The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Newsletter

July/August 2019
Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Conference
The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) hosted its Annual Conference on July 26, 2019 at the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge, LA. The Conference was held on the 29th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Governor John Bel Edwards provided a videoed welcome to participants in attendance. The Conference was attended by more than 350 people.

The GODA Conference featured a Keynote Presentation from Kristi Avalos, the founder and CEO of Accessology and national expert in accessibility, the ADA, and national disability related issues. The GODA Conference featured sessions on education, employment, healthcare, housing, transportation, and emergency preparedness.

The recap of the GODA Conference will be televised and available on YouTube in the near future. More information regarding the broadcast of the GODA Conference will be announced in the next edition of this newsletter.

April Dunn Receives National Self-Advocacy Award
April Dunn, Coordinator of the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs , was awarded one of two Champions of Equal Opportunity (CEO) Awards for self-advocacy by the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) at their Annual Conference in New Orleans on July 10th. These awards are given to recognize individuals who share and promote NACDD's values of self-determination, independence, productivity and inclusion.

April has also had a huge impact on increasing inclusive opportunities in the community. She strongly advocates her core belief that no one should live or spend their days in segregated settings! April has testified before the legislature numerous over the years in support of funding for additional home and community-based waiver services and other individual and family support services. She also strongly advocates for a living wage for Direct Support Professionals. During April's tenure as the Council chair and as a member of the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities System Transformation Core Stakeholders Group, Louisiana completely transformed its DD waiver system. April was also instrumental in the advocacy and ultimate passing of Act 833 of 2014 , which provides for Individualized Education Program teams of certain students with disabilities to have the option of determining alternative pathways for promotion and graduation.  

April was re-elected as the Chairperson of the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council in July.
2019 Office of Special Education Programs Leadership Conference
The Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) held its annual conference on July 21 st through July 24 th in Arlington, VA. Sunday, July 21 st was a day filled with pre-conference information and engagement activities for State Interagency Coordinating Council (SICC) Chairs, Members, and Staff. Topics covered during the pre-conference ranged from federal content of state ICCs to strategic planning and parent leadership and engagement, to name a few. Louisiana - SICC Chairperson, Shanida Mathieu and SICC Director, Melanie Washington attended the conference. For pre-conference, there was SICC representation from 21 U.S. States and territories.
The remainder of the conference was much broader. Information was geared to target Part B Directors and Staff, Part C Coordinators and Staff, Parent Training Center Staff, Part B and Part C Data Managers and Part D Technical Assistance Providers. It was two and a half days filled with loads of important information that will assists states with their mission to improving results for infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities ages birth to 21.

Overall, the Leadership Conference enhances leadership roles through opportunities to hear from experts in the field and to learn about evidence-based practices that will support participants’ ability to improve results for infants, toddlers, children and youth with disabilities and their families. 

The Statewide Independent Living Council Participates in National Council on Independent Living Conference
The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) Executive Director Jessica Lewis and SILC members Jamie Duplechine, Rashad Bristo, and Anita Gray participated in the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL) conference in Washington D.C July 21st- July 26th. The members of the SILC also participated in the ADA march to Capitol Hill on July 23, 2019 to spread awareness of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

SILC joined hundreds of advocates from all across the country to participate in this important event. After the march, the members of the SILC visited the offices of some of Louisiana Senators and Representatives and spoke with their staff. The members of the SILC met with U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy to discuss concerns regarding independent living.
Lighthouse Louisiana Red Stick Opening
Lighthouse Louisiana will host the "Red Stick Reopening" event on Friday, August 16, 2019 at 2773 N. Flannery Road in Baton Rouge.

Lighthouse Louisiana will reveal its newly renovated space during the reopening, and will provide interactive demonstrations highlighting the tools and skills people who are blind, deaf, or hard of hearing use for independence.

Clients- past, present, and future, families, advocates, legislators, community partners, and supporters are invited to participate. For more information please click here .
2019 Inclusive Art Contest
To bring greater awareness of the importance of inclusion in society today, the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) invites you to participate in the 2019 Inclusive Art Contest. GODA will accept entries that illustrate or describe ideas related to this year's theme:  Living, Learning and Loving ... Together . A medal and special recognition from Governor John Bel Edwards will be presented to the winners. Contestants are encouraged to use art to share their vision, experiences and talents to demonstrate to this year's theme. Winning entries will be publicly displayed.
Artwork Criteria/Contest Rules
  • All entries must be framed or ready to hang.
  • Submissions must be no larger than 16 x 20 inches. Any suitable materials or computer generated design may be utilized.
  • Entries must be packaged so that they are easy to carry, transport and display.
  • Open to residents of Louisiana.
  • No group artwork will be accepted.
  • All entries must be received by October 31, 2019.

For the official flyer and registration form please email [email protected]

In recognition of National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month , NAMI will host the #GetYaMindRight Fest on July 27, 2019 at the 2200 Block of Pauger Street in New Orleans.

This event is free and open to the public. To register please click here .
The Statewide Independent Living Council to Host Series of Job and Resource Fairs
The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) will host a series of Inclusion Job and Resource Fairs in October. October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) . The SILC encourages all interested parties to find out more about possible career opportunities and resources available to the community by with interfacing over 40 vendors. The job fairs will take place in various locations throughout the state (see the schedule below) from 10am to 2pm. These job and resource fairs will provide valuable information regarding employment and other important resources for individuals with disabilities.

Oct. 9:  Lake Charles Civic Center, 900 Lakeshore Dr, Lake Charles

Oct. 10: Baton Rouge-  BREC Ball Room, 6201 Florida Blvd, Baton Rouge

Oct. 11: Lafayette- Robicheaux Rec Center, 1919 Eraste Landry Rd 

Oct. 16: Monroe- West Ouachita Sr. Center, 1800 N 7th St, West Monroe

Oct. 17: Terrebonne- Fletcher Tech. Comm. College, 1407 LA-311, Schriever

Oct. 18: Metairie - Ree Alario Special Needs Center, 6900 Saints Drive

Oct. 23: Shreveport- David Raines Comm. Center, 2920 Round Grove Ln

Oct. 24: New Orleans East Hospital, 5620 Read Blvd, New Orleans

Oct. 30: Pineville Community Center, 2450 Hwy 28 East Pineville

Oct. 31: Hammond Recreation Center, 601 W. Coleman Ave., Hammond

Individuals with disabilities are strongly encouraged to attend. For more information or to be a vendor for this event, contact Jessica Lewis at 225-219-7552. This event is sponsored by the Statewide Independent Living Council and Healthy Blue.
Louisiana Children's Trust Fund Public Service Announcement
Louisiana Department of Health Re-evaluating Procedures on Automated Closure of Medicaid Eligibility
The Louisiana Department of Health is currently reevaluating its procedures for automated closure of Medicaid eligibility, specifically as it relates to renewals. Auto-closure is a feature of the new Medicaid eligibility determination system that went live in November 2018. It automatically closes any Medicaid case at the end of the renewal month if the recipient fails to respond by the required 30-day deadline noted in the renewal letter that is mailed by Medicaid to the recipient.

During this reevaluation period, LDH will not be utilizing the system's auto-closure functionality for persons undergoing annual renewal.

Additionally, prior to any termination of benefits, pursuant to auto-closure or otherwise, recipients will receive a final closure notice with appropriate due process, including appeal rights.

People First of Louisiana to Host Annual Self-Advocacy Training
The People First of Louisiana will host the Annual Self-Advocacy Training event on August 9, 2019 at 303 New Hope Road in Lafayette, LA from 10:00am- 3:00pm.

The training will feature special guest Unstoppable Tracy . To register for this training please click here .
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Host Seminar in New Orleans
The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will host an Technical Assistance Program Seminar on August 8, 2019 at the Homer Hitt Alumni Center located on the campus of the University of New Orleans.

Human resource personnel, office managers, employers, and employment advocacy groups are encouraged to attend. For more information please click here .