GCDD'S Five Year Planning Process Update – August 2020

GCDD SM Canva Townhall All 20 07What We Learned from the Virtual Townhall Listening Sessions

To encourage more robust participation, virtual townhalls were scheduled in August to discuss various topics that will inform GCDD’s next Five Year Plan. 

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the townhall meetings, you can still advocate for yourself, your family member or someone you know by taking our online survey or signing up for a focus group

Below is a summary of each event:

Townhall 1: Thursday, August 13, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Topic: Race, Equity and Intersectionality

The first meeting focused on the issue of the intersection of disability and other identities such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

During this townhall, participants were asked “In the disability community and service agencies, how have BIPOC (i.e. Black, Indigenous People of Color) been overlooked and how? What can GCDD do differently in the next five years to address inequities?”

Among the themes that emerged were that people of color with disabilities are less represented on boards and/or committees of organizations focused on disability. This often results in the disability community being pitted against other marginalized communities for scarce resources. Many people of color believe that when there are scarce resources providers prioritize white people because they are perceived as more deserving. This means that supports provided through Medicaid waivers and state-funded services are not as available, resulting in people of color with disabilities ending up in skilled nursing facilities and other segregated institutions. In addition, people with disabilities are harmed by services lacking an intersectional lens, and people are often asked to sever their identity in order to receive the bare minimum of services. 

Another theme that emerged was that there are many people from marginalized communities still are missing from the discussions about disability. This includes not only people of color, but people who live in rural areas, immigrants, the LGBTQIA+ community and people experiencing homelessness. Many people expressed concern that not enough people with the lived experience of disability are involved in leadership roles. 

Participants also suggested that GCDD should conduct more outreach and listen to people who are part of marginalized communities and work to make sure that those who do not use English as their primary language have access to resources. This could include more townhall events, training on cultural and linguistic competence and commissioning a whitepaper that examines the equity lens and disability and the intersection of race. Attendees also suggested GCDD conduct an equity audit to determine if their policies, procedures and operations support an intersectional lens. In addition, GCDD should continue to focus on voter access and the school-to-prison pipeline.   

Townhall 2: Tuesday, August 18 , 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Topic: General discussion of programs people would like to see funded in the state of Georgia by GCDD 

The second townhall meeting asked people more general questions about the current state of services and what people hope these services will look like in five years.

The first question asked was, “Think about our state five years from now. What will it look like for people with disabilities? What will need to change, and how can GCDD contribute to those changes during the next five years.?” 

Most people who participated wanted the future to be more hopeful and optimistic. This means that people with disabilities receive the services required to be participating members of their community and that there will be more people with disabilities in the community and sitting “at the table with voices that are heard and faces that are seen.” However, there were those participants who believe that, based on the current environment, more people with disabilities will not have adequate services in five years.

Additionally, attendees discussed that services are often pitted against each other because the system has a “scarcity” mentality. This suggests that there will never be enough financial and human resources to meet the needs of people with developmental disabilities. It was suggested that GCDD focus on the individual and individual needs; spend the time to build bridges into the many communities that comprise society and that should be working together to improve the lives of all people; and collect data over the long term to understand what is happening for individuals and families. 

Other discussions focused on advocacy. Participants offered that, if GCDD’s role is to be the legislative arm, the organization should offer more Advocacy Days and ways to involve people with disabilities in leadership. The council’s advocacy efforts should focus on policies that fight for systemic change in employment, transition, housing and transportation. In order to do this, GCDD should act more like grassroots organizers who are on the ground being with people, listening and amplifying voices. In addition, GCDD should focus on how to create increased collaboration among its funded programs. That collaboration should also be focused on how to help state agencies, providers and advocates collaborate on issues.

Townhall 3: Thursday, August 27, 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Topic: General discussion of programs people would like to see funded in the state of Georgia by GCDD

The third and final townhall meeting asked people more general questions about the current state of services and what people hope they will look like in five years. Just as in the previous event, the first question asked was, “Think about our state five years from now. What will it look like for people with disabilities? What will need to change, and how can GCDD contribute to those changes during the next five years.?” 

Much of the conversation that took place can be summed up by the comments of one participant: “Public policy is the key to systems change.” Thiswas reflected in the robust conversations about the need to address the waiting list for home and community-based services. This means that there must be increased funding for services such as family supports, employment, housing, transportation, assistive technology and therapies – whether through the Medicaid waiver program or state-funded services. 

It was also suggested that the home and community-based infrastructure needs to be modernized. As an example, it was suggested that parents who provide supports to their children should be paid as caregivers. Many participants suggested that GCDD needs to expand its advocacy efforts in order to address these issues. 

Attendees also shared that many people with developmental disabilities have been left out of conversations like these. This is often a result of society’s failure to assume competence when interacting with people with developmental disabilities. For example, people with autism who attended the town hall meeting expressed their concern about the availability of healthcare for adults with autism. Doctors are not trained adequately, and many therapies are not covered by private or public insurance programs.

These participants also pointed out that police forces need to be trained on disabilities such as autism so that people do not unnecessarily end up in the justice system. In addition, rural Georgia does not receive the attention it deserves, and because of a lack of technology (e.g. access to broadband Internet), they are unable to participate in townhall meetings or telehealth. Others who have been left out of these conversations include people of color; those who speak languages other than English; people in congregate settings including prisons and jails; and those who have dual diagnoses. 

Why is this important? The Five Year Strategic Plan determines how GCDD will allocate funding to create systems change for individuals with developmental disabilities and family members through advocacy and capacity building activities.

Currently, the council is working off the 2017-2021 plan that focuses on five goals: Education, Employment, Formal and Informal Supports, Real Communities and Self-Advocacy.

Last Chance for the Online Survey!

Participate in the development of the next GCDD Five Year Strategic Plan (2022-2026) by completing our online survey. Your feedback, comments and suggestions will be used to better define community expectations regarding our programs, services and activities.

The online survey should take 5-10 minutes to complete and is available in both English and Spanish. To date we’ve had more than 100 responses, but we know there are thousands of people who care about their communities and the lives of Georgians with developmental disabilities, so please let us hear from you. The deadline to submit surveys is 11:59 PM on Friday, September 4, 2020.

Click here to take the survey in English.   Click here to take the survey in Spanish.

Apply to Participate in a Focus Group

To collect information on how funding and resources impact specific populations, GCDD will hold six virtual focus groups in September. These focus groups, ranging in size from five to seven participants, will facilitate conversations with advocates, families and providers. 


September 2:


September 4:

September 9:

September 10:

Click here to apply for a focus group online.   Click here to download an application in word.

Take the Online Survey or Sign Up for a Focus Group

For more information and updates about GCDD’s current Five Year Plan and associated processes, please visit our website.