New DIDD Commissioner Brings a Parent’s Passion to His Role

By Brad Turner

Brad Turner, Commissioner, Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

In 2011, the General Assembly established the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities as a standalone executive-level department. Since then, the department has led the way in efforts to expand community inclusion and independence by closing the state’s large, congregate developmental centers, expanding the state’s Employment First efforts, and launching the Enabling Technology Program. Recently appointed by Gov. Bill Lee as the third commissioner of this department, I’m excited to step up to the challenge of continuing this work and ensuring the state is providing the best quality supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

I come to this role after a career in health care, as director of client services for HealthStream Inc.  My passion for service came from my position as a Rutherford County commissioner for almost nine years, and as a member of the State Interagency Coordinating Council for Tennessee Early Intervention System.  However, the most important credential I bring to this job is that of a parent. My daughter, Kinsley, was born with cerebral palsy and has both intellectual and developmental disabilities. While I might wear the commissioner hat from 9 to 5, my parent and caregiver hat never comes off.  It is what inspires me and influences me every day to do the best job to ensure we are meeting the needs of people with disabilities and their families in the state of Tennessee.

As a parent, I know there is still a ways to go in Tennessee and in the nation to achieve full access and community inclusion.  The department is already invested in important initiatives to help increase independence and support people to contribute to their communities. I am especially excited about DIDD’s work to bring enabling technologies to the people it supports.  We’ve already seen life-changing results that have provided opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities to go from a supported living environment with 24-hour staff to living independently with the support of technology.  The department has one Enabling Technology Home operational in Greeneville and another in Nashville that will be finished in the next few weeks, and we are excited to invite stakeholders to tour them to learn more about the various ways that technology can support people in their day-to-day lives and help them meet their goals. (More about that in a future blog post!)

The department’s Employment First efforts are also very important to me.  I want to continue the work to move towards competitive, integrated employment for all people with disabilities and expand on our outreach efforts to the business community.  We have many excellent partner state agencies, and I’m proud of the work that’s already been done through the Employment First Task Force. I hope that we can continue to break down the barriers that still exist in the business community so that more employers open their doors to employees with disabilities and learn about the dedication, work ethic, and value they can bring to the workplace.

Overall, my focus for DIDD is on the outcomes that matter for people with disabilities and their families.  It’s about ensuring we create a more livable Tennessee for all people.  And that’s where we need your help.   I like to say that a good idea can come from anywhere. It doesn’t have to come from the commissioner’s office or within the walls of DIDD.  In order to truly understand the needs that exist in the community, we need to hear feedback from the community.  I’m working hard to get to all corners of the state to learn about the how DIDD impacts both rural and urban areas, and where we can improve our services. You are always welcome to email me your thoughts at Brad.Turner@tn.gov.

DIDD strives to be the most person-centered service delivery system in the nation for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to build upon the foundation that’s already been laid and work with a team that truly works tirelessly to support people with disabilities live the lives they envision for themselves.

I’d like to thank Commissioner Turner for taking the time to share a little bit about himself and his plans for the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. I know he’s busy because I’m seeing photos of him on Facebook from all corners of the state.

As always, if you have questions you’d like answered, please email me at janet.shouse@vumc.org. Thanks for reading!