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September 27, 2013

Open Line

September 27, 2013

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

Internal DIDD FY 2014-2015 Budget Planning: On September 30, I will submit DIDD’s budget request for fiscal year 2014-2015 (beginning on July 1, 2014) to the Department of Finance and Administration.

Deputy Commissioner Lance Iverson and the DIDD Budget staff recently traveled to Tennessee’s three grand regions for an annual series of discussions necessary to finalize the DIDD budget request for the next fiscal year.  These discussions involved planning to reduce DIDD operations costs, while maintaining high quality services to people we support.  Regional leadership and Central Office staff spent 13 hours reviewing the budget for West Tennessee, 13.5 hours reviewing the budget for Middle Tennessee, and 18 hours reviewing the budget for East Tennessee.  Following that preliminary work, I conducted 8 hours of budget discussions with regional leadership and Central Office senior management.  It is critical to discuss budget planning as broadly as possible so best decisions can be reached on how to budget during difficult economic times.

I will submit a FY 2014-15 budget for the department that complies with the Haslam Administration instructions to provide a plan outlining how DIDD would respond to a requirement to reduce funding from state tax revenue that supports DIDD by up to 5%.  In addition, our plan will show how we offset the costs of any necessary cost increases which the department may need to request.

Please note the budget request is considered a working document of the Governor and his staff and therefore, is confidential.  Governor Haslam will likely conduct his public budget hearings in the middle of November and on streaming video based on departmental budget requests that will be submitted on September 30.  The Governor’s budget recommendations will be presented to the public and legislature near the end of January 2014.  I will ensure everyone is aware of dates and budget proceedings as the department receives notifications.

Quality Assurance Monitoring Changes:  The requirement for Individual Support Plans (ISPs) to address a person’s desire to work has been in place for a number of years.  Beginning October 1, 2013, upon the next annual review or amendment of an ISP, the expectation is that there be a statement regarding the person’s desire to work included in the ISP.  If the person desires to work, the ISP must also identify the supports necessary to help facilitate the person’s employment.  If the person does not indicate a desire to work, the ISP must describe how the person has been or will be educated about employment, including but not limited to exploring employment opportunities available in their community.  Provider agencies and independent support coordinators or case managers are expected to collaborate to ensure that these expectations are addressed upon the next annual review or amendment of the person’s ISP.

Additionally, effective October 1, DIDD’s Quality Assurance surveys for both service provider agencies and ISC agencies will include a review to determine compliance with the above requirements, as well as whether or not a person receives employment services when this is specified in the ISP.

The above requirements will be included in the new DIDD Provider Manual when it is published.  However, due to exigent circumstances, namely to be in compliance with the Arlington Exit Plan, it is imperative to implement and monitor these requirements effective October 1, 2013.

Please reference Memo #188 dated September 5, 2013 (available here) for additional information regarding these steps.

To assist service providers and ISC agencies, the following QA checklists (dated October 1, 2013) have been revised to cover these specific requirements and can be found on the DIDD web site here:

Day/Residential Individual Review Tool
Organizational Review Tool
Individual Support Coordination Review Tool

For convenience, changes that are effective October 1 are highlighted in yellow.

Customized Employment:  On September 19-20, Michael Callahan conducted his final series of training on Customized Employment. The training was held at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and comprised of individuals who are providing employment services to Tennesseans with disabilities. The session covered job development, networking, creating a visual resume and translation of life activities that can be transferred to employment opportunities in the community. Translation of life activities involves identifying hobbies and activities in which the individual enjoys engaging and participating. Once these activities are identified, an employment goal can be made to reflect the “translation” of activities or hobbies that the person enjoys doing. For additional information regarding Customized Employment and Discovery, please contact Amy Gonzalez at (615) 532-6119 or

clipEast Tennessee Regional Office (ETRO) Wellness Kick-Off:  DIDD employees are certainly stepping up to the wellness challenge!  On September 13, the Knoxville ETRO took their steps on some challenging terrain as part of the office’s wellness kickoff.  A group of about 20 employees walked the 2.1-mile track around the campus, hills and all. Many in the group are committed to making healthy lifestyle changes and the walk was a great way to start. The office has also started a walking club and next month employees will compete to see who can walk or run the most miles.  They also plan on participating in the Buddy Walk on October 13 and formed a team for the Komen Race for the Cure on October 26!
clipSherry’s Run:  Several employees of Prospect along with friends and family members, participated in the 2013 Sherry’s Run, an annual 5K event in Lebanon to raise money for those affected by cancer.  While most of Team Prospect opted to walk the 5K, three employees completed the run with excellent times.  Curtis Black finished the race in 25:30 minutes, Anthony Kabutu finished in 23:28 minutes and David Kimathi finished first in his age bracket with 18:16 minutes and placed in 7th place overall.   Congratulations to all those who participated for a good cause!

clipGreene Valley Wellness:  Sunshine Ambassadors is an organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of persons with disabilities through dance, utilizing both structured classes and public performances.  A lady who lives at Greene Valley attended one of the dances and she enjoyed it so much, an inquiry was made to the organization about coming on campus and they did!  Some folks who live at Greene Valley, the East Tennessee Community Homes (ETCH), and Greene County Skills had a super time learning some low impact dance moves which were really fun exercises.  It was a wonderful opportunity for people to use dance as a fun outlet for their exercise needs, laugh a lot, and connect with old friends.

Everett’s Endeavor:  Last weekend, the first-ever “Everett’s Endeavor: 5K to End Dravet” was held at Greene Valley in honor of Everett Duncan, a local 20-month-old toddler with Dravet Syndrome.  According to the Dravet Syndrome Foundation (2013), it is also known as Severe Myoclonic Epilepsy of Infancy (SMEI), a rare and catastrophic form of intractable epilepsy that begins in infancy. Initial seizures are most often prolonged events and in the second year of life other seizure types begin to emerge.  The event was a huge success, with a little more than $13,000 raised for the Dravet Syndrome Foundation.

Employment Success Stories:  Elijah Garner and Jeffrey Walker work at McKesson Corporation as warehousemen. Both gentlemen are supported by SRVS. Community employment has been beneficial for them due to confidence building, developing their skills, and being part of the social culture at their company. 

“I like working here and I like making new friends and working with my co-workers. It makes me feel good to see them,” said Elijah. “I can do more and I like to make money.”

Jeffrey noted, “I feel real good when I go home from work. I work just like my roommate and I have money when we go out to eat.”

Gabriel Ray, another person supported by SRVS, has recently been named Pizza Hut’s Employee of the Month.  At the beginning of his employment, Gabriel’s duties included preparing pizza pans with dough and stacking them on racks.  However, when his supervisor noticed his abilities, Gabriel’s responsibilities increased.  Gabriel began making delivery boxes, bussing tables, and showed a new employee how to do food preparation.

“Pizza Hut is like a big happy family. We all make sure everyone is okay. Everybody there is my friend,” Gabriel said.

We are proud of Elijah, Jeffrey, and Gabriel’s achievements and wish them continued success in their careers!

Family Support Program Accolades:  Tola Garner, mother of Jeff Varnell, would like to express how much the Family Support Program has helped her son:

“My son took his first shower with a new shower chair last night. It used to take him about 1 and 1/2 hours to shower. Now, with the door being wider and the shower chair, my son was able to shower in half the time and it was less tiring on him. It was emotionally painful to see him struggle. Most people don't think about how difficult taking a shower can be for those with physical disabilities. My stress level is a little lower now. We've fought so long for help. I believe it was the prayers and positive energy that did the trick, plus a good doctor who found out about an organization that might be able to help us - the Family Support Program. Without their funds, we would have so much less for Jeff's care. These funds help those who need it. Thank you.”

An Ounce of Prevention:  This week, we focus on a responsibility that applies to supervisors of DIDD employees.  Departmental policy 40.1.2, Employee Network and Computer Access, was issued in January 2013.  Among other things, this policy lays out the steps to be followed whenever an employee’s access to the network needs to be added, deleted, or changed. Supervisors need to review and begin implementing this policy, located on the DIDD Intranet under the “Policies and Procedures” tab.  As noted in the March 15, 2013 issue of Open Line, Risk Management and Licensure staff will be conducting internal assessments to verify if the new processes are being followed correctly.

Rett Syndrome Symposium:  The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) is holding a symposium on October 16 from 5:00 p.m.-8:00 p.m. to raise awareness on Rett Syndrome.  This syndrome is a rare genetic disorder, occurring almost exclusively in young girls.  Rett Syndrome is often misdiagnosed as Autism, Cerebral Palsy, or another non-specific developmental delay. Researchers at Vanderbilt are committed to studying the syndrome, its causes, treatment and therapies and would like to share how VKC is advancing the understanding of Rett Syndrome.  Family members, friends, researchers, clinicians, students, community professionals and disability advocates are invited to attend.  Registration is required prior to October 7.  For more information on the symposium, click here or contact Amy Wilson at

Family Model Services:   In May of 2013 the Department solicited feedback from selected Provider agencies and stakeholders on the draft rewrite of the provider manual.  Contained within the draft was a policy change related to the provision of Day Services by families also responsible for the residential component of Family Model services. After internal deliberation and review of stakeholder perspectives the Department has made the decision to remove this planned policy change. As an alternative to this change the Department will be convening a group of these same stakeholders to work alongside Department staff to develop an effective strategy that will continue to refine the Family Based Support Model. Our task will be to ensure that persons supported within this environment are able to experience the current benefits of the model while also ensuring the diversity and integration that is an expectation of all DIDD services. I would like to personally thank each of you who submitted suggestions and perspectives on each of the changes represented in the forthcoming manual. A strong cooperative relationship with our entire service community is a cornerstone of a quality service delivery system. This department will continue to ensure that stakeholder feedback is solicited and reviewed at all opportunities. 


Congratulations to Prolex Medical Services and Joyful Care for achieving star status this month! We appreciate you!

Have a nice weekend!