From expanding access to disability-related information and referral to educating health care professionals about the neurodevelopmental disorders caused by congenital Zika and other developmental disorders, partnerships between the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) and the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) are building capacity and improving access to information and services.
While not an exhaustive list, below are examples of some of the VKC and TDH collaborative projects.
An expanding service directory
Three years ago, representatives from the TDH approached Tennessee Disability Pathfinder to explore how this free information and referral service for Tennesseans with disabilities and their families might expand to incorporate an online directory used by the Department’s care coordinators.
“The care coordinators frequently referred to an in-house directory to provide resources to their clients and patients,” said Megan Hart, program director of Tennessee Disability Pathfinder. “They wanted to be able to sustain that resource once funding for the project ended, and so partnering with us by incorporating their directory into our database made a lot of sense.”
Merging the two resource directories added 1,000 new agency resources into Pathfinder’s database and broadened the scope of services and types of resources that were available. Some of the new service categories include abuse and sexual assault, animal and pest control, college/university resources, community education, consumer safety standards, financial assistance, fire/rescue resources, library, substance abuse prevention and treatment, and more.
In addition, the TDH has an established staff position on the Pathfinder team to maintain the database and to provide information and referral assistance to individuals and families who contact Pathfinder.
“Tennessee Disability Pathfinder is a tremendous resource for the population we serve—Tennessee children and youth with special health care needs and their families,” said Rachel Hauber, MPH, CPH, program director of Integrated System of Services at the TDH. “Pathfinder is continuously top of mind at meetings when we meet with partners and community members who are looking for disability resources for themselves, a family member, or client. When we refer an individual to Pathfinder, we are confident that he or she will be able to find the service needed or will be able to speak with a staff member who can provide one-on-one assistance. Building on and expanding the visibility of this resource continues to be a priority between Pathfinder staff and the Tennessee Department of Health.”
Training providers through county health departments
Pathfinder also has partnered with County Departments of Health, which are charged with supporting and steering health improvement initiatives in their areas, to provide trainings on how Pathfinder can provide assistance.
Karen Mevis, information and referral coordinator at Pathfinder, has presented to a variety of community professionals and leaders at health council meetings in Bedford, Houston, Dekalb, and Macon counties. She says Pathfinder’s presence at the rural county meetings opens doors to and for the professionals who are planning, announcing, discussing, and running the local health-related events, programs, departments, and facilities.
“This partnership has been a great way to reach professionals in the community who are likely to encounter unmet needs,” said Mevis. “I am delighted by the enthusiasm and variety of community leaders I’ve met through these meetings. I’ve talked with EMTs, law enforcement, school staff, school nurses, hospital staff, mental health professionals, National Guard and Prevention Coalition members, Head Start teachers, local elected officials, staff from the Health Department, Human Resources Agency, Housing Authority, and others. It’s great to be able to connect with all of these professionals and to let them know how Pathfinder can help.”
Health care professionals learn more about Zika
The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND (VCL) and the University of Tennessee Boling Center LEND, in collaboration with the TDH Division of Family Health and Wellness, were recently awarded a federal grant through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The project assists organizations in developing a better trained workforce more prepared to respond to Zika virus cases and outbreaks.
To meet these outcomes, the VCL and the Boling Center, in collaboration with the TDH, worked together to create a total of six Continuing Medical Education seminars across Tennessee. Focused on the goal of educating health care professionals and families about the developmental consequences of congenital Zika infection and neurodevelopmental disabilities, the Vanderbilt LEND is leading trainings in Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville, and Johnson City. The Boling Center LEND is leading trainings in Memphis and Jackson.
Developing a Youth Advisory Council for Tennessee’s Title V CSHCN program
The Vanderbilt Consortium LEND has developed a group project for its trainees led by LEND faculty and the TDH to carry on the Youth Advisory Council for Tennessee’s Title V Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN) Program. Trainees met with leadership from Title V CSHCN and Family Voices of Tennessee to understand desired outcomes and followed up with youth who attended the first Advisory Council meeting. Additional youth were recruited to participate on the Council. Meetings were organized and facilitated and a plan developed for sustainability/continuation of the Youth Advisory Council.
For more information on Tennessee Disability Pathfinder and Tennessee Department of Health partnerships, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on Vanderbilt Consortium LEND projects, contact email@example.com.
Courtney Taylor is VKC associate director of Communications and Dissemination.