Minutes — February 2015 Committee of the Whole Meeting

2015 Council and Committee Meetings


Council Members Present

  • Mary Durheim, Council Chair
  • Hunter Adkins
  • Kimberly Blackmon
  • Kristine Clark
  • Gladys Cortez
  • Kristen Cox
  • Mateo Delgado
  • Elaine Eisenbaum, UT CDS
  • Mary Faithfull, DRT
  • Stephen Gersuk
  • Ivy Goldstein, DSHS
  • Sara Kendall, DARS
  • Penny Larkin, DADS
  • Ruth Mason
  • Michael Peace
  • Dana Perry
  • Brandon Pharris
  • Amy Sharp, A&M CDD
  • David Taylor
  • Lora Taylor
  • Richard Tisch
  • Nancy Walker, HHSC

Council Members Absent

  • Andrew Crim
  • Diana Kern
  • Scott McAvoy
  • Cindy Swain, TEA
  • John Thomas

Guests Present

  • Cindy Burrow
  • Annalee Chaumont
  • Shiloh Gonzales, DARS
  • Chris Masey
  • Megan Morgan
  • Darryl Powell

Staff Members Present

  • Roger Webb, Executive Director
  • Martha Cantu
  • Belinda Carlton
  • Joanna Cordry
  • Sonya Hosey
  • Linda Logan
  • Susan Mihalik
  • Jessica Ramos
  • Joshua Ryf
  • Koren Vogel

Call To Order

The Committee of the Whole of the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities convened on Thursday, February 5, 2015, in the Hill Country B Ballroom of the Holiday Inn Austin Midtown, 6000 Middle Fiskville Road, Austin, TX 78752. Council Chair Mary Durheim called the meeting to order at 9:07 AM.

1.  Introductions

Council members, staff and guests introduced themselves.

2.  Public Comments

o public comments were offered.

3.  Chair and Executive Director Remarks

Executive Director Roger Webb announced that he plans to retire from TCDD on June 12, 2015. Webb discussed his decision with the Executive Committee and staff Wednesday, February 4, 2015. Webb noted that it has been his pleasure to serve the Council for 31 years, nearly 30 as Executive Director, and promote opportunities for independence and inclusion for people with disabilities. Chair Durheim indicated that she would discuss the process to select the next Executive Director later during the Council meeting.

Durheim reported on absences for these meetings of John Thomas, Diana Kern, Scott McAvoy and Cindy Swain. Andy Crim was present for the Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday but is not able to attend meetings Thursday or Friday.

Webb discussed future training opportunities for Council members and staff. The Disability Policy Seminar will take place in Washington DC, April 11–13, 2015. Webb noted that with the Texas Legislature in session, TCDD Public Policy staff are not able to attend. Planning Coordinator Joanna Cordry will attend since she is a member of the NACDD Board. The NACDD Annual Conference will be July 20–22, 2015 in Reno, NV. Council members who are interested in attending either event should contact Webb or Durheim.

4.  Grant Project Highlights

TCDD Grants Management Specialist Susan Mihalik provided grant project highlights of the Enabling Technology grants. Mihalik reviewed with members the intent of the projects to improve employment options and educational outcomes for individuals with developmental disabilities by promoting collaboration between people with developmental disabilities and developers to create technology that would enable people with developmental disabilities to gain and maintain competitive employment. Mihalik briefly described the Virtual Job Coach project of Strategic Education Solutions, LLC and the Working with HEART project of Educational Programs Inspiring Communities. Both projects have received $225,000 per year and are in their third year with the potential for two more years. Both projects provide overviews of their projects during this quarter’s meetings.

5.  Grantee Presentation: Strategic Education Solutions, LLC

Mihalik introduced Cindy Burrows, Strategic Education Solutions, LLC, project director of the Virtual Job Coach project. Burrows noted that she is the mother of an 11 year old with autism and has developed educational materials based on incremental instruction. She is collaborating with Social Motion Skills of Houston and Trinity Education Group on this project to develop a web-based application with training modules including career planning, job search, and workplace skills. Burrows reviewed the accomplishments of the first two years of the project including establishment of the project advisory committee, conducting a needs-based assessment for the tool, developing over 50 training modules, and expanding the tool’s usage to high school students. During the third year of the project the project is developing additional content, establishing video-based training for instructors and students for the use of the product and expanding recruitment of pilot groups to use the project. The project is also developing a sustainability plan that includes outreach to organizations that provide employment services such as the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and the Texas Workforce Commission. Burrows showed a video demonstrating the application’s usage.

6.  84th Texas Legislature

Public Policy Director Jessica Ramos provided an overview of the 84th Texas legislative session. She explained that the biennial revenue estimate allows $113 billion for general purpose spending with proposed House and Senate budgets at just under $100 billion. Ramos discussed changes in the Texas Senate including changing the rule requiring 2/3 of the members to bring legislation to the floor to now require only 3/5 of the members, and reviewed assignments to Senate Committees.

Ramos noted that a focus of the legislature will be on contract oversight as a result of issues with health and human services contracts. She also reviewed Sunset legislation for Texas Health and Human Services agencies that include moving vocational rehabilitation services to the Texas Workforce Commission and eliminating the autism program managed by the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services while providing funding to for autism services at the Texas Education Agency. Ramos also reviewed legislation of interest in the areas of education, higher education, long-term services and supports, employment and mental health.

7.  Public Policy Advocacy Strategies

Public Policy Director Ramos provided guidance on legislative visits reminding members that this is an opportunity for members to tell their personal stories, educate legislative staff on TCDD, and remind legislative staff that people with disabilities are voting constituents.

Ramos reviewed the Council’s priority issue of Community Living noting the Council’s position that individuals with disabilities should have access to opportunities and supports to be included in community life, have interdependent relationships, live in homes and communities, and make contributions to their families and communities. She provided talking points on this issue and encouraged members to share the leave-behind materials on the subject.

TCDD Public Policy Specialist Belinda Carlton discussed the Council’s priority issue of Guardianship Reform and Supported Decision Making. She reviewed TCDD’s position recommending increasing opportunities for, and protecting the civil rights and well-being of, people with developmental disabilities. Carlton discussed the efforts of the Guardianship and Supported Decision Making workgroup and its recommendations to change legal terminology from “ward” to “person under guardianship”, establish a bill of rights, develop a supported decision making agreement, direct courts to determine if guardianship alternatives work and to determine if the needs of the person under guardianship are being met, require guardians to make monthly visits, and allow persons under guardianship to determine where they live. Carlton further reviewed efforts from the Texas Office of Court Administration and Texas Judicial Council on this issue noting that they are in agreement with workgroup recommendations.

TCDD Public Policy Specialist Linda Logan discussed the Council’s priority issue of Employment. She reviewed the Council’s position that people with disabilities have the right to competitive wages, job-training, and career growth as life-long learners. She also reviewed the Texas’ Employment First policy which includes transition, self-determination, and access to technology and supports to obtain and keep employment. Logan also reviewed recommendations that expand higher education opportunities for people with disabilities, reward employers who provide integrated work environments, work to provide all people with competitive wages, and provide education on work incentive programs for SSI recipients.

Ramos provided background about Capitol visits and tips for making personal visits. She provided a sample introduction and a reminder of the Council’s mission to create change so that people with disabilities can be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.

Members received a presentation from TCDD Developmental Disabilities Policy Fellows Megan Morgan and Chris Masey. Ms. Morgan is a policy fellow with the Arc of Texas and has is focusing on policy issues around long-term services and supports, early intervention and education, guardianship alternatives, and employment. Mr. Masey is a policy fellow with the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities (CTD) and also the parent of a child with intellectual disabilities. Masey is working on a variety of topics including employment, mental health issues, state supported living centers, guardianship alternatives and community attendant care. Masey and Morgan also provided members with tips for Capitol visits including website links to the Texas Tribune for navigating the Texas Capitol.


Council Chair Durheim adjourned the Committee of the Whole adjourned at 12:55 PM.

Roger A. Webb, Secretary to the Council