Summer Celebrations at DDS
A Message from Commissioner Jane F. Ryder

Dear DDS Community,

I’m pleased to wish you all a happy start to summer. As a Worcester native, I know that the summers feel well deserved here after long, grey New England winters! While we’re all excited about the sunshine, summer doesn’t mean a slowdown of activity here at DDS.
This month, I was thrilled to celebrate the 2023 Opportunity Works Project SEARCH graduates in Haverhill, who completed their 9-month internships.

This year’s graduation was especially meaningful, as this is the 10th year of Northern Essex Community College (NECC) and Opportunity Works’ ProjectSEARCH collaboration.

This program places young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism spectrum disorder into internships at NECC, rotating through departments based on their job goals and interests.

In this cohort, folks worked in landscaping, as part of the Public Health Response Team, in the YMCA daycare, and so much more. 
An important part of this program is that it does not end at graduation. The skills, connections, and confidence that these folks gain in their internships lead the way for them to continue pursuing their employment goals in future jobs.
One example of many success stories from ProjectSEARCH involves a young woman named Emely. Passionate about fashion and make-up, Emely dreamt of working at Sephora. After graduation, not only did she land her dream job, but she was named “employee of the month” in her second month. Emely just celebrated her one-year anniversary on the job.  
It's wonderful to see the work of our provider agencies and community partners who make the DDS mission possible – creating opportunities for supported employment and meaningful community integration. You can read more about the 2022 ProjectSEARCH class and their current jobs, and the 2023 graduating class.
Group of graduates in caps and gowns smiling outside
I hope you join me in congratulating these graduates, and the staff and providers who have supported them in these incredible accomplishments!

Commissioner Jane F. Ryder
Pictured from top: ProjectSEARCH graduate Cam speaks at podium, ProjectSEARCH graduate Alli and staff, full graduating class
DDS Public Data & Analytics

We are excited to share the launch of the DDS Public Data & Analytics website. The site shares demographic data on individuals served, services received, employment outcomes, and DDS National Core Indicators (NCI) data.

This information illustrates the collective impact of our work and gives individuals and families the tools they need to make informed decisions about the services and programs they may utilize.

Explore the DDS Public Data & Analytics DashboardDDS Employment Outcomes, and DDS National Core Indicators (NCI) data. This data reflects a highlighted selection of some of the many DDS programs and services, and we will continue to integrate data and analytics from more services in the future.
DDS Spotlight: Better Community Living Camps
School may be out for summer but this week, camp is on! Better Community Living (BCL) Family Support Center hosts school vacation camps to students served by the DDS New Bedford Area Office and the BCL Family Support Center.

At no cost to families, these camps help working parents who need childcare during school breaks while offering enriching activities for kids.

Local high-school and college volunteers work with Family Support Coordinators to coordinate the camps. They offer activities such as arts and crafts, games, sports and music, and special guest appearances.

This week as part of their BCL June Camp, campers had the opportunity to meet Miss New Bedford, Miss Mayflower, Miss Whitman, and even Mickey Mouse!

Thank you to the volunteers, staff, and special guests who come together to create these experiences for DDS families. Follow BCL's Facebook page to keep up with the campers!
Pictured from top: Camper with Mickey Mouse, group of campers with Miss New Bedford, Miss Mayflower, and Miss Whitman
Pride with MASS Rainbow Group
As we celebrate Pride Month this June, DDS encourages self-advocates to join Massachusetts Advocates Standing Strong (MASS) monthly virtual Rainbow Group.

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.
Celebrating Juneteenth
Equity is intrinsic to the mission and work of DDS, and the tireless pursuit of access and justice is what brought us to where we are now.

Read a letter from DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder reflecting on the legacy of Juneteenth.
Upcoming Webinars, Virtual Groups & Events
Open to individuals, families, and caregivers

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 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.

Virtual Rainbow Group: MASS
July 11, 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.
Portraits of Pathlight: A State House Celebration
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh, families, individuals, and DDS Commissioner Ryder joined legislators at a special event at the State House last week.

Hosted by Senator Comerford and Representative Sabadosa, the ceremony celebrated the gallery “This is Me: Portaits of Pathlight” in the State House.
Captured by local photographers in Western Massachusetts, the photos featured photos of people with intellectual or developmental disabilities served by Pathlight.

The gallery acts both as art showcasing the many faces of Pathlight, and also may challenge viewers to move past their preconceptions of disability.

The exhibit, displayed proudly in the seat of state government, was a testament to the ways in which self-advocates have created the space for more representation and a more inclusive world for everyone.

Pictured: Pathlight Board President Denise Cogman, Senator Comerford, DDS Commissioner Ryder, Representative Sabadosa, Pathlight Executive Director John Roberson, DDS Area Director for the Franklin Hampshire Area Office Keri Purcell; portrait from Pathlight exhibition
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
Successful Be Safe Training: Creating Safer Communities
Group of smiling officers, trainers, and students at Be Safe training
The DDS Cape Cod Area Office collaborated with Cape Cod Police Departments for a successful Be Safe training. Developed by a mother and her son with autism, the training teaches young adults with autism about law enforcement and gives them a chance to model and practice safe behavior.

The training also gives officers an opportunity to learn about autism and how to best respond to people with autism. Thank you to the officers, trainers, and individuals involved for contributing to a great learning opportunity for everyone involved!
Pictured: Cape Cod police officers and students