Voices4Choices Helps ECF CHOICES Members’ Voices Be Heard

By Leisa Hammett

About the Author

Picture of Leisa Hammett

Photo Credit: Hunter Armistead

Leisa Hammett is an author and a speaker and a two-decades-plus “disAbility” advocate who has worked on a myriad of causes, including the promotion of opportunities for artists with disabilities, such as her daughter, Grace Goad. Most recently, before the creation of Voices4Choices and being hired as a Middle Tennessee regional organizer, she actively advocated, as a consumer and collectively for other consumers, for various improvements in the ECF CHOICES program.

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What if, similar to the training families can receive about special education advocacy and the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act, those with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their family members could receive training in advocacy about long term supports and services and Tennessee’s Medicaid waiver programs? What if training for effective leadership were offered to help provide greater feedback for quality improvement in the new Employment and Community First CHOICES waiver program? Or training to be able to better serve on special needs health care advisory councils to affect change?

Welcome to Family Voices of Tennessee’s Voices4Choices. Family Voices of Tennessee is a part of the Tennessee Disability Coalition, which received a grant to focus on this effort. This funding enables Family Voices and the Tennessee Disability Coalition to enhance input into Tennessee’s evolving ECF CHOICES program. ECF CHOICES serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and Voices4Choices is seeking input of “consumers,” defined as those who have applied and/or are receiving services, their families and their conservators. The two-year Voices4Choices project will provide training and support for ECF members, family members and conservator to serve on advisory councils created by TennCare and the managed care organizations (the MCOs-BlueCare, United Health and Amerigroup).

There are great opportunities for feedback that can support the future effectiveness of the ECF CHOICES program. Consumers’ voices, when informed and focused, can help transform systems to be effective and accountable. The aim of Voices4Choices is to develop and insert an organized and permanent consumer voice in health care.

Starting in June, Voices4Choices is conducting across the state six “Listening Sessions” (see below,) followed soon after by training for effective advisory group service and leadership. Next year, we’ll spearhead leadership training for other special needs health care advisory groups.

Voices4Choices recognizes that not all consumers know how to effectively advocate for themselves or within advisory groups. To assist with the “Listening Sessions” and for these future trainings, the Voices4Choices team has three regional organizers, including myself, Leisa Hammett, in the Middle Tennessee region; Sara Scott, in East Tennessee, and Leslie Pierini Jones, in West Tennessee.

The dates, times, locations, registration links for the “Listening Sessions,” and the regional organizers’ contact information are:

Picture of Voices Team

See photo caption below

West Tennessee:

Monday, June 11, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Memphis Center for Independent Living
1633 Madison Avenue
Memphis, TN 38104
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/y8s8ccq5

Monday, June 25, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Jackson Center for Independent Living
1981 Hollywood Dr.
Jackson, TN 38305
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/ycbqf4s3

West Regional Organizer:Leslie Jones,leslie_j@tndisability.org, 901-290-3758

Middle Tennessee:

Thursday, June 14, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

The Arc Williamson County

Community Services Building
129 W Fowlkes St., Suite 151
Franklin, TN
Registerat: https://tinyurl.com/yayhd6yj

Tuesday, June 26, 6:00-7:30 p.m.

Hermitage Library
3700 James Kay Lane
Hermitage, TN
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/y8e8dmfj

Middle Regional Organizer: Leisa Hammett,leisa_h@tndisability.org, 615-422-747

East Tennessee:
Tuesday, June 12, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Orange Grove Center
615 Derby St.
Chattanooga, TN
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/y7wgtcu5

Tuesday, June 19, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Sertoma Center
1400 E. Fifth Ave.
Knoxville, TN
Register at: https://tinyurl.com/y8vgc4ws

East Regional Organizer: Sara Scott,s_scott@tndisability.org, 423-405-7645

Each region also offers a Facebook group exclusive to ECF members to share information, learn concerns, and empower consumers to use their voices to affect change. They are @FVTNVoices4Choices-East,@FVTNVoices4Choices-Middleand @FVTNVoices4Choices-West.

Tennessee’s ECF CHOICES program created new and greater opportunities for inclusive employment, community engagement and supported living for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With Voices4Choices, ECF CHOICES members, their families and conservators also have an opportunity to create new advocacy partnerships where all voices can be heard in order to affect change. If you have an intellectual or developmental disability, or you have a family member with a disability, or you are the conservator for someone with a disability, and have applied for or are receiving supports and services through ECF CHOICES,please join us in our upcoming “Listening Sessions” and join our Facebook groups. We look forward to meeting you and serving with you!

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My thanks to my longtime friend Leisa for sharing this information about the efforts of this project to help stakeholders have a greater, lasting voice in supporting the ECF CHOICES program to meet the needs of Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Group photo:
From left to right: West Region Organizer Leslie Pierini Jones, Middle Region Organizer Leisa Hammett and East Region Organizer Sara Scott attended a workshop recently in South Carolina to learn additional skills for engaging families of special health care needs consumers in systems-level change.