she reinstituted the Probate Court Angel Program, which enlists volunteers to visit and report on the well-being of more than 1,800 individuals under her court’s supervision. In 2006, she helped launch Guardian Support Services, which provides training and support for volunteer guardians. The next year, she led the creation of the Guardian Oversight Council, which brings together members of the community to recommend standards for guardianship cases.
In 2010, she created the Stark Multidisciplinary Advocacy/Protective Resources Team (SMART). The award-winning team has led local discussions on elder abuse and long-term care for people with disabilities. In 2016, the Stark County Probate Court received a grant from the U.S. Administration for Community Living to expand the Court Angel Program, including the implementation of an eldercaring mediation program, which helps older adults and their families access resources to prevent abuse and avoid guardianship.
Judge Park has served on regional and state committees and task forces, including serving as chair of the Adult Guardianship Subcommittee of the Supreme Court of Ohio’s Advisory Committee on Children and Families. Her service beyond her courtroom has brought the principles she has established in Stark County to the entire network of Ohio probate courts. She has been recognized for her leadership and accomplishments by the Ohio Coalition of Adult Protective Services, the Ohio Guardianship Association, the Ohio Association of Probate Judges, and the Greater East Ohio Alzheimer’s Association.
About ODA – The Ohio Department of Aging serves and advocates for the needs of Ohioans age 60 and older, as well as their families, caregivers and communities. Programs include home and community based long-term supports and services, as well as initiatives to promote health and wellness throughout the lifespan. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.