VKC shares research and best practices with Tennessee policy makers

Tennessee State Representative John Ray Clemmons with Next Steps at Vanderbilt student Nick Villarreal during the 2015 Tennessee Disability Day on the Hill.

The Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities plays a pivotal educational role as it partners with disability organizations, state officials, and committees to advance disability public policy in Tennessee.

“Sharing research, best practices, innovative projects, and individual stories helps legislators better understand what it’s like to live with a disability in our society,” said Elise McMillan, J.D., co-director of the Vanderbilt Kennedy University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD).

Educate to Advocate 2016: “Where to Start: Why and How to Tell Your Story”

Whatever your perspective—trainees and students, researchers, health care professionals, service providers, educators, individuals with disabilities and family members, or simply concerned citizens—we all see ways that the disability service system can be improved. One dimension of changing service systems is educating legislators and other public policy makers.

All are welcome at the annual Educate to Advocate public policy event will be held Wednesday, Jan. 13, 4-6 p.m. in Room 241, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center/One Magnolia Circle Building (110 Magnolia Circle).

This year’s theme is “Where to Start: Why and How to Tell Your Story.” This event will feature panels of experienced public servants, disability professionals, and parents of individuals with disabilities to teach us how to make our voices heard.

There is no charge to attend. Please register by visiting the VKC Events Calendar page.

Disability Day on the Hill

The annual Disability Day on the Hill will be held Wednesday, Jan. 27, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at Legislative Plaza, 301 6th Ave. North in Nashville. Prior to the event, legislators will be invited to a reception co-sponsored by the Tennessee Disability Coalition and other disability organizations.

Disability Day on the Hill is an opportunity for advocates to meet with their legislators at the State Capitol to discuss issues important to individuals with disabilities and their families. VKC representatives, disability agencies, individuals with disabilities, family members, and advocates from across Tennessee will participate.

The VKC UCEDD, Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, TennesseeWorks, and other VKC projects will have exhibits throughout Legislative Plaza. Key areas of focus for 2016’s Disability Day on the Hill include employment, family supports, and the expansion of autism services.

Individuals, families, and trainees who have set up appointments have the opportunity to meet face-to-face with legislators and their staff and educate them on disability issues.

Appointments for in-person meetings are encouraged, but no registration is necessary to participate. To identify your state legislator, to find contact information, and to schedule a meeting time, visit www.capitol.tn.gov. For more information about Disability Day on the Hill, e-mail ddh@tndisability.org or call (615) 383-9442.

Governor’s Employment First Task Force Report submitted to Governor Bill Haslam

Tennessee’s Employment First Task Force presented its second annual report to Governor Bill Haslam in October. The report summarizes the work of the Task Force over the past year and the group’s priorities moving forward in promoting employment as the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities, mental health diagnoses and substance abuse disorders receiving state services.

In the report, Governor Haslam wrote, “Making sure all Tennesseans have access to a good job is a top priority for our administration. Tennesseans living with disabilities already make significant contributions to our state’s workforce, but we can do more.” The Task Force includes representatives from state agencies, consumers and family members, advocates, service providers, employers, and other community members.

Gov. Haslam established Tennessee as an Employment First state in June 2013 with Executive Order No. 28. This Order establishes the Employment First Task Force to support the commitment of state partnership agencies to increase integrated, competitive employment.

“We’re excited to see Tennessee’s commitment to employment of people with disabilities at the highest levels of Tennessee state government,” said Elise McMillan. “We know that people with disabilities make excellent employees and are happy to work with so many partners within state government and from across the state to continue to increase employment.”

In addition to McMillan, VKC members of the Task Force are Erik Carter, Ph.D., professor of Special Education; Lynnette Henderson, Ph.D., research assistant professor of pediatrics and VKC UCEDD associate director of Adult Community Services; Janet Shouse, disability employment specialist, VKC UCEDD Putting Faith to Work and TennesseeWorks; and Will McMillan, self-advocate and Next Steps at Vanderbilt alumnus.

Malow appointed to Tennessee Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force

Dr. Beth Malow has been appointed in the newly formed Tennessee Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force, a new Tennessee legislative task force created to study and to make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding ways to improve access to programs and services for early screening, diagnosis, and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in Tennessee.

Photo of Beth Malow, M.D.

Beth Malow, M.D.

Malow, M.D., M.S., is Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development, professor of Neurology and Pediatrics, and a VKC investigator. She also is a member of the Tennessee Autism Summit Team.

Two other members of the Tennessee Autism Summit Team appointed to the Taskforce are John Shouse, chair of the VKC UCEDD Community Advisory Council and representing Autism Tennessee, and Carol Westlake, director of the Tennessee Disability Coalition.

The 15-member Task Force is chaired by Representative Steve McManus. Its first meeting was held December 3.

The Tennessee Autism Plan, developed by the Tennessee Autism Summit Team in 2014, made measured recommendations for the Task Force as it began its work.

The Tennessee Autism Summit Team was established in 2009 to spur development of a statewide plan to improve the identification, assessment, service coordination, and provision of services for children with ASD and other developmental disabilities. It is jointly coordinated by the Vanderbilt Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Training (LEND) program, the VKC UCEDD, and the University of Tennessee Boling Center for Developmental Disabilities LEND and UCEDD.

Elizabeth Turner is coordinator of VKC Communications.

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This is a monthly email of Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Notables published by the Communications staff of the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center. Between issues of Notables, you can stay up to date on the latest Vanderbilt Kennedy Center news, information, and resources via the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s Facebook page.