The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Newsletter
Louisiana Receives Grant For Disability Employment Initiatives
Through the leadership of the Governor’s office, Louisiana has been working on employment initiatives for people with disabilities. Last year, Louisiana was granted technical assistance through US DOL ODEP EFSLMP .  The Louisiana Employment First Report , the Louisiana Employment Resource Guide , and the State As a Model Employer Task Force Report was drafted through the collaboration and engagement with a broad network of stakeholders.
Again Louisiana has been selected to receive Training and Technical Assistance (T/TA) as a Vision Quest (VQ) State as well as a Core State for the 2019 fiscal year under the United States Department of Labor’s, Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) Provider Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE). Louisiana will receive up to 100 hours of T/TA to support the state in achieving its goals within the area is Mental Health and Employment. Louisiana will also receive up to 200 hours of T/TA to support the state in achieving its goals within the area of Provider Transformation and/or Capacity Building.
2019 Legislative Regional Roundtable Sessions
The Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council will discuss its 2019 Legislative Agenda at nine Legislative Roundtables across the state where individuals with disabilities will have the opportunity to get more information about the issues and connect with legislators. The legislative agenda was developed with input from the Council's grassroots advocacy network (LaCan) and the Families Helping Families Centers. Five issues are included on the agenda in the areas of home and community-based services and education.

Every roundtable offers important information for both members and policymakers alike, and a venue for these groups to connect. A typical roundtable is 2-3 hours long and includes a free meal (typically breakfast).

The itinerary for the statewide roundable sessions are:

Regions 1/10 – Metro New Orleans Area

WHEN:   Wednesday, January 30th  10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
WHERE:  Orleans Parish School Board Bldg. – 2401 Westbend Pkwy, Suite 1050, New Orleans, LA
RSVP:    Nicole Williams –  [email protected]  or 504-943-0343 / 504-723-7152

Region 2 – Baton Rouge/Capital Area

WHEN:   Tuesday, February 12th  9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:  American Red Cross – 4655 Sherwood Common Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA
RSVP:    Ashley McReynolds –  [email protected]  or 
225-715-5740 / 225-216-7474

Region 3 – Houma/Thibodaux Area

WHEN:   Tuesday, February 5th  10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
WHERE:  Terrebonne Parish Library – 4130 West Park Ave., Gray, LA
RSVP: Julie Smith –  [email protected]  or 985-447-4461 /

Region 4 – Lafayette/Acadiana Area

WHEN:   Wednesday, February 13th  9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:  St. Barnabas Episcopal Church – 400 Camellia Blvd., Lafayette, LA
RSVP:    Jamie Duplechine –  [email protected]  or 
504-909-5607 / 337-984-3458

Region 5 – Lake Charles/Southwest La. Area

WHEN:   Wednesday, February 6th  10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
WHERE:  Central Library – 301 West Claude St., Lake Charles, LA
RSVP:    Mylinda Elliott –  [email protected]  or 337-436-2570

Region 6 – Alexandria/Central La. Area

WHEN:   Thursday, February 7th  10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
WHERE:  Kees Park – 2450 Highway 28 East, Pineville, LA
RSVP:    Kristen Reed –  [email protected]  or 318-641-7373

Region 7 – Shreveport/Northwest La. Area

WHEN:   Thursday, February 28th  9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:  Bossier Instructional Center – 2719 Airline Dr., Bossier City, LA
RSVP:    Mimi Webb –  [email protected]  or 318-560-3629 /

Region 8 – Monroe/Northeast La. Area

WHEN:   Friday, February 22nd  9:30 AM – 12:00 PM
WHERE:  La. Delta community College – 7500 Millhaven Rd., Monroe, LA
RSVP:    Konstance Causey –  [email protected]  or 318-361-0487 /318-547-9379

Region 9 – Florida Parishes/Northshore Area

WHEN:   Thursday, February 21st 10:00 AM – 12:30 PM
WHERE:  St. Tammany Parish Library – 1123 Main St., Madisonville, LA
RSVP:    Karen Artus –  [email protected]  or 985-264-1186 / 985-875-0511

For more information regarding the roundtable sessions please visit click here .
Office of Aging and Adult Services Community Meetings
In an effort to improve the Community Choices Waiver program, and to better provide services to more than 17,000 individuals awaiting services, the Louisiana Department of Health's Office of Aging and Adult Services will host a series of community meetings in every region of the state.

The Community Choices Waiver (CCW) is one of the most widely-requested Medicaid services in Louisiana, serving seniors and individuals ages 21 and older with adult-onset disabilities. CCW provides individuals with disabilities with a wide array of services including support coordination, nursing and skilled therapy sessions, in-home monitoring services, personal care, home modifications, home-delivered meals, and caregiver respite.

The Office of Aging and Adult Services encourages all interested parties to attend a regional community meeting and provide feedback to help develop strategies and solutions to better serve individuals. The community meetings are open to the public, and individuals who are eligible for CCW services, family caregivers, community supporters are welcome to attend. To learn more about the CCW please click here . For more information regarding the community meetings, please email [email protected] .

Please click here to see the community meeting dates, times, and locations

Partners In Policymaking to Begin 2019 Training Sessions
The participants of the Partners in Policymaking Program will embark on a six-month journey this month to become among the next generation of advocates for individuals with disabilities.

The Partners in Policymaking is a national leadership training program for people with developmental disabilities and parents of young children with developmental disabilities. It provides the most current knowledge about disability issues and develops the competencies necessary for effective advocacy to influence public policy at all levels of government.

The goal of the Partners in Policymaking is to achieve productive partnerships between people needing and using services and those who make public policy. It is designed to provide knowledge and skills building so that participants may work to obtain state of the art services for themselves and others.

Partners in Policymaking also educates participants about the current issues and best practices and familiarizes them with policymaking and the legislative processes at the local, state and federal levels. Individual sessions are devoted to specific topics presented by nationally known experts in their fields.

For more information regarding the Partners in Policymaking Program or to apply to participate in next year's training please click here.
The Louisiana Mental Health Coalition to Host Series of Statewide Community Meetings
The Mental Health Coalition is a collective organizations and individuals across Louisiana who support the following principals:
To advocate that individuals with mental health needs should have access to high quality mental health service and treatment.
To advocate that individuals with mental health needs should have access to sufficient community-based services and treatment such that they can live an integrated and independent life.
To bring greater awareness of individuals with mental health needs and their rights to participate in treatment decisions and their care.
The priorities of the Louisiana Mental Health Coalition include building a unified message for mental health advocacy across the state, promoting public education and awareness of the benefits of mental health services, facilitating partnerships across sectors, and elevating the voices of individuals with lived experiences of mental illness.

The Louisiana Mental Health Coalition invites all interested parties to attend a Community Conversation event to participate in the strategic efforts to improve mental health services in Louisiana. The dates, times, and locations of the meetings are:
Hammond, LA:
When: January 23, 2019, 1:30 pm - 3:30 pm
Where: Tangipahoa Parish Facility (15481 W. Club Deluxe Rd.)

Opelousas, LA:
When: January 29, 2019, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Where: St. Landry Parish Justice Bldg. (231 S. Union St.)

Metairie, LA:
When: January 30, 2019, 10:00 am - 12:00 pm
Where: East Bank Regional Library (4747 W. Napoleon Ave.)

Shreveport, LA
When: February 7, 2019, 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Where: Community Foundation of North Louisiana (401 Edwards
Street, Suite 125)

The Louisiana Mental Health Coalition Founding Partners include:
The Advocacy Center of Louisiana
Baptist Community Ministries
Catholic Charities Archdiocese of New Orleans
Institute of Mental Hygiene
Kingsley House
Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights
Louisiana Public Health Institute
Mental Health Association for Greater Baton Rouge
NAMI Louisiana
NAMI St. Tammany
New Pathways New Orleans
St. Tammany Parish Safe Haven
Start Corporation
The Extra Mile
Volunteers of America
If your organization would like to participate or become a member of The Louisiana Mental Health Coalition please contact: [email protected] or (504) 482-9707
George HW Bush & The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
George HW Bush, who died on November 30, 2018, signed the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. The purpose of the ADA is to make sure people with disabilities have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else.

The positive impact of this civil rights law cannot be overstated. Due to the signing of the ADA in 1990, the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs was established in Louisiana state law during the administration of Governor Mike Foster. The intention of the office is to advise on the implementation and compliance of the ADA.
Families Helping Families of Greater New Orleans Receives Grant From Autism Speaks
Families Helping Families of Greater New Orleans is one of fourteen recipients of the first Autism Speaks and GameStop NXT GEN Coders Program, which provides grants for organizations that teach digital skills to people across the autism spectrum, training them for careers in computer programming and coding.

Funded by GameStop and administered by Autism Speaks, NXT GEN Coders grants were awarded to organizations, schools and institutions that teach basic digital literacy and critical coding and computer programming skills to people with autism of all ages. 

Funding will go towards a pilot program to identify a selected cohort of young people diagnosed with autism and train these young adults to learn computer coding for entry and employment in the tech industry. Families Helping Families of Greater New Orleans will work in partnership with two existing nonprofit organizations-- Opportunities Academy (OA) and Operation Spark (OS). 

For more information please visit the Families Helping Families of Greater New Orleans website .
Ashley Volion Crowned as Ms Wheelchair Louisiana 2019
The Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana pageant was held on December 1, 2018 at Baton Rouge Rehabilitation Hospital in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The daylong competition culminated with the Crowning Ceremony, where Ashley Volion was crowned the 2019 Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana. Ashley was chosen because of her strong knowledge of advocacy and her advocacy efforts for individuals with disabilities. Her platform, “Home and Community Based Services” was shared during the crowning ceremony.

Ashley is a native of Louisiana and currently resides in New Orleans. She has a bachelor and masters degree in sociology from the University of New Orleans. Currently she is pursuing a Ph.D. in disabilities studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Ashley is employed as a policy assistant at The Advocacy Center in New Orleans and as a teaching assistant at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She is committed to ensuring that people with disabilities are fully integrated members of society.

As Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana, Ashley will travel the state and use her title through various opportunities to share her platform and show her passion for providing education and advocacy for all individuals with disabilities. Ashley is available to make group appearances around the state at group and organization meetings. She will provide an avenue for people in wheelchairs to advocate for themselves and help enhance attitudinal awareness about individuals with disabilities. With her title, Ashley will work to increase public awareness of the accomplishments of individuals with disabilities. Next summer, Ashley will represent Louisiana at the national Ms. Wheelchair America competition.

The Executive Director of The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Bambi Polotzola served as the keynote speaker of this year's pageant.

The Brain Injury Association of Louisiana/Louisiana Chapter of The United Spinal Association (BIALA) presented the Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana competition in their efforts to provide education and advocate for all individuals with disabilities.
The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs Update
The Governor's Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) coordinated its quarterly Governor's Advisory Council on Disability Affairs (GACDA) meeting on December 18, 2018. The members of GACDA participated in committees relative to: employment, housing, transportation and accessibility prior to the meeting.

After the GACDA meeting, the staff of GODA took a group picture proudly wearing their "Choose to Include" t-shirts.

Please visit GODA's website to access their calendar of events.
Governor John Bel Edwards Recognizes 2018 Graduates
Jasmine Jefferson graduated from the Unitech Training Academy in 2018 earning a diploma in Medical Office Assistance.

Jasmine also earned her diploma in Medical Assistance from The Acadiana Career College in 2017. Jasmine is the daughter of the Statewide Independent Living Council Chairperson Rozella Viltz.

Sierra Alexis Ozenne graduated from South Louisiana Community College-Lafayette Campus with a Technical Diploma in Culinary Arts and Occupations.

Sierra graduated on the Chancellor's List earning an overall cumulative Grade Point Average of 3.9. Sierra also was inducted into the SLCC Beta Xi Omega Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Sierra, the daughter of EarlySteps Statewide Parent Consultant Tedra Landreaux, will continue her culinary education and would like to open her own bakery.
Pamela Darby earned a Diploma through the Adult Education Program at South Louisiana Community College in December 2018. Pamela, a member of the Governor's Advisory Council on Disability Affairs, completed the necessary coursework in three month to earn her diploma.

Pamela will begin her first semester at South Louisiana Community College majoring in business. She hopes to be chosen for a work-study program to learn skills for her future endeavors.