Support Continues for Tennessee’s Leadership in Employment First Efforts

Thursday, November 09, 2017 | 12:24pm

November 9th, 2017

CONTACT: Cara Kumari
OFFICE: 615-253-2236

Support Continues for Tennessee’s Leadership in Employment First Efforts

Program provides support for employer engagement, community employment expansion for people with disabilities

NASHVILLE--The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities once again led the effort to gain federal support and recognition of Tennessee’s leadership in providing inclusive and competitive job opportunities to people with disabilities.

The U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) named Tennessee as a Core and Community of Practice State in the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) for the 6th consecutive year. Through the program, state agencies and disability service providers receive technical assistance and training to further efforts to increase competitive, integrated employment outcomes for Tennesseans with disabilities.

”Tennessee continues to be recognized for the successes that come from bringing all stakeholders to the table with the single-minded focus of improving employment for people with disabilities,” DIDD Commissioner Debra K. Payne said.  “I’m grateful for the support provided through the Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program that will enhance our efforts and help us meet our goal of doubling the employment rate for people who receive support over the next five years.”

In 2018, Tennessee will focus on increasing the number of DIDD providers transforming from segregated workshops to community-based employment and improving employer engagement to better connect people with businesses in their communities.

Tennessee will also pursue efforts to expand access to Individual Placement and Support (IPS) services for people who have a behavioral health diagnosis. IPS is an evidence-based supported employment practice that has been shown to significantly increase employment outcomes. In addition to the individuals served by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (DMHSAS), an estimated 40% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) also have a co-occurring mental illness or significant behavioral issue.

“As Governor Haslam often says, ‘all means all.’ There is growing awareness across our state that all Tennesseans are capable of working and deserve the opportunity to be part of the workforce,” said Jeremy Norden-Paul, DIDD State Director of Employment and Day Services. “It’s our job, as a department and as a state, to explore innovative practices to make that vision a reality.  EFSLMP is instrumental to our success and adds momentum to our Employment First movement.”

Learn more about the program and what it means for the state in this video with Norden-Paul:

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. You can read the report and watch several success stories at this link:


About the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is the state agency responsible for administration and oversight of community-based services for approximately 8,000 people with intellectual disabilities as well as 4,000 people through the Family Support Program.   Every day, the department strives to support people to live rewarding and fulfilling lives.  It does so by ensuring people are free to exercise rights, engage with their broader communities and experience optimal health.  DIDD is the first and only state service delivery system in the nation to receive Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership.  It has also been recognized as a national leader in its efforts to increase competitive, community-based employment outcomes for people with disabilities.  

You may download a PDF version of this release.