The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Newsletter

May 2019
Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Conference
The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) will host its Annual Conference on July 26, 2019 at the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge, LA. The Conference will be held on the 29th Anniversary of the signing of the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990.

The GODA Conference will feature 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 will also include a variety of sessions on education, employment, healthcare, housing, emergency preparedness, and other important disability-related topics.

The to register for the GODA Conference please click here.
Developmental Disabilities Council Chairperson, GODA Coordinator, April Dunn to Receive National Honor
The National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD), has named April Dunn of GODA as the recipient of the 2019 "Champions of Equal Opportunity Awards" for Self Advocacy.

The "Champions of Equal Opportunity Awards" for Self Advocacy is presented to a self-advocate who has been nominated by his or her DD Council as someone who shares and promotes NACDD's values of self-determination, independence, productivity, and inclusion.

April will be presented with the award at the NACDD Conference in July. For more information please click here .
Medicaid Recipients Urged To Respond To Eligibility Letters
To prevent against potential loss of Medicaid healthcare coverage, the Louisiana Department of Health is urging all Medicaid recipients to respond to any mailing they receive from the Department about their coverage. Because Medicaid coverage requires an annual renewal, approximately 125,000 people receive letters each month.
The Department of Health sends renewal letters monthly to members when it’s time for their annual re-enrollment. This is part of routine business operations. For example, renewal letters were mailed today for those scheduled to renew their coverage in June. Those who receive a letter have until June 6 to respond or their coverage will end. In most cases, this additional requested information will include employment or unemployment status, earnings or wage information or other financial information.   

Medicaid Director Jen Steele reminds people that not responding to the letter can result in an enrollee losing Medicaid healthcare coverage. Only those who receive a letter are asked to respond.

The Louisiana Department of Health has created a How-To Guide on Medicaid Renewals that includes extensive screen shots for anyone needing to navigate within the self-service portal of the new system. The guide has special instructions on certain screens for waiver recipients and residents of community homes, other Intermediate Care Facilities/Developmental Disabilities (ICFs/DD), or nursing homes.
Anyone receiving a Renewal Letter from the Louisiana Department of Health MUST contact Medicaid by the date in the letter to renew their Medicaid or they will lose their coverage. Do NOT ignore this letter!
There are three ways to renew your Medicaid coverage:
  1. Renew online at
  2. Call toll free at 1-888-342-6207 and conduct the renewal over the phone.
  3. Call toll free at 1-888-342-6207 and request a paper application that will be mailed to you. You will need to fill out this form and send it back to Medicaid. 

The How-To Guide will take you through the process of renewing Medicaid online through the Self-Service Portal.
Disability Awareness Web-Based Training Available For State Employees
Louisiana State Civil Service is excited to announce two new web-based Comprehensive Public Training Programs (CPTP) available on Louisiana Employees Online (LEO). These courses were created in conjunction with the State as a Model Employer (SAME) task force to help to improve hiring, recruitment and retention of people with disabilities.

  • CPTP Disability Awareness
  • CPTP Disability Etiquette

Both courses can be found in LEO by typing “Disability” in the Find box on your My Training page. A promotional video is available on the State Civil Service website.

Louisiana State Civil Service encourages all state employees to explore these and the more than 250 other courses and resources available on LEO.

Please direct any questions regarding the course to Dana LeBherz at [email protected].
Louisiana Department of Health Eliminates Waiting List For Individuals With Disabilities
Nearly a year after eliminating its 25-year-old waiting list for specialized services, the Louisiana Department of Health’s Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities is receiving positive feedback from those served by the Tiered Waiver plan.

Tiered Waiver prioritizes individuals with a greater urgency of need for receiving the most appropriate home and community-based services, rather than the Office’s prior approach of offering services on a first-come, first-served basis.

Julie Foster Hagan, assistant secretary of the Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, said more than 12,000 people have received a Screening for Urgency of Need (SUN), using a nationally accepted best practice model, to determine the urgency of their need for waiver services. There are five levels of need, or tiers:

  • 4-Emergent: Supports will be needed in the next 90 days.
  • 3-Urgent: Supports will be needed in the next 3-12 months.
  • 2-Critical: Supports will be needed in the next 1-2 years.
  • 1-Planning: Supports will be needed in the next 3-5 years.
  • 0-Currently no unmet needs.

The registry allows the Office to plan for and be responsive to people if their needs change, becoming urgent or emergent.Everyone in Tiers 3 and 4 is offered the most appropriate services and supports.

“What we hear from family members is that it’s saving their lives, it’s keeping their families together, it’s helping them be able to continue to be a part of their community,” Hagan said.Among those receiving services through Tiered Waiver is Laci Polotzola’s 11-year-old-son, Tyler, who has autism, is nonverbal and has a heart rhythm disorder.

“The extra support that we have received has actually given us our life back. I feel like we can take a breath sometimes now, whereas before I was always holding my breath to try and run to get to one thing to the next,” Polotzola recently shared in a  video interview . “Not only that, I just feel like we’re more of a family. We have time to connect as a family again.”

For more information or frequently asked questions regarding Tiered Waivers, click here.
EFSLMP Core Team Will Host Regional Employment Capacity Building Sessions in
Regions 3 & 4
The Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) of Louisiana hosted two regional capacity building sessions to further its objective of providing increased community-based, integrated employment opportunistic for individuals with disabilities.

The capacity building session in Region 3 which is comprised of Assumption, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. James, St. John, St. Mary, and Terrebonne Parishes was held on Wednesday, May 29, 2019 at the Terrebonne Parish Library located at 4130 West Park Ave in Gray.

The capacity building session in Region 4 which is comprised of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin, St. Mary, and Vermilion parishes was held on Thursday, May 30, 2019 at the Acadiana Area Human Services District located at 302 Dulles Drive in Lafayette. 

Through the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs, Louisiana has received an Employment First Technical Assistance Grant from the US Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy . One component of the grant is Capacity Building with two regions of the state and is aligned with the recommendation in our  Employment First Report  on page 19-20.  One of the main criteria for selection of a region is the current level of cross-agency collaboration within the region. Since this is a limited TA grant, the selected two regions have already established cross agency collaboration and the goal is that the regions further develop collaboration in order to sustain and provide model practices for other regions of our state as well as other states The regions are a combination of LA Department of Health and LA Workforce Commission regions. 
If you're interested in joining the collaboration, please complete this very short survey:  Employment First Regional Collaboration Membership . Membership is open to anyone interested in participating
The collaborative regional teams should include but not limited to the following:
·      Individuals and Families (including those with mental health diagnoses)
·      Service Providers
·      Business, Industry, and Labor
·      Education
·      Regional, Parish, and Local Government Offices
The State As a Model Employer (SAME) initiative will be intertwined with the work of the regional collaboration. Here is the link to the  SAME Report
Southeastern 'Lions Connected' Earns National Honor
Lions Connected, a Southeastern Louisiana University Department of Teaching and Learning program that provides personalized, post-secondary educational experiences for individuals with intellectual disabilities, has received national recognition.

A comprehensive transition and post-secondary program approved by the U.S. Department of Education, Lions Connected won the award for Exemplary Program for Vocational Training and Transition from the American Council on Rural Special Education (ACRES).

Dr. Gerlinde Beckers, program coordinator and associate professor of education at Southeastern, said Lions Connected works closely with on-campus inclusive vocational opportunities, community partnerships, parents and college-age peer mentors. Socialization with typical peers, independent living and self-advocacy, career development and experience, knowledge, personal health, skills and enrichment are some specific goals with the ultimate goal to increase the quality of life for students through a college experience, she added:

“Lions Connected serves five parishes in Southeast Louisiana, four of which meet rural population indicators,” said Beckers. “The program aims to address students from high poverty, rural parishes with limited resources and opportunities. I am thrilled Lions Connected received this award. So many people at Southeastern have worked very hard for Lions Connected to become a program worthy of being considered ‘exemplary.’”

Southeastern middle school special education/social studies major Emma Beckers has been working with Lions Connected since she was a high school student.

“I have been involved with Lions Connected since its first year through high school service learning. It only seemed natural for me to become a peer mentor when I started at Southeastern last fall,” she said. “Being involved with Lions Connected is like having a very diverse second family, where we all belong and help each other succeed.”

Now in its third year, Lions Connected is certified by the Department of Education and must meet student academic progress goals set according to the federal standards in the areas of class attendance, class participation, assignment completion, and life skills curriculum.
For more information on Lions Connected, contact Beckers at [email protected].
University of Louisiana at Lafayette LIFE Graduates
Learning is for Everyone (LIFE) , a post secondary education program, at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette College of Education graduated four students on May 17, 2019. Melanie Jankower, Oneil Legendre IV, and Matthew Molaison completed the four year program. Caroline Laborde completed the two year program. Congratulations to all four! The LIFE Program Project director, Caroline Jurisich, also earned her doctorate degree from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on May 17, 2019.
The LIFE program will be admitting its largest freshman class ever in the Fall 2019 - 8 new freshman. The program will also be offering on campus housing in the fall 2019 semester. With the growth of the program in student numbers, classes, activities, and services - our space was shrinking. The program will move into its new facilities this summer and hope to have an open house for the community at the beginning of the fall semester. 
Program For Successful Employment at Baton Rouge Community College (BRCC) Update
The Program for Successful Employment (PSE) reached a milestone when Earlisha Rowe, a first cohort student in the program completed her first full year of successful employment. The achievement was acknowledged by Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs, who presented Rowe with a certificate. Rowe, who works as a hanger/sorter at a Goodwill store in Baton Rouge, was the first student in the program to be hired full time.

PSE at BRCC is a four semester vocational training program for adults, ages 18 to 26, with autism and/or other intellectual disabilities. It began in February 2017 with seven students and now has 32 students enrolled.

“The Program for Successful Employment’s combination of classroom-based and on-site training helps our students gain the valuable skills they need to be successful,” said Derrick Wesley, Director of Program for Successful Employment at BRCC. “Earlisha’s success at Goodwill is a shining example of what is possible when an individual is given an opportunity along with the proper support system.”

Rowe’s support system includes her mother, Nora Veals. Veals originally helped Rowe enroll in general studies classes at BRCC, but upon noticing her difficulty with the coursework, she enrolled Rowe in PSE.

“I love the program! She has been at her job for over a year now and PSE has been very supportive and has helped her be successful,” Veals said.
Rowe remains a committed employee at Goodwill.

“Earlisha is very dedicated. She takes two buses to be here every day and to get back home. She does anything she is asked and is a hard worker. She is an asset to the business,” said store manager, Milvia Filgueira.

PSE combines academic and job skills training with externship opportunities in regional businesses. Businesses partners include ARAMARK at Southern University, School Time Uniforms, Our Hope Thrift and Donation Center, UFC Gym, Wild Birds Unlimited (Cajun Wild Birds), Shamrox Clothing Boutique, East Baton Rouge Public Library, Gambino's Bakery, Ink On, Knock Knock Children's Museum, Tiger Deaux-nuts, and Hammond Aire Auto Spa, Chick-fil-A (College Drive), Habitat for Humanity Restore North, C.B. Pennington Jr. Y.M.C.A., Barnes and Noble (Citiplace), Doubletree by Hilton, and Goodwill Industries.
Behavior Health Day at the Capitol 2019
The National Association of Mental Illness (NAMI) of Louisiana hosted the Behavioral Health Day Rally at the Louisiana State Capitol on May 16, 2019. The rally featured State Representative Reid Falconer and Nick Albares of the Office of the Governor as guest speakers.

Governor John Bel Edwards proclaimed the month of May as Mental Health Awareness Month in the State of Louisiana.
Kidz Kamp 2019
Deaf Focus will host their 8th Annual Kidz Kamp at Camp Istrouma, 25975 Greenwell Springs Rd., LA, 70739 on June 14-16, 2019. This year’s theme is “To Infinity and Beyond!” Kampers will participate in a variety of unique and typical camp activities such as swimming, human Foosball, archery, jumping on the famous blob, rock climbing, canoeing, watch kid-friendly movies, storytelling, and more.

“What’s special about this camp,” says Paula Rodriguez, Executive Director, “is that communication is open to everyone. Many of our kids have deaf parents so they know sign language and can communicate with the kampers who are Deaf. Also, those parents who are Deaf can register, drop off their children, and communicate with staff without any communication barriers. 

Parents and kids love the easy access to communication and information.” Many of our adult volunteers are Deaf or have Deaf parents. Almost all volunteers are fluent in sign language including our camp nurse, Amanda Lewis.

For more information about Kidz Kamp 2019 please click here.
6th Annual Miss Bayou Voice for Autism Recipients
The 6th Annual Miss Bayou Voice for Autism Pageant crowned Brenna Laubach as "Teen Miss Queen" and Jolie Boudreaux as "Miss Queen" for the 2019 pageant.

For more information about the pageant please call Crystal Carmichael at (985) 856-7379 or send an email by clicking here .
2019 Legislative Session Update Coming Soon
Final adjournment of the 2019 Regular Legislative Session will take place no later than 6:00 pm on June 6, 2019. The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs will provide a legislative update in the next edition of this newsletter.