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November 22, 2013

Open Line

November 22, 2013

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

International Day of Persons with Disabilities:  The United Nations (UN) has identified December 3 as International Day of Persons with Disabilities. Initially proclaimed in 1992, the annual recognition is to promote an understanding of disability issues and to rally support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

The department would like to join the international community in celebrating this day of honoring people we serve. The theme for this year is “Break Barriers, Open Doors: For an inclusive society for all.”  The UN has proclaimed:

The commemoration of this year’s International Day of Persons with Disabilities provides an opportunity to further raise awareness of disability and accessibility as a cross cutting development issue and further the global efforts to promote accessibility, remove all types of barriers, and to realize the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in society and shape the future of development for all!

What you can do to observe this day:

  • Organize- Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns to help find innovative ways and means by which persons with disabilities and their families can be further integrated into their societies and development plans.
  • Celebrate- Plan and organize performances everywhere to showcase and celebrate the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change and development in the communities in which they live.
  • Take Action- A major focus of the day is practical and concrete action to include disability in all aspects of development, as well as to further the participation of persons with disabilities in social life and development on the basis of equality. Highlight progress and obstacles in implementing disability-sensitive policies, as well as promote public awareness to break barriers and open doors for an inclusive society for all.

For more information, please click here.


Employee Accolades:  On November 20, a graduation ceremony was held for Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI) candidates. TGMI is a rigorous program that serves to develop and promote leadership responsbilities of mid-level managers in state government.  This year, the department was fortunate to have four of our employees participate.  Congratulations to Sherrie Artman (Central Office), Linda Sain (West Tennessee Regional Office), Caira Garcia (East Tennessee Regional Office) and Michelle Smith (Middle Tennessee Regional Office) for being among this year’s graduates!  

clipSpotlighting Persons Supported:  Lisa currently receives services from Compass Coordination.  Two years ago, she transitioned to family model services with New Horizons along with her long time support staff, Beverly and Talisa.  Those who know and love Lisa expressed that she is a very quiet, sweet and shy young lady.  Lisa and her supports began going to Waffle House earlier this year for breakfast and met a server named Angie.  Angie and Lisa instantly hit it off and have become very good friends.  Angie also happened to know two gentleman from Indiana and introduced them to Lisa.  Not only has Lisa made a friend in Angie, but she also meets her Indiana friends for breakfast occasionally when they are in town.  The friendship formed between the two women has allowed Lisa to express her feelings and ease some of her shyness. Pictured above, are Lisa and Angie.

One of our goals is to support people in building real connections to their community.  These connections, although they may appear to be insignificant in the beginning, can open doors that change people's lives for the better.  Supporting people to build real relationships requires deliberate support just like introducing people to friends and acquaintances and when there is that instance of connection between two people, supporting them to build on the connection.  The department commmends Compass Coordination and New Horizons for their thoughtful and consistent support for Lisa.  We look forward to seeing how Lisa continues to build upon her connections and how her life changes as a result.

Employment Network Training Session:  A reminder that a capacity building session regarding Employment Network and Ticket to Work will be held December 16 from 9:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m at Workforce Connections in Knoxville (2247 Western Ave). Facilitated by Workforce Program Manager Stephanie Potter, the session will provide an overview of the Disability Employment Initiative grant, Ticket to Work and partnering with a workforce that has already become an Employment Network.  Additional highlights will include:

  • What is the Disability Employment Initiative?
  • What is the Ticket to Work Program?
  • Who gets a Ticket? How do I know if one of my clients has a Ticket?
  • What is an Employment Network (EN)?  What is a Workforce EN?
  • What services does an EN provide?
  • How much does an EN get paid and when?
  • What are the benefits of partnering with an EN?
  • What would the partnership look like?
  • Who would be responsible for what?
  • How do you get started utilizing the Ticket?

If your agency is interested in learning more about becoming an Employment Network and Ticket to Work, please RSVP to Amy Gonzalez at by December 6, 2013.

2013 Satisfaction Survey:  In line with DIDD’s vision to support all Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities to live fulfilling and rewarding lives, we are in the process of mailing a new satisfaction survey this month to all class members and their representatives.  If you or someone you support receives the survey, please complete and return the survey.  We are hoping to receive a large number of surveys back to let us know how we are doing and what we can do to improve services for the persons we support.  In the future, we will distribute a satisfaction survey to all persons receiving services from DIDD.

Project SEARCH Kick-Off:  On November 14 and 15, a two-day training event was conducted in Murfreesboro by Susie Rutkowski and Linda Emery from Project SEARCH in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Project SEARCH High School Transition Program is a unique, business-led, one-year school-to-work program that takes place entirely in the workplace. Total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships. Competitive employment for each graduate is the goal.  The Project SEARCH website includes great information about the project, including videos of participants here.  Five local communities participated in the training.  One desired outcome of the event was to have commitments from necessary participants to form a local Project SEARCH team encompassing local education agencies, vocational rehabilitation and a community rehabilitation provider. These teams will participate in training throughout the year and be credentialed as a certified Project SEARCH team. This business-led model has a solid track record and is well regarded by businesses across the country.

The project’s sponsors acknowledge the training event would not have been possible without the collaboration and efforts of its state partners including DIDD, the Department of Human Services (DHS) Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Office of Special Populations and the Council on Developmental Disabilities.

clipFocus Group:  The Jackson Focus Group was held November 14 at the STAR Center and Omni Visions made this event very memorable.  Omni Visions provided a chicken dinner complete with desserts.  The meal delighted all 106 participants who were there to learn about self-advocacy and dealing with difficult emotions.  The Office of Customer Focused Services would like to thank Steve Norris, Stephanie Rogers and her team for an outstanding job.

Every quarter a different agency provides a meal for Focus Group participants.  In the past, meals have been provided by SRVS, RHD and Faith Specialized Care Services.  Our special thanks to all of them and Support Solutions of the Mid-South, who were a long time sponsor of the Memphis Focus Group.  It takes a great team to make this work and we really appreciate our team members!

Employment First:  SRVS in Memphis has been consistently working with the department to transform their services into integrated community employment that pays minimum and/or competitive wages. On November 8, SRVS was approved to become an Employment Network (EN). SRVS initially submitted the Request for Quotation (EN Application) in the summer and has been patiently waiting to receive access to the Ticket to Work portal. Now that SRVS is an EN, they will begin working with Ticket holders to assign their Tickets in order to get reimbursed for providing employment services. Congratulations to Tyler Hampton, Executive Director and the entire SRVS staff for their diligent efforts on employing persons with disabilities in fully integrated employment. The department is proud to work with such a passionate organization that is focused on providing the most integrated services available. Great job SRVS and keep up the good work!

Employment First Task Force:  The Employment First Task Force was created as a result of Governor Haslam signing an Executive Order that supports our Employment First initiative. The task force meets every other month and subcommittees convene in the month that the task force does not meet. For more information about the task force, click here.

clipDIDD Wellness:  On November 15, eighteen (18) employees from the Middle Tennessee Regional Office (MTRO) braved a light rain and chilly weather to complete a 1.6 mile walk around the Clover Bottom property.  Participants expressed an interest in making the Friday walk a regular ongoing event.  Therefore, MTRO staff will continue to walk at noon each Friday and will be leaving from the Stamps Building.   

Family Support Program:  The Family Support Program is based on a strong volunteer foundation. Currently, there are more than 200 volunteers statewide that give their time to be a part of the program. They make a difference in someone’s life by taking time to assist DIDD in overseeing program operations at a local, district and/or state level.   The department thanks each and every one of our Council members for their dedication and commitment to the Family Support Program.

Person Centered Practices:  Last month, the Emory Valley Center (EVC) in East Tennessee initiated its “Becoming a Person Centered Organization” kick-off. Emory Valley gathered its agency directors, home managers, coordinators, therapists, team leads, direct support professionals and people receiving support to help mark this special occasion. Community Connections and Community Network Services (Independent Support Coordinators), along with regional and Central Office personnel, were also present for the event. Emory Valley will spend the next nine months working together to examine its current practices, then use person centered thinking skills and tools to help create a more person centered system. Although this will be a challenge, we are confident Emory Valley will work together to attain positive changes.  We wish them the very best on their journey!

Young Girl with Autism Sings with Katy Perry:  For anyone who hasn’t seen this video, it is well worth the time to watch it. The department is committed to its mission and unlocking the potential of all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Have a safe and happy holiday!