A Digital Newsletter from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities • September 2022
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities newsletter from keeps you up-to-date on the latest news from what’s happening with public policy in Georgia to COVID-19 updates to upcoming events. This issue has a special feature on The GCDD Storytelling Project's latest film and an introduction of GCDD's new executive director, D'Arcy Robb.
In This Issue:
- A Message from GCDD Council Chairman
- GCDD Welcomes New Executive Director D’Arcy Robb
- GCDD’s Public Policy Team Legislative Session Planning Survey
- COVID-19 Update
- The GCDD Storytelling Project Returns to Macon
- 2022 GCDD Candidate Forum
- Calendar Spotlight
A Message from GCDD Council Chairman
We hope you have enjoyed a great summer! As we head toward the fall, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is excited about the work that we are doing to help improve the lives of Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) community. This month’s e-newsletter provides an update on what you can look forward to GCDD tackling in the months ahead.
First and foremost, we are excited to announce our new executive director, D’Arcy Robb, who comes to GCDD with a great amount of experience in the IDD space. Robb recently served as the Public Policy Director for GCDD. Robb plans on keeping GCDD’s five-year strategic plan on track, getting the IDD community ready for the upcoming election, and preparing for the 2023 session of the Georgia General Assembly while tackling the NOW/COMP waiver waitlist.
GCDD’s Public Policy Team is also beginning to look toward the upcoming legislative session and need your input as they plan their work for GCDD’s 2023 public policy agenda. Please take a moment to complete the Public Policy Survey and read this newsletter’s public policy update. In this issue, you will learn about COVID-19 updates and events, including a webinar scheduled for September 15 addressing COVID vaccines for children ages six months to five years old. The GCDD Storytelling Project also has an event on September 17 in Macon, Georgia, showcasing 10 new self-advocates in their new Treasure Maps film.
It has been a few years and now it is back, the GCDD Candidate Forum is scheduled for September 29. This is a forum where GCDD invites individuals running for public office to speak on issues of importance to Georgia’s disability community. Do not forget to check out the e-news Calendar Spotlight and GCDD’s Calendar of Events to find activities and events in communities throughout Georgia.
We hope you enjoy reading this newsletter and that these articles and updates provide you with new and useful information. We want to hear from you! Let us know your thoughts and comments about the newsletter by writing to .
Nick Perry, Chairman
GCDD Welcomes New Executive Director D’Arcy Robb
After a thorough search, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) welcomes new executive director D’Arcy Robb. Robb comes to GCDD with several years of experience working in the intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) community. As the new executive director, she will focus on GCDD’s relationships, its network, and focus on how the agency is using its talents and resources. Additionally, she will work with the staff to analyze their environment and current activities and ensure that they are getting their five-year plan goals underway. Robb also wants the staff with her help to be sure to get information on voting out to the IDD community in the upcoming election and prepare for the 2023 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
“Self-advocates and family members will always be at the heart of GCDD. My approach as the executive director will be collaborative and relationship based. I want to keep GCDD grounded in values, ethics, resiliency, support, and growth,” she said. “As an organization, we need to have a constant focus on connection, vision, strategy, and action. Some of the actions I’m particularly interested in are ending the waiting list for NOW and COMP waivers and replacing the lifelong systems of segregation that all too often surround folks with disabilities with innovative, inclusive supports that let people move through the world living their best lives.”
“I’m honored to welcome D’Arcy back to GCDD as the new executive director,” said Nicholaus Perry, GCDD’s Council Chairman. “We’re fortunate to have her and excited for the future of the organization.”
Robb has a bachelor’s degree from Williams College and a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Kentucky. She served as the Public Policy Director for GCDD in 2013 for almost two years. Prior to that role, she served as the Public Policy Coordinator for the Commonwealth Council on Developmental Disabilities, GCDD’s equivalent in Kentucky, which she loved.
Past roles that Robb has held include being a part-time consultant for Employment First Georgia for GCDD, a Special Projects Coordinator for the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency (GVRA), and most recently, the Program Manager and Interim Family First Program Director for DFCS (formally known as the Georgia Department of Human Services’ Division of Family and Children Services).
What she is most proud of in her career includes leading Employment First Georgia and the inaugural year of Take Your Legislator to Work Day, an effort that ultimately led to the passage of Georgia’s Employment First legislation. Robb is also proud to have begun GCDD’s Advocacy Days, to have spearheaded the Georgia Evolution Conference during her time at GVRA, and to have been part of the team that successfully advocated for the first-ever regulations on restraint and seclusion in Kentucky public schools.
“I am thrilled and humbled to be joining GCDD as the new executive director,” Robb said. “I am a family member to multiple people with developmental disabilities and am so excited to come into this role and work as a part of this community.”
Robb is happily married to her husband Todd, has an eight-year-old daughter named Annika, and has three cats. In her free time, she is a competitive adult ice skater who loves to write, travel, and relax by the water. Robb began work with GCDD on September 1, 2022. For more information, visit www.gcdd.org.
GCDD’s Public Policy Team Prepares for the 2023 Legislative Session
Public Policy for the People provides public policy updates as it pertains to people with disabilities here in Georgia.
As summer winds down, GCDD’s Public Policy Team is beginning to look toward the upcoming legislative session, and we need your input as we work to build our 2023 public policy agenda! As we begin planning which priorities we want to tackle, we appreciate hearing from the community on the issues that matter most. To make sure we have public input each year, we put together a brief survey that allows advocates and organization representatives the opportunity to make their voices heard. GCDD’s Public Policy Team takes lead on 2 to 3 priorities each legislative session, making sure that those issues are in alignment with our five-year strategic plan. In addition, we look to support partner organizations on policy priorities in which they plan to lead during the session. The survey is an opportunity for you to vote on GCDD’s priorities, submit additional policy areas for consideration, and request GCDD’s support on issues your organization is leading. In addition, we also seek input on how we can best host our annual advocacy days.
Last year, we heard from hundreds of community members, and the results clearly showed that the top two priorities for the community were NOW/COMP waiver slots and direct support professional (DSP) wages. GCDD’s Public Policy Team got to work on those issues, focusing two of our 2022 advocacy days on those topics and partnering with the community to educate legislators on the importance of those issues. We were thrilled to see the hard work pay off with the unprecedented funding for NOW/COMP waivers, as well as funding for a provider rate increase which is the mechanism required to increase the wages of DSPs.
This year, in order to have another successful legislative session, we are asking that you take 2-3 minutes to complete our 2023 Legislative Session Planning Survey and share it with your networks. The survey includes policy areas such as: subminimum wage, NOW/COMP waivers, home and community-based services (HCBS) rates, inclusive postsecondary education (IPSE) programs, mental health, and housing. As mentioned above, you will also have the opportunity to fill in any additional policy issues that you believe are most important. The deadline for submitting your response is Monday, September 26, at 11:59pm. We look forward to hearing from you. For more information or for any questions, please contact GCDD’s Legislative Advocacy Director, Charlie Miller, at or GCDD’s Public Policy Research and Development Director, Dr. Alyssa Miller, at .
Books, Backpacks, and Boosters: Your COVID Update for the Fall
By Naomi D. Williams, GCDD Vaccination Project Coordinator
Welcome Back Friends!
Summer vacation has come to an end and we’re getting back into the familiar school routine. Class supplies have been purchased and secured. Paper towels and cleaning wipes for the classroom teacher have been delivered. Extracurricular activities or weekly therapies are back and in full effect. Biding time and waiting to be seated under those Friday night lights because we’re ready for some football. Whether you have a child starting daycare, kindergarten, middle school, high school, college, or find yourself with no need for first day pictures, school is back in session.
The beginning of this school year resembles that of 2019 and the many years before it. It has a sense of familiarity of what a typical school year looks and feels like, regaining something we all lost March 2020. While we embrace the comforts of normalcy, be mindful that COVID-19 and its subvariants are still with us.
Many lessons have been learned over the past two years, enabling us to be back together, better. The wait is over, allowing anxiety levels to ease as vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) have been approved and made available for children six months to five years and older. The dosage amount and spacing timeframe for full vaccination in this age group is different than the older age groups. As always, be sure to talk with your child’s pediatrician or primary doctor if you have questions and want to discuss any concerns.
New guidance from the CDC released August 11, 2022, shares updates on when and for how long to quarantine or isolate if you test positive for COVID-19, and details of what to do if you or child have been exposed to someone positive. The guidance took into consideration all that has been learned, what worked and what didn’t, and the necessary steps to reduce the risk of severe illness.
As we move forward and learn how to live life around COVID and other viruses during the cold and flu season, we can give ourselves and our children of all ages a boost. You can boost your immune system by:
- Drinking plenty of water
- Getting restful sleep at night
- Eating healthy meals with fruits and vegetables
- Taking the recommended daily dose of vitamin C
- Staying up to date with recommended vaccinations and boosters
- Washing hands often with soap and water
Locations for Vaccination and Boosters
For children, connect with your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor to schedule an appointment for vaccination. For adults, connect with your primary care doctor or medical home to schedule an appointment for your vaccination or booster. Vaccinations are still being provided free of charge. If you don’t have a primary doctor or medical home, you can contact your local health department or go to www.vaccines.gov to find a place to get the shot near you.
Remember: People may be over covid, but covid is not over!
The GCDD Storytelling Project Returns to Macon to Chronicle the Lives of People with Developmental Disabilities
Treasure Maps: Macon, which is the newest iteration of The GCDD Storytelling Project, a partnership between the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD), L’Arche Atlanta, and StoryMuse, is headed to Macon this fall. The film screening and community celebration will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 17, 2022, at the Elaine Lucas Center in Macon. The gates will open at 6:30 p.m., pre-show begins at 7:00 p.m., and the program and film start at 8:00 p.m.
Ten storytellers from the Macon area are featured in the anthology of short films, which showcase independent living, love, health, family, community volunteerism, and even a newfound career in stand-up comedy. The ten storytellers are:
- Gregory Childs
- Stuart Evans
- Lydia Foss
- Tyler Harper
- Nandi Isaac
- Crawford Lyman
- Guillermo Ramon
- Valerya Robinson
- Sara Whitby
- Tamika Woods
Shannon M. Turner, lead artist on Treasure Maps: Macon and the Founder & Creative Director of StoryMuse said, “The primary objective of this project is to provide a virtual stage for the important stories of people with developmental disabilities, inviting their stories in from the margins to the center of our communities. An equally important component is to provide education and advocacy to the general population and legislators around the Medicaid waiver, a vital funding structure which supports the lives of people with developmental disabilities so they can live independently.”
The GCDD Storytelling Project was created four years ago in partnership between GCDD and L’Arche Atlanta to increase public awareness and motivate Georgia legislators to act now for individuals in Georgia with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), a remarkably underserved community. By providing living portraits of Georgians, some of whom have, some have not, received the life-altering gift of a Medicaid waiver, the project’s goal is to expand cross-sector allies and garner voices of support outside of the developmental disabilities community. Treasure Maps aims to paint a fuller picture of the complex, beautiful lives of these Georgia citizens who do not deserve to be sequestered in institutions. The goal is to create a meeting place for people to engage with the life stories of Georgia residents living with a developmental disability and provide a platform for participants to be known on a human level and to understand the policies that govern the extent of their own self-determination.
Last year, the first set of short films, Treasure Maps: The Georgia Storytelling Roadshow 2021, traveled the state and captured the stories of ten individuals with developmental disabilities. The films covered various themes including Indian cooking, owning a jewelry business, and the joy of being an Elvis impersonator. The complete set of ten inaugural Treasure Maps short films are available on GCDD’s YouTube channel.
“What began as a legislative advocacy project for advocates to have a tool to share their stories during Georgia’s legislative session has grown into something so much greater,” shares Maria Pinkelton, GCDD Public Relations Director and Storytelling Project manager. “This project and the pieces that have been produced from it: the individual stories and photos, podcast episodes, the documentary 6,000 Waiting, and the first set of Treasure Maps short films have shown the diverse voices and lives of Georgians with developmental disabilities and their families in a way we never could have imagined.”
The production and screening of the Treasure Maps: Macon is the first project of a yearlong three-part series of work being done under the Storytelling Project umbrella. Building on L’Arche Atlanta’s experience in shining a spotlight on Georgians with developmental disabilities for the past four years through the art of stories, they will join their partners in offering two other opportunities for individuals to have their voices heard. Budding storytellers will have the opportunity to tell their stories through traditional interview-based journalistic stories with photographs or, through a partnership with Cow Tipping Press, participate in a workshop that will build their capacity to develop a thorough understanding of the art of story building and how to convey their own stories. A formal, public book launch will cap the work with Cow Tipping Press.
Weather permitting, the September 17 show will take place outside in the yard, but in the event of inclement weather, the show will be moved inside. Local partners include Storytellers Macon and Macon-Bibb Parks & Recreation, River Edge Behavioral Health, Wesley Glen Ministries, Citizen Advocacy, and The Arc of Macon. The collection of short films will be produced by Atlanta-based Xerophile Studios.
Since 2018 L’Arche Atlanta and their partners have traveled the state collecting images and stories of Georgians with developmental disabilities and the lives they live. So far more than 150 stories have been told through the two seasons of the Hidden Voices podcast, the documentary 6,000 Waiting, and short and long form written stories with accompanying photographs. View these works and learn more about how you can participate in an upcoming storytelling event by visiting our website at story-collection.gcdd.org.
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities 2022 Candidate Forum
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) will host the 2022 GCDD Candidate Forum on disability issues Thursday, September 29, at 6:00 p.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott Decatur Hotel and Conference Center, located at 130 Clairemont Avenue, Decatur, Georgia 30030.
This is GCDD’s second Candidate Forum. The purpose of this event is to invite individuals who are running for public office to speak on issues of importance to Georgia’s disability community. Georgians with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and community members will have the opportunity to hear from candidates running for public office. Affordable health care, educational opportunities, voting access, and more continue to present challenges for Georgians with disabilities. GCDD and its partners look forward to hearing how these candidates will work to remove them. In addition, attendees will have the opportunity to learn about voting accessibility and what to expect when they go to the polls this November.
The candidates who have been invited to participate are competing for the following offices:
- Lieutenant Governor
- Secretary of State
- Insurance Commissioner
- Attorney General
- Labor Commissioner
- State Superintendent of Schools
- US Senator for Georgia
This will be a hybrid event with virtual and in-person opportunities to participate. This event is free and open to the public, refreshments will be served, but registration is required. There is limited seating for in-person attendees. Register for the forum now to secure your seat. For more information about this event or to register, visit https://2022CandidateForum.eventbrite.com.
GDDN COVID-19 Pediatric Vaccines for 6 months and Up Webinar
September 15, 6:00 p.m.
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