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December 20, 2013

Open Line

December 20, 2013

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

Family Support Program: Since its inception in 1992, the Family Support Program has helped thousands of persons with severe disabilities and their families remain together in their homes and communities. Throughout the years, I've heard many success stories. Special thanks to Nancy and Marty for sharing theirs with us below:

East Tennessee- Nancy Vanderlan, Special Services Director of Emory Valley Center, recently discussed a rewarding experience in working with Family Support. While visiting a mother of a boy with Autism, Nancy asked about his greatest need. The mother said her son's teachers encouraged an iPad purchase for a communication device. However, due to a small fixed income, buying an iPad was not feasible. Nancy assured the mother Family Support would help in any way they could. Two months later, the mother called Nancy's office and exclaimed, "Thank you so very much for helping me buy the iPad. For the first time in twelve years, I was able to have a true conversation with my son! At the Thanksgiving table with his grandparents, he was able for the first time to have a voice."

Middle Tennessee- Marty Keith's son receives various services through Family Support. She expressed her son requires 24-hour adult supervision to ensure his safety. Although funds are limited, it is enough to make a huge difference in her family's lives. She is extremely grateful to H.A.T.S. and Family Support Coordinator, Elaine Broyles for all their assistance.

West Tennessee- On December 18, the Family Support Program was also highlighted in the Tri-State Defender. The full story is available here.

Supported Employment: On December 11, the National Council on Disability (NCD) announced their support for the Wyden-Grassley Amendment #1, which would authorize the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create a Medicaid demonstration program to create a bonus pool to incentivize states to engage in certain activities that would increase opportunities for youth with disabilities in transitioning to independent living and working in the community. A letter excerpt from NCD stated:

NCD applauds Amendment #1's emphasis and priority on competitive, integrated employment of youth with disabilities, and its accordant de-emphasis and purposed reduction of segregated, sheltered workshop environments, which NCD believes represents a policy relic of the 1930s, when discrimination was inevitable because service systems were based on a charity model, and when societal low expectations for people with disabilities colored policymaking.

To view the entire letter, click here. Although this is an instrumental milestone in ensuring that persons receive equal access to integrated employment, we will continue to advocate for and support the rights of persons with disabilities.

2014 Quality Assurance (QA) Survey Tools: Due to the Provider Manual's expected effective date in March 2014, QA survey tools will remain unchanged until new requirements within the manual take effect. The department will issue new checklists prior to the manual's effective date; these checklists will reflect the revised requirements. Until that time, checklists used in 2013 will continue to be used for surveys. The 2013 tools can be found here. Should you have any questions, please contact your regional Quality Assurance Directors:

Middle- Michelle Smith (
East- Kenneth "Dean" Guthrie (
West- Beth Roby (

clipFocus Group Celebrations: Special thanks to all the people, agency and Regional Office staff, ARC advocates, Behavior Analysts and ISCs who contributed to spectacular Christmas celebrations in Jackson, Memphis and Nashville the past two weeks. Thanks to the generosity of this group, everyone attending received a Christmas gift and certificate of achievement for another year in which they worked hard to make meaningful changes in their lives. Over 400 people attended the celebrations and many shared success stories about how they used their team and what they learned this year. With the huge support of our provider network and department, people are able to enjoy educational and social opportunities provided by focus groups all over the state. If you haven't been to a focus group, start now!

Ticket to Work: On December 16, a Ticket to Work capacity building session was held at Workforce Connections in Knoxville, Tennessee. Participants learned about becoming an Employment Network and the possibility of partnering with the Workforce. Additional topics discussed were Substantial Gainful Activity, which is the monthly amount a person needs to earn in order to collect Ticket payments. A PowerPoint presentation of the session will be available online after the New Year. If your agency is interested in partnering with Workforce Connections in Knoxville, please contact Stephanie Potter at or (865) 544-5200.

Person Centered Practices: D&S Community Services was excited to begin their journey toward becoming a Person Centered Organization, with a kickoff meeting held in Memphis on December 11.

"We were proud to have so many layers of our organization working together to create outcomes that will ultimately make us a better provider and improve the lives of people we support. It is our goal that this group of Direct Support Professionals, Home Coordinators, Program Supervisors, Executive Directors, our board representatives, people we support and other members of our team in conjunction with representatives of DIDD and ISCs, combine their knowledge and passion to create positive and sustainable change for our organization," stated Robn Traugott, Director of Training for D&S Community Services.

"It will be beneficial to have all entities on the same page when beginning to prepare services for individuals we serve," added Mickey Atkins, President and CEO of D&S Community Services.

clipLEAD Graduation: Annually, the Department of Human Resources' Strategic Learning Solutions Division hosts LEAD Tennessee. The program is a pipeline of current and emerging leaders moving through 12 months of intense, high impact development in eight (8) leadership core competencies, building bench strength within agencies and creating a pool of leadership talent for the state. On December 9, the LEAD Alliance 4 graduation was held at Houston Barracks, home of the Tennessee National Guard. The DIDD graduates were Elverna Cain, Pixie Smith Duncan, Kellie McCain and Theresa Sloan. I was honored to celebrate our department along with other Commissioners, as all graduates were charged to "LEAD On!"

An Ounce of Prevention: This week, we would like to remind providers who serve as a person's Representative Payee on the importance of receipts. Per Section VI.C.d (3) of the Personal Funds Management policy #80.4.3, a record must be kept for each person supported which includes …. "supporting receipts for expenditures of $10.00 or more for purchases made by provider staff on behalf of the person supported."

One of the most common issues when personal funds are surveyed or audited is purchases for more than one person are on the same receipt. When items purchased are for the sole use of a particular person (such as clothing and personal toiletries), then these should be on a separate receipt. When items on a "group" receipt cannot be traced back to a specific person, then the provider may be obligated to repay the purchase amount to the person(s). Another common example is when multiple meals are included on a restaurant receipt and meals are not specified per person.

For additional details and clarification, the entire policy can be viewed and downloaded here.

Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act: In August, the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced a Final Rule that makes changes to the regulations implementing Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Section 503 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating in employment against persons with disabilities and requires these employers to take affirmative action to recruit, hire, promote and retain these individuals. The Final Rule was published in the Federal Register on September 24, 2013 and becomes effective March 24, 2014. To view highlights of the Final Rule, click here.

Greene Valley Holiday Spirit: Christmas at Greene Valley is a flurry of events much to the delight of people who live there. Holiday parties and lunches were hosted by each of the homes. An array of refreshments and food were also available to family members and friends in attendance. From all observations, everyone enjoyed the fellowship and time spent with their loved ones. Cub Scout Pack 93 visited one evening and sang Christmas carols to a captive audience in several homes.

clipA Christmas Parade was also held one afternoon with the Tusculum Police and Fire Department, Greene County Sheriff's Office, East Tennessee Community Homes and the Chuckey Doak High School marching band participating. Freddie Owens happily led the parade as Grand Marshall.

Festivities continued as Christmas cards were swapped with the Chuckey Elementary School students and their Greene Valley pen pals. The kindergarten class was in the spirit and sent homemade ornaments to hang on Christmas trees.

The community was not forgotten this year as several Advisory Board members conducted the annual Ringing of the Bell project to collect funds for the Greene County Community Food Bank. Once again, Greene Valley employees with participation from the East Regional Human Resources and Payroll units, East Region IS unit and the Central Office ICF/IID representative, sponsored 25 foster children who are in the Greene County Department of Children's Services custody, by purchasing many items on each child's wish list. This is the 15th year of The Giving Tree project with over 797 children sponsored.

Best wishes for a safe, happy holiday and New Year!