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September 13, 2013

Open Line

September 13, 2013

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

clipEmployment Presentation: A reminder that on September 30, Subject Matter Expert Nancy Gurney will conduct a presentation regarding Ticket to Work and applying to become an Employment Network. After the presentation, providers will have an opportunity to engage in a Q&A session with Nancy, SRVS, Rochelle Center and DIDD. Nancy will present at the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development (220 French Landing Drive, Nashville, 37243 in the Tennessee Conference Room side A) from 1:15 p.m.-2:45 p.m. The Q&A session will be facilitated from 3:00 p.m. -4:00 p.m. For more information, please contact Amy Gonzalez at 615-532-6119 or

Spotlighting Persons Supported: William Lovell was honored to be asked to present his life story and speak about the People Planning Together trainings at the last Provider Meeting held in Nashville. William is a very extraordinary young man. He receives services from Buffalo River Services, Inc. and lives in his own apartment in Hohenwald. He has worked at Wal-Mart since 2002. He is a member of the Blondy Church of God, Lewis County Historical Society and People First. William is a certified trainer for the People Planning Together program and travels across Tennessee training other persons on how to write their own plans. He is a 2010-2011 graduate of Partners in Policymaking. William has presented at the Tennessee Disability Mega-Conference, Synergy Conference in Ohio and many other venues. William was also recently appointed by the Governor to be on the board for the DD Council. When he is not working, William also volunteers at the local Senior Center delivering meals on wheels to older persons in the community and watering plants in the downtown area for the Pilot Club. William is all about being person centered and making sure persons in our state have the same opportunities that he has had in his own life. The word ‘can’t’ is not in his vocabulary.

Provider Grant Opportunity: On August 16, DIDD provided a notice of potential funding opportunities for providers. The final date to submit inquiries was on August 22. The department has provided answers to the questions regarding the funding for our Employment First Initiative. There have been a few amendments regarding the schedule of events. To view the changes, click here.

Independent Support Coordination (ISC) Appreciation Conference: Last month marked the first statewide ISC Appreciation Conference, where the department recognized the work of all ISCs. I had the opportunity to attend and express my gratitude to the ISCs for their hard work, dedication and commitment to helping persons supported in Tennessee attain the lives they desire. The conference was a great success and packed with knowledgeable breakout sessions and guest speakers. Attendees were able to gain knowledge of new waiver service information, discuss systematic complications and glitches, and emerge rejuvenated for their support coordination mission.

Project Titan News: We have some exciting news to announce about Project Titan! Over the past four weeks, many people at DIDD have worked tirelessly to review the functional design documents for Titan. While they identified some gaps, they are minor and should be corrected within 30 days. It’s important to realize that no design document is perfect, but we are confident we have the framework in place to move forward successfully. This morning, the Project Steering Committee gave conditional approval to the functional design. That means our vendor, Mid-America, will start building the system! While that takes place, the Project Titan team at DIDD will start preparing for training, conversion and testing of the first phase of the project.

Keep in mind when Titan is launched, this is just the beginning. Think of it this way: you might buy a house where the kitchen works, but isn’t so pretty. However, over time, you might change out the countertop, paint the cabinets or add a backsplash. It’s the same with Titan! Even after implementation we will continue to work on and add to the system. We’re building it with the flexibility to adapt to the regular changes that come with doing business at DIDD. You can expect to hear more about how you can help us with ensuring a smooth transition to the system over the coming weeks.]

DIDD Culture Survey Results Follow-Up: In June, I asked all DIDD employees to participate in a Culture Survey for input on Project Titan. Thank you to those who participated! Your input has been valuable in identifying what kinds of information you need about the project going forward.

We promised to provide you with the results of the survey and some of the actions we are taking based on your feedback. The most significant results follow:

  • The survey was distributed to 1,657 DIDD employees. We received 639 complete responses, making the total Response Rate 39%. Though we were pleased with the response rate, we would like to encourage more participation and input from you on other aspects of the project as we move forward.
  • Project Titan, its purpose and priority for the department, is largely unknown.
  • There appears to be some confusion about the Vision/Mission of the department at large, which is understandable since we’ve just been through a change in leadership.
  • The survey tells us that DIDD employees are adopting a “wait and see” attitude towards Project Titan.
  • There were more similarities between the Regions and Central Office than differences! The biggest differences revolved around our processes. Our biggest similarity is our unfailing dedication to persons we support.
  • You reported that you trust your leadership, whether Regional or Central Office, and would likely trust the information provided by them.

Now that we have heard from you, what are we going to do with this information? Following are some of the initiatives and activities we will undertake based on your input:

  • Department Vision/Mission and Project Titan’s priority: I, along with Project Titan’s sponsors (Lance Iverson and Russell Nicoll), will communicate Titan’s priority and place in the department’s vision and mission in many forms to ensure that all DIDD employees, partners and others understand its importance to the department and persons we support.
  • Local Leadership: Leadership at the local level will receive Titan communications and will be asked to pass along the information to their respective organizations and to facilitate getting answers for questions coming from their organizations as well.
  • Employee Involvement: So far over 100 DIDD employees, representing all roles, have been included in various aspects of the project, including providing input on policy, business processes, workflows, communications, testing, system design, etc. Going forward, we will continue to include more front-line employees in the Titan project. We know that we will need to equip employees in each location who can play “super user” or “change agent” roles. We also anticipate including more employees in demo feedback sessions and focus groups. The more we hear from our employees, the better the system will be!
  • Communications: The department has a new Communications Director, Cara Kumari, meaning you will start to receive much more communication about Titan. In the coming weeks, we will launch a website designed to help you better understand how Titan will help you, whether you are an employee, person supported or a provider. We also will provide newsletters and updates in Open Line. As the project progresses, we will provide mock-ups, demos, and descriptions of the future state system with pictures and provide anonymous places for employees to post questions, concerns and suggestions.
  • Training: We are dedicated to sufficient and effective training to prepare employees and external partners for the technology and business process changes that we anticipate. We are currently planning a training approach that we hope will balance the need to be trained with the need to “keep the lights on.” There will be plenty of communication about training as we get more information about the new system.

Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disability and Employment: The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, The Arc Tennessee, and TennesseeWorks are seeking stories about Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities about their challenges and successes related to securing employment. They are interested in stories from people who are:

1. Having a difficult time securing employment in paid integrated community settings.
2. Employed in paid integrated community settings.
3. Involved in an internship or volunteer position with the hope that it will lead to paid employment.

A variety of people, including persons with disabilities, families, educators, and employers are needed to participate. Participants will be interviewed by graduate students from Vanderbilt University either in-person or by phone. Interviews take about an hour and will take place in October or November 2013. The stories will be shared with members of the Tennessee Legislature and the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in a print collection of stories about the importance of integrated, paid, and meaningful employment for people with disabilities.

We have found that these personal stories are very helpful in illustrating to policy makers the challenges that families of persons with disabilities experience and the factors that must be put into place to ensure success. Stories also may be shared through the websites and activities of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, The Arc Tennessee, TennesseeWorks, and through the web-based public database, Tennessee Kindred Stories of Disability ( Participants decide whether their first names are used or changed completely for anonymity.

Why participate?

• To help others in similar situations.
• To create awareness of disability issues in the state of Tennessee.
• To educate service providers, state policymakers, and the general public on issues of disability.
• To engage in the disability community to create positive change.

For more information or to participate, please contact Courtney Taylor at or (615) 322-5658.

Participation in the Supports Intensity Scale (SIS): Participation of the person supported is a key element to the success of the SIS assessment. Ideally, the person being assessed will be encouraged to attend and actively participate in the assessment. However, requiring a person’s attendance at the assessment negates the very principle of person-centered practices.

To ensure that assessments are person centered and truly speak to the person’s support needs, SIS assessors are required to at least meet the person prior to the assessment. While this might seem less than significant, much can be determined by taking the time to meet the person, speak to them about their day, their living and day arrangements, observe their interactions, their personalities, etc. Anyone could have a bad day, which might skew the assessor’s perception. Therefore, requiring a person’s presence in such a situation could also lead to an inaccurate portrayal of the person.

This is why a minimum of two people who know the person well and who can speak to the person’s supports needs throughout a 24-hour day, are required to be present and participate face-to-face during the assessment. Respondents must all reach a consensus on what supports are and are not needed. The SIS is based on the philosophy of success and aims to capture what supports the person needs to live a full quality of life. The SIS is the only assessment tool that actually assumes success.

If at any time you feel that a person supported is being excluded from or unwillingly required to attend his or her SIS assessment meeting, please feel free to contact Barbara DeBerry at or Holly Wood at

Division of Rehabilitation Services: There has been some confusion regarding the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and their eligibility requirements. The department would like to provide clarification regarding services available when a person is currently employed.

Question: Can a DIDD service provider request a denial or ineligibility letter from DRS if the individual is already working? The letter is necessary to tap employment services funds on cost plans.

Answer: DRS can determine if an individual is eligible for services following that individual making an application for VR services and undergoing an assessment.

An individual is eligible for VR services if he/she requires those services to prepare for, secure, retain or maintain employment. Simply because an individual is working does not mean they are ineligible for VR services.

CFR361.5(53)(1) Supported employment means competitive employment in an integrated setting, or employment in integrated work settings in which individuals are working toward competitive employment, consistent with the strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, capabilities, interests, and informed choice of the individuals with ongoing support services for individuals with most significant disabilities.

CFR363.11 (7) Supported employment services will include placement in an integrated setting for the maximum number of hours possible based on the unique strengths, resources, interests, concerns, abilities, and capabilities of individuals with the most severe disabilities.

A DRS counselor must evaluate the individual’s work circumstances and determine if the individual requires VR services in pursuit of maintaining or obtaining employment. There needs to be consultation with the individual, conservator or legal representative, and other individuals involved like the Independent Support Coordinator, residential program staff, and possibly even with the employer.

Tennessee Government State Leadership Conference: All graduates of Tennessee Government Management Institute (TGMI), Tennessee Government Executive Institute (TGEI) or LEAD TN, please don’t miss this year’s leadership conference. Register now by contacting The conference is October 30, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. -4:30 p.m. at the Curb Center located at Belmont University. Come and hear nationally known leadership motivational speakers. Feel free to contact Tom O’Brien for more information at 615-517-6088.

clipSeekers Bible Club: When Active Treatment Specialist Kathy Rector began planning for a Bible study program in Greene Valley’s Rosewood Cottage, the question of where to get a large number of Bibles came to mind. Enter the Gideons International! The organization’s local representative, Larry Henderson, recently delivered 25 brand new Bibles to Greene Valley all of which were given to the club members. The Seekers Bible Club had its first gathering to test the waters in regard to interest and it was a booming success. Several people came forth for fellowship, spiritual support, and the opportunity to explore both the Old and New Testament. One person stated during the first meeting, “Wow! This is good stuff!” The club is open to others who live on the Greene Valley campus. In addition, the Gideons offered to provide a Bible to any person who desires a copy of their own.

Have a wonderful weekend!