New Assistant Director for ECF CHOICES Explains Her Passion for This Work, Shares Enrollment Data
By Janet Shouse
In my role at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, as part of the TennesseeWorks project, I get to attend a number of different meetings, where I learn new and fascinating things and meet wonderful, caring folks. I recently met Kathryn Snow, who goes by Kati, and she is TennCare’s new assistant director of Employment and Community First CHOICES and the Katie Beckett Waiver program. Given how important the Employment and Community First CHOICES program is to the employment of many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, I immediately asked Kati if she would be willing to answer some questions as a way of introducing herself to you, the regular readers of this blog. She jumped at the chance to share a little about herself. (And yes, I know the Katie Beckett Waiver is a worthwhile program, but employment is not a primary goal, and so I’m focusing on ECF CHOICES.)
Q: Kati, your title is assistant director of Employment and Community First CHOICES and Katie Beckett in the Division of TennCare’s Long Term Services and Supports. What does that job involve? And when did you start in this position?
A: I am still very new to the role, having just joined TennCare on July 11, 2022. As the assistant director of Employment and Community First CHOICES and Katie Beckett, I assist the new director, Gary Smith who just started in October, in managing the different aspects of both of these programs to ensure that each program serves its members in the best way possible. This includes maintaining communication with the three different managed care organizations and the fiscal employer agent, PPL, for members who use consumer direction. I also analyze monthly data, attend various community and council meetings, maintain enrollment and disenrollment, and assist members and their families with any issues that may arise, among many other tasks. I could probably write a whole article about all the things the job entails, but just know there is never an idle moment!
Q: You have the initials LMSW after your name. What do those initials stand for?
A: LMSW stands for Licensed Master Social Worker. That means that I have my master’s degree in social work (MSW are the letters used to represent my degree). When I graduated, I went on to study for and take a test through the state of Tennessee Board of Social Work. I passed that test, which allowed me to add “Licensed” to my title (the L in LMSW represents my license). I have continuing education requirements to complete each year in order to maintain my license. These continuing education requirements make sure that I stay up to date on policies, interventions, etc., to ensure that I am able to continue to serve each person in the best way possible.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your history? Where you are from? Where did you go to college? What led you to want to work with people with disabilities? If you’re not from Tennessee, how long have you been here? What are some other jobs you’ve had and liked?
A: I am from Tennessee, born and raised in Murfreesboro. I currently live in Bell Buckle with my wonderful husband, Ben, two dachshunds, Charlotte and Henry, and a cat, Cowboy. We do not have any children, but we do have four nieces and four nephews that keep us busy! When I graduated high school, I went on to attend Middle Tennessee State University. I loved the campus so much that I decided to complete my master’s degree at MTSU as well. As far back as I can remember, I have had a heart for serving others. My heart for serving others led me to pursue my Bachelor of Science in Child Development and Family Studies. While I was completing my bachelor’s degree, there was a class called “Aging Health and Development” that was required for my undergraduate program. That class led me to a local nonprofit continuing care community in Murfreesboro. (Editor’s note: For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “continuing care community,” it is a place that individuals can move to so that they are able to age in place with different levels of care, including independent living, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facility care/nursing home care.) My experiences in this class led me to pursue my Master of Social Work degree and ultimately led me into my work in continuing care communities, serving older adults and adults with disabilities whom I had the pleasure of serving for the last eight years or so. During my time in continuing care communities, I had the opportunity to refer individuals for services and supports to help them be as independent as possible in the community as well as advocate for the best interest of each individual to enhance their quality of life. I had a passion for helping others to see each individual as an intricate and unique human being that should have access to every right and resource that everyone else has access to as well as honoring each individual’s unique preferences, wants, and needs.
Q: What was most appealing to you about the ECF CHOICES/Katie Beckett assistant director’s post?
A: As mentioned earlier, I have a heart for serving others. While I had served in continuing care communities and absolutely loved the work that I did, I felt God calling me to something different. I had several conversations with family and friends of loved ones in the IDD community and different experiences that they had in regard to getting access to resources and services. As a social worker with a heart for serving others, hearing of these experiences got my brain working to figure out how to better help and serve these families. Ultimately, this led me to pursue a career with TennCare. Being able to shift my focus from older adults and adults with disabilities to a focus on children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families has truly been a blessing and a community that I am looking forward to serving for many years to come.
Q: What would you say are some of your core values? And why?
A: I would say some of my core values are compassion, integrity, honesty, respect, and kindness. At my core, I empathize with others and what they are going through and then do my best to try to help. I do my best to be honest and let my morals lead the way. I also always try to be sincere and humbly admit when I am wrong. From a young age, my parents taught me to respect others, regardless of whether I agree or not, and also to show kindness to everyone, regardless of how they treat me. These are all things that I try to uphold daily, both in my personal and professional roles.
Q: Do you have specific goals for the Employment and Community First CHOICES program as the new assistant director?
A: As of right now, the main goal that I have is to be sure that these programs continue to serve members in the best ways possible for our members. This means ensuring that members are able to gain access to the services and supports that they need to be successful and live as independently as possible in the community. I know that this is a very general goal, but I have only been with TennCare since July 11, and I am a firm believer that I need to take the time to really dive in and get to know the programs backwards and forwards before setting more specific goals. Employment and Community First CHOICES as well as Katie Beckett are both programs that are truly complex and unique. Many hours were poured into the development and continued growth of these programs over the years by staff, stakeholders, advocates, members, and families/support systems. I feel like in order to really be able to set specific goals for the future, I need to truly appreciate all of the effort that was poured into these programs so that I am better able to build from there. But please know that I am open to feedback and suggestions along the way.
Q: If you were able to tell families who are considering referring their son or daughter to ECF CHOICES one thing, what would that advice be? And why?
A: I would tell them to definitely apply! It is absolutely worth it. There are so many great things about ECF CHOICES and the supports and services that are provided through the program are amazing. It will give your son or daughter even more opportunity to grow and thrive. Every individual is capable of so much greatness! We just have to be sure the supports and opportunities are there to help show them just how great they are and how much they can achieve. ECF CHOICES and the wonderful network of MCOs and provider agency staff do this for individuals every single day.
Q: Can you update us on the numbers for Groups 4-8? Also, how many are currently on the referral list? And how many of those on the referral list are not currently in need of services, but just want their names on the list?
A: As of Sept. 30, 2022, here are the total enrollment numbers for Groups 4-8:
Group 4: 1,589 members
Group 5: 2,333 members
Group 6: 1,520 members
Group 7: 21 members
Group 8: 24 members
Total Enrollment for ECF CHOICES = 5,487 members
As we work to eliminate the referral list, if an individual is not interested in services at this time, then we are asking them to reapply for the program when they are ready to receive services. If you know of someone who was on the referral list but has not been contacted, please have them reach out to their health plan if they already have TennCare) or the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (if they do not have TennCare) at the following numbers:
- West Tennessee DIDD Regional Office: 866-372-5709
- Middle Tennessee DIDD Regional Office: 800-654-4839
- East Tennessee DIDD Regional Office: 888-531-9876
Q: Often individuals and families are accepted into the ECF CHOICES waiver program, but they cannot find the workers and therapists they need to provide the necessary supports and services. Do you have any suggestions on what they should do in those instances? Who should they contact? And how do we, as a state, improve this situation?
A: This is definitely a situation that is of utmost importance across the board for all involved and something that TennCare and the MCOs are actively working together to improve. In fact, there is a workforce development workgroup that meets to specifically address these issues and work toward innovative ways to combat workforce issues now and going forward. If you are interested in viewing some of the initiatives around this very important issue, here is the link to TennCare’s Workforce Initiative Toolkit: TennCare Workforce Initiative | TennCare (umn.edu) In the meantime, I would recommend keeping in contact with your support coordinator about your needs.
Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us, either about yourself, your plans or the ECF CHOICES program?
A: I just want to take a second to thank you for the opportunity to participate in your blog! It means the world to me to be able to introduce myself to your readers, many of whom are the members and families/support systems of the members we serve. And to our members, families, support systems: I want to say it is truly an honor to serve you all as the assistant director of ECF CHOICES and Katie Beckett for TennCare. Please know that my door (well, email since we are primarily work from home!) is always open and I would love to hear from you all. You can reach me at Kathryn.R.Snow@tn.gov. You all are at the heart of why we do what we do, and I want to take a moment to also encourage you all. Everyone (and I mean everyone) in Long-Term Services and Supports at TennCare has such a heart for serving others. I have yet to meet someone who is not truly passionate about the work that they do. So please know that you have a host of passionate folks working for you day in and day out. Thank you so much for taking a moment to read about me! I truly look forward to serving you all.
I appreciate Kati taking the time to thoughtfully answer my questions and to share some fairly personal details about her life and her reasons for choosing to do this work. I look forward to working with her as a colleague and perhaps sometimes as an advocate. I also appreciate the information on enrollment in ECF CHOICES; I think that information is useful for individuals and families to have. Thank you for taking the time to read, and if you have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you have a wonderful and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday!
Janet Shouse is a parent of a young adult with autism, and she is passionate about inclusion, employment of people with disabilities, medical issues related to developmental disabilities, supports and services, public policy, legislative initiatives, advocacy, and the intersection of faith and disability. She wears many hats at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center, including one as a disability employment specialist for TennesseeWorks.