This past week has been a busy and rewarding time, visiting with various agencies and meeting with several community members. As most of you are now aware, it is my goal to heighten awareness of persons with disabilities, encourage community support for agencies, and recognize exemplary citizens for their contributions that have allowed many persons served to have an improved quality of life.
A lot of coordination, effort, and detailed planning accounted for the overall success of visits. I’m sincerely grateful to everyone who took time out of their schedules to accompany and learn more about these extraordinary agencies and people. I would especially like to thank those citizens for their willingness to meet and share their stories of making a difference in people’s lives. Finally, a special thank you to every agency involved for their hospitality, time, and assistance in arranging the day’s events.
The following are a few photos and highlights:
- Prospect: On May 25th, I met with CEO Eric Thompson and staff to recognize Shelly Barnes and Justin Stefanski, UT Extension Agents. Senator Mae Beavers and Representative Mark Pody accompanied. Both Shelly and Justin were recognized for their efforts to build an Enabling Garden on Prospect’s campus. As a result of extensive grant-seeking, Shelly and Justin were able to design a wheelchair-accessible garden everyone could take part in. Shelly also hopes construction of the garden will encourage healthy eating habits. For her efforts, Shelly was presented a certificate of appreciation signed by Governor Haslam. Staff from The Lebanon Democrat and The Wilson Post also attended.
- Memphis Oral School for the Deaf: This week, I accompanied Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris and toured the school. We learned they are actively seeking donations and rely on many funding sources to continue operations. Action News 5 provided coverage of the visit and the complete story can be viewed at:
- HOPE Church: I visited with their leadership to learn more about a class started several years ago that now has approximately 41 individuals with special needs who are ministered to at least three days a week. The program is called “Special Kids” and was founded by a couple of parents who were unable to attend church for five years due to their child needing special accommodations. Mack and PK Oates, Diane Paradise, Darlene Winters, Lucy Davey, and Judie Stephenson were recognized for their work on behalf of persons with disabilities. Please view the link below to learn more about how their program got started:
- Ryan’s Place Playground: To learn more about her many contributions to assisting families who care for loved ones with special needs, I had the opportunity to meet with Corinne Derenburger. Ms. Derenburger founded Ryan’s Hope in early 2003 soon after her son Ryan, received a terminal diagnosis. Wanting to leave a legacy in his honor of “hope in all circumstances and his unconditional love,” Corinne wrote a book called Raising Ryan. The book was published in November 2003 and she began a support group for parents. Another significant initiative and contribution by Ms. Derenburger is the universal play area in W.C. Johnson Park appropriately named “Ryan’s Place.” She raised money, gathered community support, and sought to overcome prejudices of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In attendance were Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, Stan Joyner (Collierville Mayor), James Lewellen (City Manager), and Chip Peterson (Parks and Recreation Director). Corinne was presented a certificate of appreciation signed by Governor Haslam.
- West Tennessee Family Solutions (WTFS): This week, I met with Sharon Perry, Executive Director and staff. We toured WTFS’ Good Life Center (GLC). The center offers classes throughout the day for persons with disabilities. These include music appreciation, health and fitness classes, nutrition and cooking classes, sign language, archery classes, social responsibility classes, arts and crafts classes, and financial responsibility classes. GLC also has a choir that practices every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and performs at area nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and WTFS events. Anyone is welcome at the GLC anytime.
During the visit, long-time supporters of WTFS were recognized including Dick and Carolyn Johnson, Dr. Greenwald, and Bill Cooper.
Dick and Carolyn Johnson had a daughter who lived at Arlington Developmental Center and now lives in a community home. Both served on the Parent Guardian Association (PGA). When WTFS opened, they worked in yards, painted and cleaned houses, and donated items to help make houses into homes. Among their many accomplishments, they also established the Johnson Scholarship at WTFS for direct support professionals wishing to further their education.
Dr. Carol Greenwald has spent years advocating for the rights of people with disabilities and continually dedicates her time to the improvement of community systems in Tennessee. Recently, Dr. Greenwald started a fund at WTFS called Helping Hands to benefit persons who do not have funds for essentials they need. Because of her thoughtfulness, several people at WTFS have badly needed shoes, new mattresses, and other items to use.
Bill Cooper is known for his work with Special Olympics in West Tennessee. He volunteers countless hours ensuring persons have quality sports and fitness activities. Mr. Cooper also began a special needs ministry around 30 years ago at a local church called “The Joy Class.” This past year, he sponsored several dances for WTFS persons to attend at no cost. Several times a year, he organizes group attendance at local sporting events like Redbirds and Grizzlies ballgames.
- Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS): I also stopped by SRVS to visit their occupational workshop which employs more than 120 persons with disabilities. Senate Majority Leader Norris and Representative Mark White accompanied. SRVS has been providing services to persons with disabilities for 50 years. Certificates of appreciation signed by Governor Haslam were awarded to Sarah Weeks and Tim Bolding for their contributions to persons with disabilities. The efforts put forth through SRVS are nothing less than stellar. Their dedication to persons served is admirable and highly appreciated.
- Support Solutions and Omni Visions: At Support Solutions, I met with persons who have successfully transitioned from nursing homes into the community. While at Omni Visions, I met with staff and toured the agency. Both visits were very enjoyable and I was grateful to interact and spend time with persons served.
- Developmental Services of Dickson County (DSDC): The week’s events concluded with a visit to DSDC and a meeting with their Board of Directors and Executive Director, Don Redden. We ate lunch with persons served, toured their day program, and community homes. I sincerely appreciated the opportunity to have a first-hand look at DSDC’s day-to-day operations; it was time well spent.
Other items of interest this week include:
- Increased Billing Frequency: Please see attached Central Office memorandum and payment schedule.
- Community Transition and Death Review Policies: Additionally, the community transition and death review policies have been approved for immediate implementation.
- An Ounce of Prevention: This week’s focus is on personal funds management. DIDD policy 008 is the one that applies to providers who serve as a person’s Representative Payee. This policy was updated effective August 2011 and one of the changes, made in response to provider input, involves the receipts required in conjunction with personal allowance spending. Section E.5.h requires that receipts be maintained for all expenditures of $10.00 or more for purchases made by provider staff using the person’s served personal allowance (the prior policy required receipts for purchases of $5.00 or more).
Receipts that are simply missing are a common issue when personal funds are surveyed or audited. When receipts cannot be located, the provider is obligated to repay the individual the amount of the purchase. A second issue comes into play when receipts are stored “loose” and sorted at a later date; sometimes at the end of the week or even the month. This approach often results in receipts that cannot be traced back to a specific purchase and individuals needing to be repaid.
Having staff take time on a daily basis to ensure that receipts are properly accounted for, and maintained, benefits individuals as well as providers. For additional details and clarification, this policy is available on the DIDD website.
- Focus Groups: This month’s groups are scheduled for 12:00-2:00 p.m. at the following locations: Nashville: June 5, 2012 at Clover Bottom Developmental Center (One Cannon Way basement)
Memphis: June 7, 2012 at SRVS (3971 Knight Arnold Road, across from Delta Medical Hospital)
Focus groups are a great opportunity to learn and work on self-advocacy and self-expression. Please feel free to bring snacks or desserts if you desire.