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September 20, 2013

Open Line

September 20, 2013

This week’s edition includes important information I want to share with you:


Elaine’s Walk: Last Friday, I participated in Elaine’s Walk to raise awareness about Ovarian Cancer in the intellectual disabilities community. This also served as the Central Office kickoff for Governor Haslam’s wellness initiative. About 50 DIDD employees joined in on the one-mile walk around Centennial Park and we couldn’t have asked for better weather! Organizers tell us the event was a huge success and a lot of money was raised for Ovarian Cancer awareness! Overall, more than 200 people participated in the walk. MillarRich, who organized the walk, would also like to extend their thanks to everyone who participated and share a link to photographs from the event here.


Jackson Wellness Event: Last week, the Jackson Regional Office also laced up their walking shoes and got out the balloons to celebrate the start of their wellness initiatives. About 15 people walked the half-mile circle around the Madison Square Office Park on September 11. The office has also formed walking groups that will meet during lunch and after work on Tuesdays and Thursdays! They also are planning to walk a 5K together to support breast cancer research on October 26 at Generals Park. The Jackson office also kicked off the Healthier Eating portion of the “Working for a Healthier Tennessee” initiative by hosting a healthy potluck “Lunch and Learn.” More than 30 people brought a healthy dish to share along with the nutritional information for their prepared dish. Mary David, MS, RD, LDN discussed information about reading food labels with everyone who participated.

U.S. Department of Labor News: The following is a news excerpt released from the U.S. Department of Labor this week:

Fulfilling a promise by President Obama to ensure that direct care workers receive a fair day's pay for a fair day's work, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule today extending the Fair Labor Standards Act's minimum wage and overtime protections to most of the nation's workers who provide essential home care assistance to elderly people and people with illnesses, injuries or disabilities. This change will result in nearly two million direct care workers - such as home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants - receiving the same basic protections already provided to most U.S. workers. It will also help guarantee that those who rely on the assistance of direct care workers have access to consistent and high-quality care from a stable and increasingly professional workforce.

DIDD is aware of the changes in the Fair Labor Standards Act mentioned in the new brief above. We are working closely with the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) to learn more about how this ruling may impact the services we provide to people. We will update the stakeholder community as we learn new information.

Transitioning to Adulthood with Autism: The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) is conducting a study for youth who have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and will be leaving high school in Fall 2013 or Spring 2014. Youth with all levels of intellectual ability are eligible for this study. VKC emphasizes that leaving high school is a time of great change for all youth, but especially for youth with ASD. This research study will examine the changes that happen for youth with ASD during this time as well as the factors associated with a positive transition. VKC will be looking at stress response, behaviors, services, and the family environment. Participation will involve:

  • Detailed psychological testing of youth with autism (first visit only)
  • Collecting samples of the son or daughter’s saliva for 4 days (4 times each day) to measure cortisol (a stress hormone)
  • Interviews and questionnaires for parents
  • Verbal youth may be asked to complete a public speaking task (second visit only)

The participants’ parents will receive a report summarizing the results of their son or daughter’s psychological testing. Parents have found that being able to provide documentation of an updated evaluation for their young adult has been helpful in the adult service world in a variety of ways:

“My son provided this report to Disability Services at Jackson State, which requires documentation from a certified diagnosing professional dated no more than three years prior to the start of classes. As a result, he receives academic adjustments such as extra time on tests and assignments. I have also used this report in obtaining SSI for my son, and plan to use it to apply for other services provided by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.” -Mother of a college student with ASD

“While my son was still in high school, I provided this report to his doctors and teachers. As a result of adding this information to his IEP, he received extra supports in the classroom such as extra time on tests and modified assignments. After he graduated, we had to provide an updated evaluation with his application to the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center in Smyrna.” -Mother of a young adult with ASD

Participants will receive compensation for their time in the study. For more information, please contact Natalie Henninger at (615) 343-4145 or


Spotlighting Persons Supported: On August 22, Nicole Emerson spoke to a group of directors and state employees at the DIDD Middle Tennessee Regional Office Provider Meeting. Nicole shared her experience with the People Planning Together Project that she participated in at Prospect in January 2013. She encouraged others to participate and shared her enthusiasm in planning her supports and making her own choices. She is pictured at right.

An Ounce of Prevention: This week’s topic has been addressed in prior issues. However, since it applies to all DIDD staff, it is worth repeating. The topic is discrimination or harassment in the workplace. It is the department’s policy to provide an environment free of discrimination and harassment of an individual because of that person’s race, color, national origin, age (40 and over), sex, pregnancy, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status or any other category protected by state and/or federal civil rights laws. The fact that an alleged offender meant no harm or was teasing will not excuse conduct that violates this policy.

In an effort to eliminate incidents of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, supervisors may be held accountable for the actions of their employees. All supervisors will discuss DIDD’s workplace discrimination and harassment policy with their employees and will inform employees of their responsibility to report conduct which they believe is offensive, harassing or discriminatory. Supervisors who receive a complaint alleging workplace discrimination or harassment or learn by any means of conduct that may violate DIDD’s Workplace Harassment policy must immediately report any such event to the department’s human resources director or director of DIDD Office of Civil Rights.

If an employee believes that he or she has been subjected to discriminatory or harassing conduct, he or she must report those incidents as soon as possible after the event occurs. Employees may file a complaint with or contact Patricia Malone, DIDD Employee Relations Officer at (615) 741-5901 or Brenda Clark, DIDD Director Office of Civil Rights at (615) 231-5516.

Creating Healthy Alternatives Together (C.H.A.T.): The DIDD Office of Customer Focused Services has created an unique opportunity for persons who are interested in small peer group work. We are looking for agencies across the state who will host small self-help style group meetings for eight (8) of their people. Please note these are self-help meetings and not therapy sessions. Tom O’Brien or other trained facilitators will work with participants either once per week or every other week depending on interest. Our focus groups have demonstrated that peers are very helpful and supportive of each other as they work through difficult feelings, behavioral problems, problem solving and strategy building. The groups held thus far have produced great results, so we are asking any interested provider to please contact Tom O’Brien at (615) 517-6088.

Patricia Hill Award: A reminder that BGC, Inc. is accepting nominations for their 2nd Annual Patricia Hill Award. This honor is given to a person with a disability who displays honesty, humility, empathy, and ethical principles. Nominations will be accepted until October 31, 2013 with the award given in December. To download a nomination form, please click here.

Family Support Program Appreciation: A family from CS Patterson and Training Center in Trenton were recently able to thank Governor Haslam and the legislature for continued funding of the Family Support Program. They shared with Governor Haslam how much the program has helped them:

“I wish to express how helpful the Family Support Program is to my girls and me. Without this assistance, life would be much harder. I am the proud mother of a beautiful 25 year old daughter who is deaf and learning disabled, and the very blessed grandmother of a sweet baby girl. Both of my girls have developmental disabilities among other problems, and we struggle. This program helps buy glasses, pay a car repair, replace old windows, and numerous other things that would not be possible without this program. Words cannot describe how helpful the Family Support Program has been. The glasses help us see better, the new windows make our home warmer in the winter and the repair work on my truck saved the motor. Please, please, please keep this funding available for us and others in our area. Seriously, this program is a lifesaver. Just when I thought there was no way, God made a way! The program gave the decision makers the information needed to continue to approve this program. We are so appreciative to each person involved with the program. Thank you for everything!” -Leticia Vailes, Elizabeth Blair Graves, and Aubrey Taylor-Grace Graves

Correction: In last week’s Supports Intensity Scale (SIS) submission, the e-mail address listed for Holly Wood at Ascend Management Innovations was incorrect. Please note it is


Greeneville Community Service: Tusculum College in Greeneville teaches its freshmen students the importance of community service at the beginning of every fall semester with its Nettie McCormick Service Day. All freshmen classes volunteer at a variety of non-profit organizations, churches, and schools. During their three (3) hours at Greene Valley, fourteen students and their professor were divided into groups that trimmed shrubs at Staff Development, power washed sidewalks and a pavilion at Kirkwood Cottage, cleaned the inside and outside windows of Newel Cottage, thoroughly cleaned the insides of four (4) 15 passenger vans, and pulled weeds out of flower and shrub gardens. It is an understatement to say that the class completed a lot of work in a small period of time! “Nettie Day” honors the memory of the 19th century benefactor and wife of reaper inventor Cyrus McCormick, and her dedication to cleanliness. The McCormick’s funded several of the college’s historic buildings including McCormick Hall.

DIDD Conflict Management/Dispute Resolution Training: Thirteen staff members from Frontier Health, Mt. Visions, Support Solutions and the Arc TN recently participated in the Conflict Management/Dispute Resolution training hosted by Frontier Health. The training was conducted by Dr. Michael Mailahn, Customer Focused Services Coordinator and Rule 31 Mediator. This training is available to all DIDD stakeholders upon request. For scheduling information, please call Dr. Mailahn at 865-320-2196 or e-mail

Project Titan Regional Provider Meetings: Earlier this month, DIDD presented information related to Project Titan and its impact on providers in each region. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of the providers that participated in these discussions, as well as the staff that helped coordinate and plan these meetings. We hope this information was beneficial and we look forward to sharing additional information with you as we move forward.
We are working on an overview of the presentation material, as well as updates to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), which will be available on the DIDD website soon. As a reminder, you may direct any questions or comments to

Have a great weekend!