Transition to Competitive Employment

On September 17, Tennessee Works held its “Think Employment” summit at the Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville.   Amy Gonzalez, DIDD State Director of Employment and Day Services, moderated a panel discussion about systems change, called “Transition to Competitive Employment”.  Taking part on the panel were Troy Allen of SRVS, Tera Roberts with Orange Grove Center, Dwayne Webb with St. John’s Community Services and Lee Brown of Impact Centers.  These four provider agencies have either shut down their sheltered workshops, or are in the midst of major integrated employment pushes.  The panelists spoke of some of their efforts, and the barriers that exist for provider agencies who are seeking to close their workshops and expand integrated employment opportunities.  All four agreed that one of the biggest hurdles was changing the mindset of staff, families, employers and the community at large.  They said once that was achieved, and a person supported was placed in an integrated job, the person often thrived.  It was a lively discussion, and the audience had a lot of good questions for our panelists.  

"I Want to Work" Program

“I Want to Work” is a program offered through the West Tennessee Regional Office/Employment & Day Services to Provider agencies designed to assist the individuals they support with intellectual and other disabilities, using Discovery as a manner to gather information and learn more about the person. The information collected assists individuals in identifying employment goals.  

 The program was prepared by The Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University and is designed to:

  • Identify two areas of interest in which the person would like to work
  • Develop a plan document that describes supports needed to be the most successful at work
  • Prepare a resume

The work support document is intended to give information to someone supporting a person, such as a job coach, a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, or anyone else providing support.

The process takes at least four weeks with one subject per week being covered.  The areas covered are:

  • Great things about me
  • The job I want
  • How to  best support me at work
  • my resume

Tennessee Agency’s Success Gets Recognition in Wyoming

On July 16, Lee Brown, director of Supported Employment for Impact Centers, provided Technical Assistance at a conference in Gillette, WY. The conference was hosted by the Wyoming Council on Developmental Disabilities, a team of multiple state agencies and Wyoming State Rep. Elaine Harvey. The conference was held because the State of Wyoming recently applied for and received federal approval for a renewal to its Medicaid HCBS waiver with a focus on integrated community life.  As the state began to implement this, there was some backlash because of rate changes and poor communication, etc.  The purpose of the conference was to inform, educate and empower individuals about the true goals of integrated community life. 

Lee’s main role was to present and facilitate a break-out session regarding Impact Center’s transformation from sheltered work to integrated employment. He shared the “nuts and bolts” with providers and the “how to” of getting started on the journey. Some of the topics that Lee discussed were the components of closing the shops, staff meetings, family meetings and current supports that individuals are receiving to maintain employment.

Once the conference ended, Lee was commended and they asked him to return on October 15-17 to provide additional Technical Assistance. This demonstrates the significant impact that Lee made in Wyoming.

Congratulations, Lee & Impact Centers Inc.!

WBIR-TV in Knoxville ran a spotlight on the Cerebral Palsy center.  The story featured Keli, a woman with many interests and talents.  Keli is a primary example of a person that participates in meaningful community activities while not working.  Not only does she get to work on her hobby making jewelry, but she also sells the jewelry for a profit.  Keli also works at Papa John’s folding boxes.  Congratulations to Keli for actively engaging in the community through her hobbies and work at Papa John’s! 

Employment Meeting with CNS

On August 19, Amy Gonzalez and Ginny Howe met with CNS in Knoxville, Tennessee. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss some components related to the Employment First initiative such as documentation, advocating, the Vocational Rehabilitation process, informed choice and examples of meaningful day activities. It was evident that the group was passionate about employment and providing the proper supports to ensure a successful job placement in the community!

Chattanooga ADA Celebration

Ginny Howe, DIDD’s East Regional Employment and Day Services Coordinator, attended Chattanooga’s ADA Celebration, and provided this account: 

(Pictured: Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Ginny Howe)

The 24th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was Saturday, July 26. The ADA provides civil rights protections to persons with disabilities similar to those provided to individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, and religion. The ADA also assures equal opportunity for individuals with disabilities for access to businesses, employment, transportation, state and local government programs and services, and telecommunications. To commemorate the anniversary of this landmark law, the Chattanooga Mayor’s Council on Disability and the Office of Multicultural Affairs hosted an ADA Celebration on Friday, July 25 from 10 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at the Waterhouse Pavilion/Miller Plaza in downtown Chattanooga.  The event was free and open to the public. Esteemed guests included Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and Miss Wheelchair Tennessee, Amanda Szidiropulosz.

 (Pictured: Amanda Szidiropulosz, Miss Wheelchair Tennessee)

Rita’s Italian Ice offered free samples and Amy Kerin from Chattanooga Adventurers with Assistance Dogs shared resources and a demonstration.  Green’s Karate and Rick Hall’s Tae Kwon Do also had some outstanding demonstrations that were crowd pleasers!!! Sign language interpreters were available throughout the day. It was truly a great day for all that were able to attend!

To me this event celebrated the progress made towards equality for people with disabilities.  It was also an opportunity for Chattanoogans as a whole to learn more about the organizations and services available to assist people with disabilities in their own community, along with ways they can become involved. It not only celebrated the progress, but also highlighted people in the Chattanooga area who have used their disabilities as platforms and contributed to the greater good of their beloved community.

DIDD was thrilled to be a sponsor at the Disability Law and Advocacy Center’s “Think Employment” luncheon on August 5th.  The keynote speaker was Randy Lewis, a retired Senior VP of Walgreens, who led the effort to hire thousands of people with disabilities.  Check out the Tennessean coverage of the luncheon at the link above. 

The Knoxville Area Employment Consortium (KAEC) was recently mentioned in the local news on WBIR for their efforts in working with Walgreens. The partnership between the two promotes the Walgreens REDI program.  REDI is the National Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative, an internship program developed to train and hire people with disabilities in local community Walgreens stores.  Upon completion of the 4-week program, a person is presented with a certificate of completion.  The success rate for getting hired at Walgreens once they received training has been great, as well as with other local employers who recognize this certificate of completion.  KAEC is working with Walgreens to develop partnerships with other retailers, who would agree to recognize the REDI certificate in hopes of expanding employment opportunities for REDI graduates in the Knoxville area. The agencies that have currently participated in the Walgreens REDI program are:  Cerebral Palsy Center, Sertoma Center, Breakthrough Cooperation, Sunrise Community, and The Disability Resource Center.   Click the link above to watch the story!

Meet Michael Barbour!

Michael Barbour is DIDD’s Middle Tennessee Employment and Day Services Coordinator.  His energy and passion has stood out to many people involved in the Employment First initiative, including ODEP Subject Matter Expert Abby Cooper.  This is what she had to say about Michael:

As you know, I have had the opportunity over the last three months to come to Tennessee twice to train state staff and providers on Customized Employment. Each time, I have been impressed with Michael Barbour. He truly believes that everyone can work and is open to learning anything that will help achieve that goal. His attitude and commitment are contagious. I have observed firsthand how these qualities positively influence both providers and state workers. It was wonderful to have his assistance in the training. He is more than willing to help anyone move forward on understanding the importance of Customized Employment and Employment First

He is a great asset to your state in pushing the overall mission of Employment First forward. 

For more information about Michael and the other members of the DIDD Employment and Day Services team, click here.

Customized Employment and Discovery Training

On July 21-22, the final session of training on Customized Employment and Discovery was conducted by ODEP Subject Matter Expert Abby Cooper. Abby went into full detail about customized job development and the components involved in developing a good job match. Additionally, participants had the opportunity to work together in breakout sessions that provided hands-on learning and interaction for Vocational Rehabilitation staff and DIDD providers working on employment.

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Providers were also asked to complete homework assignments and received awards for successfully completing them. Michael Barbour from the Middle Tennessee Regional Office was also provided with a certificate of appreciation for his dedication to employment and outstanding work performance. 

Individuals awarded were:

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Margaret Davis from Progressive Directions Inc. 

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Deb Nichols from SRVS 

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Michael Barbour (MTRO), Paula Daniels from Progress Inc., Troy Allen from SRVS, Joyce Gilbreath from Omni Visions, and Bill Smith from Greene County Skills. Jerry Carmack from Pacesetters also completed the assignments.

If your agency is interested in receiving training on CE and Discovery, please contact Amy Gonzalez at Amy.Gonzalez@tn.gov.