Division of Rehabilitation Services Gets Leader with a Passion for Networking

By Devin Stone

About the Author

Devin Stone serves as the public information officer for the Department of Human Services.

Our hope is that this weekly blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org.

Amanda “Mandy” Johnson joined the Tennessee Department of Human Services team on Oct. 1, 2017, as the assistant commissioner of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, which includes Vocational Rehabilitation. Prior to joining DHS, she served as the assistant deputy chief of Quality and Compliance for the Long-Term Services and Supports Division of TennCare.

One of the things Ms. Johnson is most excited about in her new role as the assistant commissioner of the Division of Rehabilitation Services is continuing the relationships she developed while at TennCare with advocates, stakeholders, and partners across the disability employment community.  Her priorities for the division and the Vocational Rehabilitation program correlate with four key strategies set forth by DHS: communication, culture of collaboration, effective and efficient processes, and talent focus.  Ms. Johnson is using these strategies to ensure the division and the VR program are well positioned to achieve the mission — improving employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities.

1. Communication-Ms. Johnson is committed to improving communication, inside the division and outside as well, fostering a more integrative organizational culture that unites the division, its various programs, staff, and the work they do every day to support the mission. Ms. Johnson has recently completed a listening tour, visiting with staff across the state to hear directly from them about what the division is doing well and what areas the division can improve. In addition, she has established regular meetings with key stakeholders like the State Rehabilitation Council, Disability Rights Tennessee, the Council on Developmental Disabilities and others.

2. Culture of Collaboration– Building on stronger communication, Ms. Johnson is seeking to foster a culture of trust and collaboration with customers, employees, and stakeholders to achieve the department’s mission. Ms. Johnson aims to work closely with staff and stakeholders to improve understanding of services provided and ensure greater access for customers, employees, and stakeholders to available resources. She wants to communicate upcoming policy or program changes to stakeholders ahead of such changes, and she wants to engage customers, employees, and other stakeholders to obtain feedback on ways to improve service delivery. Ms. Johnson is working with her staff and the State Rehabilitation Council to update the division’s customer satisfaction survey process and to identify opportunities to host regional conversations with current, past, and future program participants.

3. Effective and Efficient Processes– Recognizing that the efficient and effective operation of the division and the VR program is critical to accomplishing the DHS mission, improving morale, and better serving VR customers, Ms. Johnson is committed to evaluating, revising, and implementing business practices that simplify and improve the process for both customers and staff. This includes an examination of how the division is organized and the resources needed to support the division and its programs.

4. Talent Focus– Getting the right talent and resources in the division is a key ingredient in the recipe for changing the culture of state government. Johnson is working to recruit and retain top talent and improve customer service for Tennesseans.

Mandy Johnson

Mandy Johnson

With these four priorities serving as the foundation, the Division of Rehabilitation Services will be ready to contribute to the department’s mission of building a thriving Tennessee.

In her role at TennCare, Ms. Johnson had oversight of program quality and contractual compliance for all TennCare LTSS programs operated by the state’s contracted managed care organizations and the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. These programs included the CHOICES program for older adults and adults with physical disabilities, the new Employment and Community First CHOICES program for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, the state’s three 1915(c) waivers for individuals with intellectual disabilities, and the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

One of her greatest accomplishments while at TennCare was implementing the Employment and Community First CHOICES program.  With its implementation, Tennessee became the first state in the country to launch an integrated, home and community based services program that aligns incentives with supporting integrated, competitive employment and independent living as the first and preferred option for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Prior to joining TennCare, Ms. Johnson served as a training specialist for the University of Tennessee Institute for Public Service in the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, a safety education specialist for the Knoxville Police Department, and a grant program specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice.  In total, she has more than 18 years’ experience managing federal, state and local government programs.  She is a graduate of LEAD Tennessee, a professional development program for current and emerging leaders offering 12 months of

intense, high-impact training in 12 leadership core competencies, and she holds a Bachelor of Science degree from East Tennessee State University, a Master of Arts from Indiana University, and has completed coursework towards a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and Public Administration at the University of Tennessee.

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My thanks to Devin for introducing our readers to Mandy. I got to know Mandy last year when she and I made several presentations together about the new Employment and Community First CHOICES waiver program. I was delighted when I heard of Mandy’s new role with the Division of Rehabilitation Services, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes that her knowledge and enthusiasm will bring to the division.

As always, if you have questions about the blog, please contact me, Janet Shouse, at janet.shouse@vumc.org.