VKC impacting key policy changes for people with IDD and their families

Collage of words including "policy" and "employment"

The Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (VKC UCEDD), alongside Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network partners (Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, University of Tennessee Boling Center, and Disability Rights Tennessee), provided self-advocates and stakeholders the opportunity to offer input into the implementation of the new Employment and Community First CHOICES Medicaid program through a series of focus groups held prior to the July 1 start date.

In addition to learning more about the new managed long-term services program that offers supports to individuals with intellectual disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities, participants shared experiences and stories with representatives from the Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), Blue Care and Amerigroup, to support the program’s goal of helping people become employed and live as independently as possible in the community.

The focus groups were conceived of and facilitated by Lisa Mills, Ph.D., who serves as a consultant on disability employment policy and systems change working in 13 states under contracts including the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, the National Center on Leadership for the Employment and Economic Advancement of People with Disabilities, the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, the District of Columbia Department on Disability Services, and the Southeast Training and Technical Assistance Center. Mills has served as a consultant to TennCare during the Employment and Community First CHOICES implementation process.

“We were thrilled to be contacted by Lisa Mills, who wanted to ensure that self-advocates and families had a voice in how the new program would be implemented,” said Elise McMillan, co-director of the VKC UCEDD, director of Community Engagement and Public Policy, and senior associate in Psychiatry.  “She knew coming to the Tennessee Developmental Disabilities Network was the way to make that happen. The focus groups were very helpful in providing a basic understanding of the waiver and also in forging connections between the MCOs and the people they will support.”

The connections made at the focus groups also led to an invitation to participate in trainings for care coordinators at Blue Care. Staff from Tennessee Disability Pathfinder, TennesseeWorks, and Next Steps at Vanderbilt provided information on achieving and maintaining employment, community participation, and community living.

In addition, the VKC has become a part of the Employment Roundtable led by the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities. This group focuses on improving collaboration among State agencies that provide transition and employment services for students with disabilities moving from high school into the workforce. The group includes a monthly meeting with State agencies including the Tennessee Departments of Labor and Workforce Development, Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Children’s Services, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Education, Health, the Bureau of TennCare, as well as Disability Rights Tennessee, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, and the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities.

TennesseeWorks has gathered information on the Employment and Community First CHOICES waiver, so to learn more visit: http://www.tennesseeworks.org/2016/07/employment-and-community-first-choices-program-open-now/

Courtney Taylor is VKC associate director of Communications and Dissemination.

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