February 2024
New Report Suggests Racial Disparities for Communities of Color in Obtaining Services for Georgia’s Waiver Waitlists
Arlinda Smith Broady, Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities, Making A Difference Digital Magazine

A report released in October of 2023 by New Disabled South, a nonprofit that says it is “building a coalition of disability justice activists, advocates and organizations in the South,” used data provided by the state of Georgia to indicate that there is racial bias in approving funds to individuals on the waitlist. In New Disabled South’s report, “Uncovering Disparities in Georgia’s HCBS Waiver Waitlist,” the introduction to the executive summary points out that “troubling disparities have emerged in the distribution and utilization of [HCBS] waivers, with stark disparities in access and availability based on race.“

According to New Disabled South’s research, “75% of people on these waiting lists in this country reside in the South, and coupled with a nationwide shortage of care workers due to poverty wages, there is a critical care crisis facing the disability community, particularly those with I/DD [intellectual or other developmental disabilities].” 

When asked about her reaction to the New Disabled South report, Dr. Erin Vinoski Thomas, research
associate professor with the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences and interim co-director for the Center for Leadership in Disability School of Public Health at Georgia State University, didn’t seem surprised at the conclusions.

“My first reaction to the findings was that they confirm what those of us working to support Georgia’s disability community have long known — individuals with disabilities who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups tend to face even more significant barriers to accessing needed services than those who are white,” she wrote in answer to the same written questions asked of DBHDD.  Read More

Sam Fahmy, Georgia State University School of Public Health

With funding from Humana, the Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health: Birth to Five (GA-AIMH), housed in the Georgia State University School of Public Health Center for Leadership in Disability, will help prepare clinicians across the state to better support the mental health needs of young children and families.

Through a series of trainings, 24 mental health clinicians across Georgia will learn how to implement trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy (TF-CBT). This evidence-based treatment is designed for children, starting from age 3, who have experienced trauma, abuse, neglect or violence, which are known as adverse childhood experiences (ACES).

“The first five years of a child's development is such a critical period. It is during this time that the groundwork for lifelong healthy social-emotional development is established,” said Raynell Washington, GA-AIMH Project Manager. “Providing services and supports early on, by teaching children how to develop coping skills, regulate their emotions and build resiliency, lays the foundation for positive mental health.”

Washington explained that the goals of TF-CBT are to help children process a broad array of emotional
and behavioral difficulties associated with single, multiple and complex trauma experiences, and to adapt healthy coping skills that enable them to engage in day-to-day activities. Cognitive behavioral therapy is often referred to as “talk therapy,” but clinicians working with young children often incorporate elements of play therapy for children who use other forms of communication to describe their experiences.

More than 50 scientific studies have shown that trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy can reduce post-traumatic stress and symptoms of depression among youth while increasing their resiliency. With more than 126,000 cases of suspected abuse or neglect of children reported to the Georgia Division of Children and Family Services in 2023 alone, there’s a substantial need for trauma-informed clinicians trained to uplift and support family strengths and relationships.
The Georgia Association for Infant Mental Health: Birth to Five (GA-AIMH) Conference

GA-AIMH welcomed more than 180 participants at its annual conference on November 29, representing a diverse range of professionals in the infant and early childhood workforce, including early childhood educators, BCW providers, clinicians, mental health clinicians, medical providers, state-level and community partners, families, advocates, and more. The theme for this year, "Nurturing Connections Birth to Five," emphasized the significance of fostering connections to propel our work forward.
The keynote address by Dr. Stan C. Sonu delved into the concept of Systemic Empathy, emphasizing the need to cultivate systems that exhibit understanding, consideration, and compassion to address people's needs adequately. Raynell Washington, GA-AIMH's Manager, noted that Dr. Sonu's message profoundly resonated with the association's vision and mission, particularly in supporting children and families through an empathetic lens. She highlighted how his philosophy, asserting that systemic change requires systemic empathy, influenced her work approach.
The conference proved to be a day of valuable connections, insightful discussions, and shared passion, with each participant contributing to a meaningful and enriching experience.
Responsible Designers to Watch

The Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) news recognizes the movement of creative professionals to embrace responsibility by using their design principles, talents, and skills to make the world a better place as they see it. One of the creative leads they highlighted was Gail Rodriguez, Communications Manager with the Center for Leadership in Disability, School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

GD USA recognizes that creative professionals embrace responsibility with how, when, why, and for whom they work. The common thread: these are creative and thought leaders who use design principles, talents, and skills to make the world a better place as they see it. 
"My attraction to the nonprofit community is the passion everyone possesses within these organizations. Ultimately, as part of this passion, we are all part of the common goal of improving lives and seeing a change in the communities we serve," said Gail. "As a socially conscious designer and communicator, my goal is to consistently design something that is not only beautiful but powerful and most importantly, inclusive." Read More

University Programs
The Inclusive Digital Expression and Literacy (IDEAL) Program at GSU began the Spring 2024 semester with 23 students with intellectual disabilities. The students are enrolled in 30 inclusive courses, including art, film, music, theater, creative media industries, history, and geosciences departments across campus. IDEAL applications for the Fall semester are due March 1st. Apply Now!

Applications are open for the Georgia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program (GaLEND). GaLEND develops competencies in three domains: personal, working with others, and enhancing systems. Within these are 12 more specific leadership competencies, including self-reflection, critical thinking, cultural competence, communication, family-and-person-centered care, interdisciplinary team building, working in communities, and policy and advocacy. The program takes place over two semesters, starting August 26, 2024, and ending April 28, 2025. Apply Now!

Angad Sahgal, an IDEAL Student, won first place at Demo Day with the Main Street Entrepreneurs Seed Fund. Angad saw the potential for technology to help people with disabilities live independent lives. This led Angad to launch "Let Me Do It " – an application that supports disabled individuals and their support systems to help make decision-making more straightforward and accessible.  Read More
Project Updates
The CLD Disability and Health Linkage Team attended the Special Olympics Indoor Winter Games at Lakepoint Sports Complex in January. The Linkage team was there to recruit participants for their program to connect adults with disabilities to accessible, community-based healthcare services and providers!
AUCD Leadership Academy Informational Webinar
Monday, February 12, 2024
5:30 PM - 6:30 PM
This webinar will offer interested potential applicants an opportunity to interact with the AUCD Leadership Academy faculty. It will feature a brief overview of the 2024 Academy curriculum and timeline. This will be followed by a time for questions from potential applicants. Register Now!
The CLD Disability & Health Projects team presented at two conferences in November 2023. Below are the six presentations from those conferences.

Association of University Centers on Disabilities conference (November 5-8, Washington, DC)

1. “Technical Assistance Protocol Development and Implementation: Assessing the Accessibility of the Built Environment and Visitor Programming within Georgia’s National Parks”

2. “Improving Disability-competent Care in Georgia: Preliminary Evaluation of Outcomes associated with completing Responsive Practice Healthcare Provider Trainings”

American Public Health Association Conference (November 12-15, Atlanta, GA)

1.    “A 10-state Collaborative Approach to implementing a Health and Wellness program with Adults with Disability”

2.    “Data-driven Approach to Strengthening Partnerships in CDC's Disability and Health State Programs”

3.    “Initial Implementation of a Statewide Healthcare Linkage Program for Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Georgia”

4.    “Nurses’ and Nursing Students’ Knowledge of Disability-competent Care: Needs Assessment to Inform Training Development”
Faculty & Staff Updates
Congratulations to Erin Vinoski Thomas, Ph.D., research associate professor with the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences and interim co-director for the Center for Leadership in Disability School of Public Health at Georgia State University and her colleagues who received the Innovative Teaching Award from the Association of Teachers in Maternal Child Health for their collaborative course, “Health Equity for Children with Special Healthcare Needs.” Read More
Save the Dates
Firm Foundations for Autism Supports
May 9, 2024

This year’s Autism Conference theme is Firm Foundations. Firm Foundations represents a “back to the basics” consideration of the core systems and workforce undergirding autism services in Georgia. This includes critical foundational support through the GA Department of Public Health and the GA Department of Special Education, which are missioned with programs such as Babies Can’t Wait (Part C) and Special Education (Part B), which are tasked with equitably ensuring Early Identification, Intervention, and Adult Transition. It also includes numerous community partnerships with health care, state social services (e.g., Department of Early Care and Learning), universities, researchers, policymakers, teachers, and interventionists, ensuring these firm foundations result in effective services across the lifespan for families of individuals with autism. For more information, please contact Andrew Abrams, aabrams7@gsu.edu.
The Georgia Blueprint of Early Intervention
Babies Can't Wait Conference
June 1-4, 2024
(Family Day, Saturday, June 1)
The Babies Can’t Wait conference will focus on how The Georgia Blueprint of Early intervention foundation begins and ends with families as well as identify ways that all early intervention supports/resources can work collaboratively to ensure that Georgia’s early intervention services are accessible, equitable, inclusive, and implement practices and services that are developmentally appropriate.

Registration information will be available in late February.
For more information, please contact Andrew Abrams, aabrams7@gsu.edu.