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From Commissioner Jim Henry

Over the past 6 months, I’ve conducted an extensive assessment of the Department’s current capacity to meet the legislative mandate of establishing an ongoing planning process to guide the development and evaluation of home and community-based services for people with developmental disabilities. It is important to note that the legislation places additional responsibilities without additional revenue.

As most of you are aware, Tennesseans are demanding higher productivity and efficiency of public organizations.  Our Governor, being well aware of the need for a more effective and efficient state government, called for a Toto-Bottom review in all departments for the purpose of setting priorities and establishing measurable goals.  Today is Phase 1 of a process to be completed by October.

Governor Haslam stated in his Inaugural Address that “our measure of state government is whether our citizens are served well and at the lowest possible cost.” 

Therefore, we must look within our existing resources and begin the new phase of transforming the way we do government.  It is my desire that we challenge everything we do in the department.

I am aware that change and transition have a tendency to create anxiety and, for some, disappointment as they learn that they – or people they have worked with over the years – have new responsibilities or may be asked to change roles in order to better meet the needs of the new Department.

No personnel decisions were made without great thought and understanding about the impact on the person, their family and their co-workers. But in the end, both the Department’s organizational structure and leadership and managers have to be focused on the success of the new Department and its mandate to support those who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.

I’ve restructured the Leadership Team in order to meet the challenges of the new Department and to become a high performing entity while absorbing the impact of current and anticipated demand for growth (Waiting List etc), demands of litigation, and the possibility of a reduction in federal funding. This included an assessment of the existing structure inherited within the Department and our need going forward.              

We are fortunate to have Deputy Commissioner Debbie Payne who brings 30 years of policy and leadership experience in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Scott Modell, an internationally recognized leader in the field of developmental disabilities who specializes in serving people who have Autism to lead the charge in assembling our team that will be a crucial element in the success of the new Department. The new structure also reflects the central role of health as a cornerstone on which people build fulfilling and rewarding lives and will be led by Dr. Tom Cheetham who has more than 30 years of experience in intellectual and developmental disabilities.

A key element to the Leadership team and the most recent addition that I’d like to welcome is Ms. Vickey Coleman who previously assisted Dr. Nancy Ray, Court Monitor for the Arlington lawsuit. Ms. Coleman also worked with families to ensure that their loved ones who lived in a large institutional setting had the opportunity to take their rightful place in the community.  Vickey will lead the newly established Advocacy office.

With the combination of our newest members and the members of the existing Leadership, so many of whom have willingly accepted different leadership positions that are critical to the future of the new Department, I am confident that together we will evolve into a national model of excellence in service delivery.

This is the organizational framework that has been decided. I am tasking the Leadership Team over the next six (6) weeks to finalize the details about responsibilities and reporting lines that are needed in order to meet the legislative mandate of establishing a stand alone Department. I believe this plan provides the structure that will contribute to our success in the future.

The completion of Phase 1 of our transition will lead to a broader discussion of the Department’s new vision, mission and values. Dr. Scott Modell, the new Deputy Commissioner for Policy and Innovation will be setting up the process of engaging both the internal and external DIDD groups over the next three (3) months.

I am excited about the future of the new Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and I look forward to working with all of you to achieve optimal health and safety for all Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

DIDD Organizational Framework (pdf)

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