Celebrating Successes across the DDS Community
A Message from Commissioner Jane F. Ryder

Dear DDS Community,

This month has been exciting for DDS -- and as Commissioner, that means it's been an exciting month for me, as well! It is always a good day on the job when I'm able to congratulate our staff, providers, and the individuals and families we support on a job well done. Luckily, May presented quite a few opportunities to do just that.
Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) celebrated 25 years of empowering self-advocates at their annual conference in Marlborough last weekend.

The folks DDS serves must be involved in the conversations about the care and services they're receiving, and the work of MASS ensures that self-advocates have those important seats at the table.
I had the opportunity to answer thoughtful questions from this group at the MASS conference, and it was wonderful to meet so many passionate self-advocates.

As MASS celebrates 25 years of empowering self-advocates, I encourage you to explore the events and resources MASS has to offer, and sign up for the MASS newsletter!
Last week, I was excited to take the trip out to
North Hatfield, MA to join the grand opening celebration of ServiceNet’s Prospect Meadow Farm Vocational Training & Production Center. This innovative center will continue the excellent work of ServiceNet, empowering individuals to reach their specific goals of strengthened skills and employment.

It was wonderful to be joined by some of our legislators – Congressman McGovern, Senator Comerford, and Representative Sabadosa – and it was inspiring to hear directly from folks how ServiceNet has helped them achieve their employment goals, from working on the farm to even authoring a children's book!
Finally, I had the honor this month of congratulating the graduating cohort of DDS Urban Youth Collaborative Program Interns in Fall River, alongside our partner provider People, Inc, Mayor Paul Coogan, and Representatives Fiola and Silvia. These high school students spent 7 weeks learning about the human services field by working with DDS individuals and provider staff and making a real impact.

Meeting this accomplished group, I was inspired to think that they may represent the next generation of human services professionals.
Another congratulations to these providers and DDS partners for their accomplishments, and thank you to all who through their work, bring the DDS mission to life – empowering individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to become fully engaged members of their communities.
Sincerely,

Commissioner Jane F. Ryder
Pictured from top: Commissioner Ryder at MASS Standing Strong Conference, MASS Conference attendees, Commissioner Ryder with ServiceNet CEO Susan Stubbs at Prospect Meadow Farms, ribbon cutting at Prospect Meadow Farms, graduating Urban Youth Collaborative Program cohort
DDS Nurse Appreciation Week

This May, we had the chance to celebrate Nurse Appreciation Week across DDS.

One celebration at Metro Residential Services featured a luncheon with a special guest of honor -- Cynthia Sauer (front middle, seated). After 46 years of service to the Commonwealth, Cynthia hangs up her stethoscope to focus on the next chapter of her journey.

In her parting remarks, Cynthia thanked the nurses by reading a poem by Mark Darby, “Reflections on the Hands of a Nurse.” A fitting end to the party, and of a long and successful partnership with Metro Residential Services and DDS.

Nurses across the DDS system are crucial to our mission and the care we provide to our community. Thank you to Cynthia for her incredible career of service, and thank you to all nurses!
Pictured: Metro Residential Services nurses at a celebration luncheon
Contact Meghan Allen at:
Meghan.L.Allen@mass.gov


Meet the DDS Ombudsperson
Meet Meghan Allen, the new DDS Ombudsperson! An Ombudsperson can help resolve conflicts, offer guidance, and make sure individuals and families are receiving their eligible services.

Meghan most recently served as a Service Coordinator in both the Greater Boston and Cape & Islands DDS Area Offices and is currently working towards her Master’s Degree in Political Science, Public Administration Concentration, at Bridgewater State University. 

As Ombudsperson, Meghan plans to continue to expand upon her work with individuals, families, DDS and other stakeholders to remove barriers, increase opportunities and make Massachusetts a better place to live for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  
MassHealth Update
Do you or your dependents use MassHealth insurance? MassHealth families need to renew coverage this year and must act now to stay covered.

Be sure to update your contact information and report household changes to MassHealth.

Find more information on MassHealth’s Redetermination website
Upcoming Webinars, Virtual Groups & Events
Open to individuals, families, and caregivers

MassHealth Redetermination Event (65 years and older)
June 3, 9:30 AM-4:30 PM ET
Central Boston Elder Services, 2315 Washington Street, Boston MA 02119
If you or a loved one are a MassHealth member 65 years or older and not enrolled in an HCBS waiver, join the MassHealth Redetermination event for help completing your MassHealth renewal. Get one-on-one support from staff on your application or updating your contact information.
RSVP is required. Call Age Strong at (617) 635-4366

Caregiver Support Groups: Vision Loss Services
June 13, 10:00-11:00 AM ET
June 14, 4:00-5:00 PM ET
Join the monthly virtual Caregiver Support Group for anyone working with adults served by DDS who have Vision Impairment, Legal Blindness or Deafblindness. This month's focus is on visual art activities for individuals with vision impairments.

Virtual Rainbow Group: MASS
June 13, 5:30-7:30 PM ET (social hour)
June 27, 5:30-7:30 PM
Join Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) monthly virtual Rainbow Group. This group is for self-advocates who are members of both the intellectual and developmental disability community as well as the LGBTQ+ community. Open to everyone, the Rainbow Group is a place to meet and talk to other self-advocates, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and learn about LGBTQ+ issues.

DDS North Central Citizens Advisory Board Legislative Event
June 22, 6-7:30 PM ET
Leominster Veteran's Center 100 West Street, Leominster, MA 01453
Join the DDS North Central Citizens Advisory Board for an opportunity to meet your Legislators and Citizens Advisory Board (CAB) Members. This dinner is free and open to all, and is a great opportunity to learn more about advocating for people with disabilities and joining DDS!
RSVP by June 8th by calling (978) 407-2025.

Always Exploring, Never Lost: DDS/MABVI Support Group
June 24, 10-11:30 AM ET
29 Denby Road, Allston MA, 02134
This support group for individuals with vision loss meets in-person monthly as part of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI)’s Orientation and Mobility Community Activity Series with DDS. Focus topics may include self advocacy, guide dogs, accessible technology, and more. Accessible parking and accessible bathrooms are available.

Youth Leadership Forum: Partners for Youth with Disabilities
June 25 - 29
Emerson College, Boston, MA
The Youth Leadership Forum (YLF) is an annual free conference for young adults ages 16-22 with disabilities organized by DDS partner, Partners for Youth with Disabilities. YLF offers young adults an opportunity to learn about and engage in youth disability leadership, including legislative advocacy and disability services. Attend in-person at Emerson College in Boston, virtually, or apply to be a paid mentor during the conference.
Focus Group for ASD/ID Families

UMass Chan Medical School is conducting focus groups for families of children with ASD or intellectual disabilities. They want to understand your experiences with mobile crisis intervention services and with Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project for Autism Spectrum Disorder-Intellectual Disabilities (ASD-ID).

These groups are to understand what works, what does not work, and what changes are needed to better support you and your children. The discussion will take about 1.5 hours on Zoom. You will receive a $50 Bank of America debit card as thanks for your time. If you have recent experiences with these services and the program, register and learn more.
DDS Spotlight: Helping First Responders Respond to Community Members with Autism
The DDS Fall River Community Outreach Committee, along with DDS partners (People Inc, Advocates Inc, Lifestream) and local Fall River businesses, are helping first responders best respond to community members with autism.
The group created Project Autism Lifeline Emergency Response Team (ALERT) Bags. The ALERT bags include facts and autism education for first responders and communication resources.

The ALERT bags also include tools to help reduce overstimulation for people with autism, including noise-cancelling earmuffs, sunglasses, redirection activities, and seatbelt covers.

The group made over 100 ALERT bags, which will be distributed to Fall River, Westport, Freetown, Swansea and Somerset fire, EMT, and police departments.
Thank you to the Fall River Community Outreach Committee for making our community safer and more accessible for all!

Pictured: Committee presenting Fall River Police Department with Project ALERT bags, ALERT bag components, and members assembling bags.
Joint Committee of Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities

This month, Commissioner Ryder joined her colleagues at the Massachusetts State House to testify at an informational hearing before the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities. She shared the reach of DDS and stories that showed the personal impact that our agency’s services have on the individuals and families we serve. 

The Committee welcomes new members, who called the hearing to even better understand the programs and priorities of DDS and other agencies serving our Commonwealth's most vulnerable populations. DDS thanks the Committee for their continued support of our mission, which makes our work possible. You can watch a recording of the hearing online here.