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DIDD Launches Tennessee Believes

Monday, August 23, 2021 | 09:35am

DIDD Launches "Tennessee Believes" Program
Program provides grant funding to colleges and universities to create or expand post-secondary opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities

NASHVILLE—The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) officially launched the “Tennessee Believes” program, intended to increase opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities at colleges and universities across the state.

“For many students with intellectual and developmental disabilities, college has seemed out of reach,” DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said.  “My goal is to make sure every student who wants to pursue post-secondary education has the opportunity to do so. Providing resources to colleges and universities to expand or create new programs will help us get there.”

DIDD received $500,000 from the Governor and Tennessee General Assembly to launch the program.  The department will provide multi-year grants to selected colleges and universities with the purpose of expanding current inclusive higher education programs or creating new programs.  The grants will support the strategic planning and partnerships that will lead to the inclusion of students with intellectual and developmental disabilities in classrooms and campus life.

There are currently six inclusive higher education programs in the state of Tennessee at both public and private universities.  Those programs currently have 163 students and 413 graduates.  After completing the programs, students have a job placement rate of over 80 percent.  

“Inclusive higher education is a win-win for all students,” Turner said.  “Not only do students with disabilities get to experience college life, prepare for employment and exercise greater independence, but all students benefit from an inclusive and diverse campus.”

Turner, along with leaders from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) visited multiple colleges and universities over the summer to learn about their needs and any potential barriers.  As a result, the grants are intended to be flexible to address the individual needs of the chosen higher education institutions.

The application period begins Monday, August 23, 2021 and closes on October 29, 2021.  DIDD anticipates selecting the grant recipients and releasing the funding early in 2022.

Learn more about Tennessee Believes here: https://www.tn.gov/didd/for-consumers/tn-believes.html

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About DIDD

DIDD is the state agency responsible for administering services and support to Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Every day, the department strives to support thousands of people to live rewarding and fulfilling lives through Medicaid waiver Home and Community Based Services (HCBS), state-operated ICF/IIDs, and the Family Support Program.  DIDD also provides services to children ages birth to three years old with developmental delays or disabilities through the Tennessee Early Intervention System, and children under the age of 18 with disabilities or complex medical needs through the Katie Beckett Program.