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February 8, 2013

Open Line

This edition of Open Line includes important information I want to share with you:

Interim Appointment:  As most of you are now aware, on February 4, Governor Haslam asked me to serve as the Interim Commissioner of Children’s Services.  At the same time, I will remain as the Commissioner for DIDD.  Let me start by saying how proud I am of our team and that I appreciate the long hours and hard work each of you give day in and day out for our customers.  In my opinion, your hard work and commitment to fulfilling DIDD’s mission is a contributing factor to the Governor’s confidence in my ability to manage both organizations during this period of transition.  I have assured the Governor that I have total faith in DIDD’s ability to develop an effective plan of action in the interim.  We must keep doing the work that we have been doing so well and continue to move forward in our initiatives and maintaining the quality of our services all while helping a sister agency to continue to serve Tennessee’s children and families.  I have every confidence that we’re going to meet this challenge and come out of this very well.  I will make every effort to keep all of you informed and in the loop as we move forward.

Regulatory Relief Taskforce:  On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the Regulatory Relief Taskforce meeting to speak with a number of providers and other stakeholders.  The Regulatory Relief Taskforce is a group designated to discuss regulations, processes, or requirements that could be revised or eliminated without adversely affecting the health, safety, and welfare of persons supported.  We had the opportunity to discuss and answer questions on topics such as the newly announced budget, approved exit plan, the Transition NOW taskforce, employment, and reengineering of the Statewide Waiver.

Position Announcement:  The department is still actively seeking a candidate to fill its State Director of Employment and Day Services position in Central Office.  To view the complete job description, please visit:


If interested, please send your resume to Karen Haynes, DIDD Director of Human Resources, at Karen.Haynes@tn.gov.

Employment First:  The State of Tennessee continues to push ahead in our quest to further integrate the Employment First principles into the DIDD philosophy of service provision.  I would like to personally thank the fine staff at SRVS and Orange Grove Center for hosting us on January 30 and February 1, respectively.  These initial meetings have been instrumental for us to establish the framework of things to come in the following months.  I was encouraged by the cooperative spirit and innovative ideas presented during our meetings.  Over the course of the next few months, DIDD and agency staff from each of our three selected provider partners, will work alongside Subject Matter Experts Michael Callahan and Nancy Gurney to further design the policies and strategies that will continue to reshape Employment Supports for persons within our service system.  There is more to come on this important initiative.

Employment Data Collection:  As most of you are aware, we have recently completed our second month of data collection for persons who are employed and receiving services within our system.  While I understand that this process has not been without effort on behalf of my staff here, as well as provider agency staff, I want to reiterate how integral this data is to our system.  The data we are collecting will be used to assist us in resource allocation, targeted training, and provider development.  Solid and accurate data will also allow us to better recognize the pockets of excellence currently at work within our existing system.  These initial months of data are giving us a picture of where we are today and will serve as perspective as reflection validates our effort in the months to come.  It is imperative that we work together to ensure that this information is delivered diligently and accurately.  I encourage you to contact your Regional or Central Office contact with any issues.    

DIDD Encourages Families and Providers to Utilize SMART 911:  In our attempt to continually provide information to our stakeholders related to safety, prevention, and services that are available to improve the lives of persons for whom we provide support, I would encourage each of you to consider utilizing the SMART911 enhanced emergency response system.  Please read the excerpt below detailing the system and availability.

Excerpt provided by ravemobilesafety.com:

More than one million citizens across Tennessee now have access to Rave Mobile Safety's Smart911, the national safety database, for enhanced emergency response.

Public Safety officials in these locations recognized the benefit of having additional data on 9-1-1 calls and are encouraging citizens to create a Safety Profile for their household at www.Smart911.com.  A Safety Profile can include the critical data that a citizen wants first responders to have in the event of an emergency call for service.  Once created, when a citizen places a 9-1-1 call, their profile is automatically displayed at the answering PSAP, enabling emergency teams to better understand the situation and respond to the right location, with the right personnel and the right equipment.

Each Safety Profile is private, secure, and only available to dispatchers during an emergency call.  It can include home or work addresses associated with mobile phone numbers, medical conditions and disabilities, photos of family members, floor-plans and other rescue information.  Smart911 is a national network, therefore, anytime a citizen dials 9-1-1 across the country and their call is answered by a local Smart911 supported PSAP, their profile will be available.  You can access this innovative support system via the following link: https://www.smart911.com/.

Recruitment:  Below, is a definition of recruitment that DIDD is considering including in the upcoming Provider Manual.  If you have comments or suggestions for revision, please send them to Barbara DeBerry at Barbara.DeBerry@tn.gov.

Recruitment shall mean activities by service providers in which the business of a person receiving services within the DIDD provider network is directly solicited outside of the Circle of Support / Planning Team process.  It includes directly making contact with a person and/or their legal representative to suggest, advise, urge, coerce, or manipulate the person and/or legal representative to change providers separate and apart from the Circle of Support / Planning Team process.  Independent Support Coordinators/DIDD Case Managers are responsible for facilitating meetings to address barriers or concerns to the provision of supports, and for assuring that the person and/or their legal representative are provided complete, accurate, and unbiased information regarding all available providers within a desired geographic area when a change in provider agency is being considered.  Employees of DIDD or DIDD contracted service provider agencies may not use information that is learned or obtained during their employment at a provider agency to directly recruit a person and/or their legal representative to services with a subsequent employer.  Recruitment activities may include phone contacts, e-mails, visits, mailings, or other modes of communication which occur outside of the Circle of Support / Planning Team process.

Quality Review Panel:  The Quality Review Panel conducted its annual systems review of Greene Valley Developmental Center January 28-31.  The review went quite well and many positive comments were made by the panel members pertaining to various aspects of service delivery, as well as suggestions for continued improvement.  The written report will be provided within 60 days.

Accreditation Update: I would like to take this opportunity to offer my sincere appreciation to Orange Grove Centers in Chattanooga and Guardian Community Living in Memphis for opening their doors last week to the DIDD Accreditation team.  The Accreditation Team is in the final stage of completing all their certifications.  Without providers being willing to open their doors, share their work (good and bad), and take risks in exposing themselves fully to DIDD, the team would not be able to become certified.  We understand that the expectations of the Council on Quality and Leadership will cause our system to change in many ways.  We also know that CQLs expectations mirror the ordinary expectations of people who use our services and supports.

Please know we do not expect providers to have all these systems and supports in policy or practice at this time.  This is a time for learning by DIDD and provider organizations.  That is why DIDD will spend the remainder of 2013 training, teaching, and supporting all stakeholders about CQLs expectations.  In 2014, DIDD will begin to collect data that will be used to develop a plan of action for the department to receive accreditation.  Your partnership in this endeavor is vital to its success.  It is also vital for the lives of the people we all know and care about so much.  If you have not had the benefit of hosting a Personal Outcome Measures Workshop at your agency or would like to learn more about the Basic Assurances process, please contact Laura.Doutre@tn.gov  to sign up to host or receive training.

This week, the Becoming a Person Centered Organization coaches and leaders meetings continued across the state.  Journeys in Community Living in Murfreesboro, Michael Dunn Center in Kingston, and Orange Grove Centers in Chattanooga, are the current project sites.  Each site reviewed their action plans for systems change and reported great progress in providing true person centered services for the people they support.  It was often noted that the tools and skills studied and taught during this process go hand in hand with accreditation work.  The department is looking for more amazing things to come from all the hard work the people involved in each of these sites are doing.

Person Centered Thinking:  At the beginning of 2012, I issued a challenge to all provider organizations to ensure that 100% of their staff was trained in Person Centered Thinking by the end of 2012.  I know this was a huge challenge and not everyone was able to meet the goal of 100%.  However, we are interested in knowing who received the training and what impact this had on their services.  Additionally, we want to know what the barriers are to receiving training so we can work to remove those.  Each provider is asked to complete the survey at:


Responses will be accepted until February 28 and the results will be published in a March edition of Open Line.

Project Titan Regional Kick-Off Meetings:  As many of you are aware, the department is currently engaged in a project effort to replace its existing computer information systems with a single integrated database solution.  Project Titan will focus on three critical business areas within the department: Service Planning, Service Tracking and Billing, and Protection from Harm.  DIDD plans to host Regional Kickoff Meetings to share information related to this project with both our Regional Staff and Community Providers.  The schedule for these meetings will be as follows:






1:00 PM –3:00 PM (CT)

West Region

Arlington Campus – Baker Building Auditorium


2:00 PM –4:00 PM (CT)

Middle Region

Clover Bottom Campus – 1 Cannon Way Conference Room


1:00 PM –3:00 PM (ET)

East Region

Knoxville, TN – L.T. Ross Building

We will provide additional information regarding these meetings over the upcoming weeks.  If you have any questions regarding these meetings, feel free to contact our Project Team by email at DIDD.Titan@tn.gov.

DIDD Web Based Training Announcement:  The DIDD Office of Staff Development and Relias/Essential Learning are pleased to announce that significant progress is being made with the development of the new DIDD web based training site.  We are at a point where we need input from our agency partners in finalizing some site design questions.  To better report on learners and training, we have created a questionnaire to capture some vital information from all DIDD providers of services, including Independent Support Coordination agencies and independent therapists and clinicians. 

Please designate agency staff, preferably your training director, coordinator and/or the person who will be the primary contact with our DIDD Relias/Essential Learning global administrators.  Complete the following questionnaire (Data Capture for Designing Learner Enrollment and Reporting Fields) available at:


Please return it to the DIDD Office of Staff Development by Friday, February 15 via fax to Karen Chambers at 615-770-7456 or Karen.Chambers@tn.gov.

We are pleased that agencies who already have contracts with Essential Learning will be able to add the Developmental Disabilities curriculum library at no additional charge.  If any agency is interested in the Essential Learning mental health or nursing libraries, those can be purchased directly from Essential Learning and the sites will be customized.  However, at no charge to DIDD waiver provider agencies, the entire Developmental Disabilities library will be available plus any new curriculum developed in addition to lessons that may be required by DIDD based upon the learner’s role and responsibilities, Federal and State regulations, and oversight entities. 

West Tennessee Regional Office (WTRO):  The WTRO would like to thank Mr. Daryll McGuire, Vice President of STAR Center, Inc.  They have graciously offered to host West TN Provider Forums scheduled for Madison County bi-annually.  Their auditorium will accommodate up to 420 people which will allow them to meet comfortably with our ever expanding group of providers.  

Mr. McGuire spoke at the last West TN Provider Forum about services they offer to people we support as well as to other providers.  The next provider forums in West are tentatively scheduled for April 25 in Arlington and July 25 at the STAR Center in Madison County. 

Norovirus Spreading in Shelby County:  Memphis’ News Channel 3 recently released an article on the spread of Norovirus in Shelby County.  Complete coverage of the story may be viewed at http://wreg.com/2013/02/06/stomach-virus-spreading-in-shelby-county/.

Dr. Cheetham told me a new strain of this virus, detected in Australia in 2012, is now prevalent in the U.S. Norovirus causes vomiting and diarrhea, and abdominal pain which can be severe.  The main health risk is dehydration from the vomiting and diarrhea. Norovirus causes of about half of all the foodborne illness, often termed the “stomach flu”, despite its having no relationship to influenza (a viral lung infection). It may also be called “food poisoning” because it can spread not only from person to person, but also from contaminated food or water.

Unlike many other infections, contact with even a few particles of Norovirus (previously called Norwalk), can cause infection; so it is highly contagious.  For example, billions of virus particles are shed in vomit and diarrhea, but it takes less than a hundred, maybe as few as 18 virus particles, to make you sick, and you remain contagious for the first three days after you recover.  Norovirus is difficult to kill.  Very thorough hand washing is the main way to protect yourself, your family, and the people we serve from becoming infected.  Using alcohol hand sanitizers is not effective with Norovirus.  Further information can be found at:  http://www.cdc.gov/norovirus/.

clipNational Hot Rod Association Pro Stock Champ Visits GVDC:  What does Greeneville have in common with Allen Johnson, 2013 NHRA Pro Stock Champion, and the folks who live at Greene Valley?  It is home to both!  During a quick trip home from personal appearances and testing sessions, Johnson stopped in last week at Rosewood Cottage to visit, sign autographs, and pose with the folks for photographs.  Several individuals who live in Pinewood Cottage also took advantage of the invitation to “come on down” and meet the community’s hometown champion!  Johnson wasn’t able to bring his championship trophy to Greene Valley as it was on a tour of its own; however, he did bring one of his Wally Awards and explained that it was named after NHRA founder Wally Parks.

Johnson’s visit was not a spur of the moment idea.  He had been invited to Greene Valley’s “Race Day” for several years, but the NHRA schedule had him on the road during that time.  It was just a matter of timing.

Several weeks ago, Johnson’s personal friend, racing fan, and GVDC employee Becky Harmon arranged an outing for two gentlemen to his engine shop in Greeneville.  His father and engine builder Roy “Rooster” Johnson gave the men a 2 ½ hour tour explaining how engines are built in the shop from the ground up.  Other Johnson & Johnson racing employees were eager to explain each aspect of the engine build.  The gentlemen were thrilled when an engine was placed on the DYNO (measures things such as horsepower, RPM’s, and torque).  As per customary procedure, everyone was given protective ear wear before the engine started its roaring climb to hundreds of horsepower.  They learned that testing is very important because at the track, Johnson’s Dodge Avenger is like a missile going from 0 to 211 mph in about 6.5 seconds!

As a special gift, the men were sent home with a Team MOPAR baseball cap and given an invitation to visit again sometime. 

Tennessee Disability MegaConference:  The 11th Annual MegaConference will be held May 30-31 at the Nashville Airport Marriott hotel.  The Tennessee Disability MegaConference is Tennessee’s largest disability-specific conference for individuals with disabilities, families, and professionals.  At the conference, people share the latest information and innovations on many topics including housing, employment, education, health care, recreation and leisure, mental health, and others.  Continuing education credits are offered in many categories.  People attending make new friends and important connections as everyone works together to encourage the full participation of all people with disabilities in their own lives.

Registration is now open and requests for stipends can made through March 30, 2013.  For up-to-date conference information, please visit:


In keeping with this year’s theme, "Deep Roots, Broad Branches and Strong Wings" they are seeking artists with disabilities to enter their Artwork Contest.  All artwork submitted will be displayed during the MegaConference.  The contest winner will receive recognition on their website and a picture of the winning piece will be featured on program books and t-shirts.  The winner will also receive a complimentary exhibit table.  For more information and to enter the contest, please visit:

Next Steps at Vanderbilt:  Applications are now being accepted for Next Steps at Vanderbilt, a 2-year college certificate program for students with intellectual disabilities.  The fall semester begins in August 2013 and applications are due February 15.

Young adults seeking admission to Next Steps at Vanderbilt should be between 18 and 26 years old, have completed their high school studies, and have a strong desire to go to college and learn skills that will enable them to live more independently.  They need to have families who support this goal.
For more information on the program, eligibility requirements, and to download an application packet, please visit:


Please call the Next Steps at Vanderbilt office with any questions at (615) 343-0822 or email them at NextStep@Vanderbilt.edu.