Tennessee Recognized for Continued Leadership in Employment for People with Disabilities

Monday, January 23, 2017 | 10:39am

NASHVILLE—For the fifth consecutive year, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) secured federal support for Tennessee’s work to increase competitive, integrated job opportunities for people with disabilities.

Tennessee’s recognition as a Core and Community of Practice State in the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) by the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) means several more disability service providers will receive training and technical assistance as they transition from segregated workshops to community-based employment.  This transition has the potential to positively impact more than 500 people currently supported by DIDD.

“We know that competitive, integrated employment enriches the lives of Tennesseans with disabilities, and this renewed funding will help us build on the gains we have already seen,” said Debra K. Payne, DIDD Commissioner.  “With the enthusiasm, dedication, and hard work of our partners and providers, Tennessee is leading the way.”

Another area of focus includes interagency efforts to better align services for people who have both IDD and a mental health diagnosis.  It is estimated more than 40% of people with IDD also have a co-occurring mental illness or significant behavioral issues.

“One of the most successful outcomes of this program has been increased collaboration between state departments,” said Jeremy Norden-Paul, DIDD State Director of Employment and Day Services. “When we overcome our own internal barriers, we are able to make a real difference in the lives of the people we support.”

Watch Norden-Paul speak about the program: https://youtu.be/0GUvaKYchBw

Additionally, DIDD is collecting data on employment outcomes and using the data to make strategic decisions about how to improve Tennessee’s service delivery system.

In 2013, Gov. Bill Haslam signed Executive Order No. 28 which designated Tennessee as an Employment First state and convened the Employment First Task Force.  The group’s focus is to identify and remove barriers to employment for people with disabilities.  The Task Force recently released its third report.  You can read the report and watch several success stories at this link: https://www.tn.gov/didd/for-consumers/employment--first.html