Minutes — August 2018 Council Meeting


Council Members Present

  • Mary Durheim, Council Chair
  • Hunter Adkins
  • Lisa Akers-Owen, HHSC/Older Americans Act
  • Patty Anderson, DRTX
  • Paula Brunson, TWC/Vocational Rehabilitation
  • Andrew Crim
  • Mateo Delgado
  • Stephen Gersuk
  • Penny Larkin, HHSC/Medicaid
  • Katlyn Le, DSHS/Maternal-Child Health
  • Ruth Mason
  • Scott McAvoy Meagan Orsag, A&M-CDD
  • Justin Porter, TEA/IDEA
  • Amy Sharp, TCDS
  • Lora Taylor
  • John Thomas
  • Rick Tisch

Council Members Absent

  • Kimberly Blackmon
  • Kristine Clark
  • Gladys Cortez
  • Kristen Cox
  • Michael Peace
  • Dana Perry
  • Brandon Pharris

Guests Present

  • Dan Graves
  • Adrian Heffelfinger
  • Amy Litzinger
  • Linda Litzinger
  • Alejandra Navaro
  • Alex Noble
  • Christa Walikonis
  • Tiffany Williams
  • Alicja Zapalska

Staff Present

  • Beth Stalvey, Executive Director
  • Martha Cantu
  • Joanna Cordry
  • Scott Daigle
  • Cynthia Ellison
  • Ashley Ford
  • Linda Logan
  • Joshua Ryf
  • Koren Vogel

Call to Order

The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities convened on Friday, August 3, 2018, in the Lone Star Room of the Crowne Plaza Austin Hotel, 6121 North IH-35, Austin, TX 78752. Council Chair Mary Durheim called the meeting to order at 9:06 AM.

  1. Introductions
    Council members, staff and guests were introduced. Paula Brunson is in attendance as a representative of the TWC/Vocational Rehabilitation Act program but is not a voting member.
  1. Public Comments
    Amy Litzinger provided public comments on the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. She noted that although she works for Easterseals of Central Texas and serves as a self-advocate on the ABLE committee, she was speaking on behalf of herself and not Easterseals. Litzinger discussed obstacles with the ABLE Act, specifically regarding electronic transfers of funds. She explained that due to the time needed to transfer funds, a person is in jeopardy of losing benefits and being placed at the bottom of Medicaid waiver interest lists. She has worked with staff from the Comptroller’s Office as well as the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) who specified ABLE funds that are transferred into a personal checking account would not go against an individual’s limits for their services but she is concerned because this has not been published in HHSC rules. She offered to assist HHSC in developing rules and communicating them to individuals with ABLE accounts.

    TCDD Policy Fellow at EveryChild, Inc. Alexandra Noble stated that her fellowship would end on September 30, 2018 and this would be her last Council meeting. She thanked the Council for the opportunity and experiences in her fellowship.

  1. Consent Items
    Chair Durheim reviewed consent items including the minutes from the May 4, 2018, Council meeting and May 3, 2017, Committee of the Whole meeting. She noted that Council member Andy Crim has returned to active status and reviewed the excused absences of Kimberly Blackmon, Kristine Clark, Gladys Cortez, Kristen Cox, Michael Peace, Dana Perry, and Brandon Pharris.

    MADE BY: Hunter Adkins
    SECOND: Lora Taylor
    The motion passed without opposition. Patty Anderson abstained from voting.

  1. Chair and Executive Director’s Report
    Chair Durheim congratulated Older Americans Act representative Lisa Akers-Owen on her upcoming retirement from HHSC. She noted that Sue Fielder has also accepted another position and that new representatives will need to be designated from that program.

    Durheim reported that communication with the Governor’s Appointments Office indicates there are 11 applications for the Council and staff are working with other interested individuals to submit applications. It is hoped that new appointments will be made in the fall.

    Durheim also congratulated Scott McAvoy for receiving the Knowledge in Excellence in Education or Research award from the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities – Texas Chapter (AAIDD-TX). The award recognizes significant contributions to the dissemination of knowledge in the field of intellectual/developmental disabilities through education and/or research.

    Executive Director Beth Stalvey provided updates on TCDD staff to note that Scott Daigle was selected as the Public Policy Director and began his position on June 1, 2018. Peggy Oster recently resigned as the Web Administrator and Le Lien is serving part-time as a temporary employee in that position. Alicja Zapalska is serving as a Communications Intern and staff are evaluating proposals for contract work in the Communications division. Staff is evaluating the position description for the vacant Public Policy Assistant position.

    Stalvey reported on the Community Outreach Coordination in the Lower Rio Grande Valley area. Contractors are helping individuals connect to services and information as well as collecting data to provide to the Council.

    Stalvey noted that Texas Partners in Policymaking received more than 200 applications for the 2018-2019 class. The class taking place in Austin has 35 participants and the class in McAllen has 20 participants. Classes will begin the second weekend in August.

    Stalvey also reported on the Cross-Council Collaborative efforts in response to Hurricane Harvey. Assistance has been administered to approximately 200 people with developmental disabilities and their families for items that are not provided through other services but identifying individuals in need has been difficult. She noted that there have been many lessons learned through this process and gaps have been identified for future improvement. This information is being shared with state and national organizations. Disability Rights Texas (DRTx) representative Patty Anderson added that individuals with intellectual disabilities are having difficulty navigating the FEMA paperwork and appeals processes if their claims are denied due to errors in paperwork.

    Stalvey noted that she spoke on Hurricane Harvey relief efforts during the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) Technical Assistance Institute. This was part of the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities (NACDD) Conference where Texas was also represented by presentations from Texas A&M on the PATHS program and TCDD grantee Community Healthcore. Following the conference, there was a “Day of Dialogue” on leadership and advocacy training and the Texas Partners in Policymaking training was discussed.

    Stalvey reported on directions from Administration on Community Living regarding performance periods of federal funds. Practice has previously been that TCDD and other agencies had two years to allocate funds to projects with a third year for that project to continue work and expend the funds. For FY 2019 funds, directions are that all activities from federal funds must be completed within two years. The third year can only be used to execute payments for work that took place during the two-year period. Stalvey assured members that staff is diligently monitoring the situation and the important thing for Council members is to keep executing state plan activities.

  1. Audit Committee Report
    Audit Committee Chair John Thomas reported that Andy Crim was appointed to the Audit Committee, replacing Amy Sharp. He then asked Dan Graves of Weaver and Tidwell, LLP to present on internal audit activities.

    Graves discussed internal audit activities for FY 2018 which included a review of External Communications, Advocacy, and Public Policy. Audit activities were conducted from February 26, 2018 through May 9, 2018 with a final report presented to TCDD staff on June 28, 2018. He further reported that TCDD management has already responded to the findings of the audit. The overall assessment of the audit was reported as “satisfactory”. Audit staff identified four findings which included:

    • Mass communications to grantees are not consistently reviewed and approved by grants personnel prior to their release. This finding received a “low” rating.
    • Review and approval of external communications are not consistently documented. This finding received a “moderate” rating.
    • TCDD’s responses to information requests from the legislative office are not consistently reviewed and approved prior to their release. This finding received a “moderate” rating.
    • Former Public Policy Director had access at the time of the audit to TCDD’s user account in Telicon and could access the system. In addition, TCDD’s Telicon account is currently shared by multiple TCDD employees. This finding received a “high” rating.

    Graves reported that the Telicon access was corrected in May and that checklists for approval of legislative requests were developed in June. Policies and procedures related to the first two findings are in progress.

    Graves further reported on the follow up to FY 2017 audit activities on Grants Management. The objective of this was to validate that adequate corrective action was taken to remediate the issues identified in FY 2017 audit activities. He noted that three of the four findings had been remediated and the remaining finding was partially remediated. This follow-up assessment received a “strong” rating.

  1. FY 2018 Annual Internal Audit Report
    Graves noted that the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) had just published the guidelines for the 2018 Annual Internal Audit Report and presented copies of the report that included revisions based on these guidelines. New reporting requirements for FY 2018 include a description of the risk assessment and submission of the Revised Internal Audit Plan for FY 2019 if changes are made. The report is due to the SAO by November 1 of each year. He reminded members that the previously approved FY 2019 Audit Plan activities will focus on governance.

    MOTION: To approve the FY 2018 Annual Internal Audit Report for submission to the State Auditor’s Office which included the Audit Plan for FY 2019
    MADE BY: John Thomas for the Audit Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously.

  1. FY 2019 Operating Expense Budget
    Chair Durheim reported that the Executive Committee discussed the proposed FY 2019 Operating Expense budget. TCDD Operations Director Martha Cantu reviewed the proposed budget which includes $1,563,250 budgeted for state plan activities and $453,621 budgeted for non-state plan activities.

    MOTION: To approve the FY 2019 Operating Expense budget at $2,016,871.
    MADE BY: Mary Durheim for the Executive Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously.

  1. Memorandum of Understanding with Texas Education Agency
    Chair Durheim reported that the Executive Committee reviewed the FY 2019 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Texas Education Agency (TEA). This defines the roles and responsibilities of TEA as the designated state agency in providing administrative services and supports to TCDD. There were no changes from the FY 2018 MOU.

    MOTION: To approve the FY 2019 Memorandum of Understanding with the Texas Education Agency.
    MADE BY: 
    Mary Durheim for the Executive Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously.

  1. Future Activities for State Plan Implementation
    Project Development Committee Vice-Chair Scott McAvoy reported on Committee discussion of proposed executive summaries. He first discussed the Sexual Health Education executive summary. This project would hold at least five events that provide opportunities for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, their family members and allies, and service providers to further develop their understanding of the many facets of sexual health; explore ways to establish training opportunities throughout the state; and provide input to TCDD for strategies to address systems gaps. The events would use evidence-based information on sexual health for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and provide time for interaction and discussion.

    MOTION: To approve up to $100,000, for up to three years, for a Sexual Health Education Project.
    MADE BY: Scott McAvoy for the Project Development Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously.

    McAvoy next reported that the Committee discussed the executive summary for Prevention of and Response to Sexual Assault with a proposed purpose to improve access to training and information that might reduce the incidence of sexual assault and understand ways to respond to it. Members directed staff to separate the concepts of this proposed project into three individual projects for different audiences. One project would focus on individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities and their families and friends as well as their caregivers. A second project would be geared toward medical professionals and a third would be geared toward criminal justice professionals. The goal is to allow innovation within each project and collaboration between the projects where possible. Staff will conduct additional research and consult with members who have subject matter expertise in training for medical and criminal justice professionals then provide revised executive summaries for Council consideration. McAvoy then discussed the executive summary for Advanced Leadership Training for Professionals. This project would provide advanced training related to leadership and intellectual/developmental disabilities service issues for professionals in a range of fields including health and human services, education, transportation, medical systems, and employment. The curriculum would include the history and current service delivery system in Texas, principles of self-determination and person-centered practices, public policy issues, promotive positive values and a culture of acceptance for individuals with disabilities, leadership and mentoring principles, and creating networks within and across agencies to support individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. The program could use existing or create new curriculum and would be encouraged to utilize individuals with disabilities and/or their family members as trainers.

    MOTION: To approve $150,000 per year, for up to five years, to create an Advanced Leadership Training for Professionals program.
    MADE BY: Scott McAvoy for the Project Development Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously. McAvoy then reported that the Committee discussed revisions to the Future Project Funding Priorities document.
    MOTION: To prioritize TCDD projects approved for funding in the following order:

    1. Public Policy in TCDD Grant Projects Summary
    2. Person-Directed Meaningful Day Technical Assistance Mini-Grants
    3. Media Fellows Program
    4. Sexual Health Education
    5. Advanced Leadership Training for Professionals
    6. Community Outreach Coordination Project (Second project)

    MADE BY: Scott McAvoy for the Project Development Committee.
    The motion passed unanimously.

  1. Quarterly Progress of TCDD State Plan ProjectsPlanning Director Joanna Cordry reviewed the progress of grant projects from the past quarter. She referenced the document provided for members in Council meeting materials which is organized by TCDD State Plan Goals and Objectives. Projects and activities for each objective are listed with an indication of complete or active and any staff comments relevant to the project are included. Cordry noted that staff develops this document following the review and discussion of each project’s quarterly progress report. Members can use this not only to monitor the progress of projects but to review state plan objectives and determine where additional activities are necessary. Members expressed appreciation of the clarity of the document. Executive Director Stalvey added that the description of current projects includes numbers and outcomes reported by the grantee for the quarter.
  1. Communications and Marketing Activities Report
    Communications Director Joshua Ryf provided updates on activities from the previous quarter. He first reported on new content on the TCDD website which included current RFP announcements, a wrap-up of the May 2018 Council and Committee meetings, updates on extending health insurance, resources now available in Spanish, and highlights of new TCDD staff members. Ryf also reported on the Governor’s Proclamation regarding Mental Health Awareness month. TCDD staff worked from the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and NAMI-Texas to include language about co-occurring disabilities in this proclamation.
    Ryf discussed recent events attended by TCDD staff and Council members including a presentation for the Golden Crescent Aging and Disability Resource Center, National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities Conference, Texas Parent to Parent Conference, the National Down Syndrome Congress Convention, and the AAIDD-Tx Conference. Public Policy Director Scott Daigle, Public Policy Specialist Ashley Ford, Executive Assistant Koren Vogel, and TCDD Policy Fellow from the Coalition on Texans with Disabilities Tiffany Williams also shared their experiences at these events. Ryf informed members of upcoming events and issue awareness months/activities including the Texas Advocates Conference, the Texas Disability Issues Forum, the Texas Tribune Festival, Disaster Preparedness Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and National Disability Employment Awareness Month.

    Ryf presented three videos for members to watch. The trailer for a film entitled “Intelligent Lives” showcases a film which follows three young adults with intellectual disabilities as they navigate through high school, college, and the workforce with the intent to challenge the label of intellectual disability and highlight a life of opportunity. Ryf noted that there will be opportunities to hold screenings for the feature-length films when it is released in the fall. “Champions of Inclusion” is a video produced by the East Texas Aging and Disability Resource Center and features TCDD grantee Community Healthcore as it speaks to community inclusion. “No Way to Live”, a short film by Partners in Policymaking graduate Julie Ross, looks at institutionalization for people with disabilities and was dedicated to Council member Ruth Mason.

  1. Executive Committee Report
    Chair Durheim reported that continuation grant funding was awarded this quarter for 11 projects. The Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, Disability Rights Texas and the Arc of Texas received continuation funding for TCDD Policy Fellows projects. Easterseals of Central Texas, Family to Family Network and Paso Del Norte Children’s Development Center received funding for Leadership Development and Advocacy Training projects. Light and Salt Association received funding for its Culturally Appropriate Family Supports project. Mounting Horizons and Safe Alliance received funding for Youth Leadership Development projects. The University of Texas received funding for its Texas Statewide Sibling Network project. Volar Center for Independent Living received funding for its Building Community Capacity through Collaboration project.

    She further reported that new grant funding was awarded to Texas Advocates for a Next Chapter Book Club project and to Hatching Hope Foundation for an Outreach and Development project. Two event stipends and three speaker stipends were awarded this quarter and one stipend application was denied because it was based on election activities which are not allowable to fund with federal dollars.
    Grants Management Director Cynthia Ellison reported on three projects that concluded and two projects that began during the last quarter for a total of 24 active projects. She also reviewed the Independent Audit Status Report and the Risk Assessment of TCDD Projects and noted that the Executive Committee had no concerns with either report.

    Operations Director Cantu reviewed the quarterly financial reports including the operating expenses and summary of project funds. She reviewed the Operating Expenses to note that 65% of funds have been expended with nine months of the fiscal year passed. She noted that the final allocation of funding for FY 2018 has been received with the total award of $5,169,382. Cantu reviewed the Summary of Funds for FY 2016 – 2019. $413,095 of FY 2017 funds remain to be assigned to grantees prior to September 30, 2018. Although the report shows a negative balance of $640,438 for FY 2018 funds, this is expected to become level due to unspent funds from current grant projects, delayed starts of new projects and funding assigned to RFPs which may not eventually be completely obligated. There is approximately $1.5 million allocated toward future projects. The Executive Committee members did not express any concerns with the agency financial reports.

    The Committee reviewed Conflict of Interest disclosures and no concerns were noted.

  1. Project Development Committee Report
    Project Development Committee Vice-Chair McAvoy reported that the Committee received a presentation from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) Executive Director of Special Populations and Council member Justin Porter on the federal investigation on special education services. The Committee requested a presentation on complex mental health needs at the next Council meeting. They explored ideas for future projects including substance use disorders in people with intellectual/developmental disabilities, transportation issues, higher education, and customized self-employment.
  1. Public Policy Committee Report
    Public Policy Committee Chair Lora Taylor reported that the Committee received a presentation from staff with the Specialized Telecommunications Assistance Program (STAP). Taylor noted that there were approximately 28,000 requests for equipment last year and only five staff members to process these requests and it can take up to six months to process an application.
    Taylor reported on the Committee discussion of TCDD policy priorities and noted that members shared their goals for the legislative session as well as issues of special interest to them. She reported that goals included TCDD to be more engaged in the legislative process, be more impactful, expand its footprint, be a resource for legislators, increases awareness of TCDD work and projects, and contribute to public policy. She identified the priority areas as Medicaid funding and reduction of Medicaid Waiver Interest Lists, increased attendant wages, access to community services and consolidation/closures of state-supported living centers, access to transportation, access to accessible parking, competitive and integrated employment, and access to health care and reduce regulations on medications such as cannabidiol with THC which includes expansion of the Texas Compassionate Use Program. Taylor reported that some Committee members indicated a willingness to begin legislative education and advocacy prior to the session and she invited members from the Project Development Committee to indicate to TCDD staff if they were interested in these activities. Chair Durheim and Executive Director Stalvey encouraged agency representative members to work with other members as subject matter experts on specific issues.

    Taylor reported that the Committee directed staff to gather information on leadership and advocacy training opportunities prior to the start of the legislative session, explore the development of a state policy conference for advocates trained in disability issues, and to explore project ideas that focus on millennials.

  1. State Agency Representatives Quarterly Activities Report
    TEA representative Justin Porter provided a presentation on the strategic plan and corrective action response for special education services in Texas. He advised members that the plan is available on the TEA website. Porter discussed details of the five areas of the strategic plan which include state monitoring of local educational agencies; identification, evaluation and placement of students for special education services; training, support, and development for educational staff; student and family engagement; and technical assistance networks.

    Disability Rights Texas representative Patty Anderson informed members that Congress passed legislation in late April that created a new protection and advocacy (P&A) program which provides the ability for P&A staff to represent and work with individuals who have representative payees for their social security benefits. This will allow monitoring of financial records and is in response cases of financial exploitation of people with disabilities. It will give P&A staff increased ability to investigate and expose cases of abuse and neglect.

    Texas Center for Disability Studies (TCDS) representative Amy Sharp reported that TCDS recently completed its annual report and it shows the number of staff and projects has tripled to 34 current projects and 17 staff. She noted that they are seeking participants for the Partners in Research project which will teach individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities how to be part of a research team. Sharp also reported that a post-secondary education program began this summer which includes residential life for students. She noted that one student is a resident of a state supported living center (SSLC) and has been a star student but that there have been significant barriers to communication with SSLC staff and this jeopardizes his continued participation.

    A&M CDD representative Meagan Orsag reported on a program called Coach to Communicate with two faculties focused on autism and they are recruiting educators, para-professionals, and parents to participate in free training on communication skills. She also reported on two new grants in conjunction with the Texas Workforce Commission which includes a capacity building conference and development of pre-employment skills curriculum.

    HHSC/Title XIX/Medicaid Services program representative Dana Williamson discussed the development of the HHSC Legislative Appropriative Request (LAR) and preparations for the upcoming legislative session. She expects that managed care will be a significant issue during the session.

    HHSC/Older Americans Act representative Lisa Akers-Owen noted that division was also preparing for the LAR. She reported that in efforts to streamline HHSC staff, her position will not be filled following her retirement on August 31, 2018. The community supports and service functions of her position will be moved to eligibility operations and this allows an opportunity for improved assessments. The Area Agencies on Aging functions of her position will move staff who coordinate Aging and Disability Resource Centers and this will allow for better collaboration between those entities.

    Chair Durheim reported that Department of State Health Services (DSHS)/Title V/Maternal Child Health representative Katlyn Le had to depart early but will send a website link so that members have access to the 2017 Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs Survey and Report which contains data on medical homes, transition to adulthood and community inclusion.
    Paula Brunson was in attendance for the Texas Workforce Commission/Rehabilitation Act and reported on pre-employment services including a summer “earn and learn” program and other initiatives as well as efforts to promote competitive integrated employment.

    Chair Durheim reported on her participation in the workgroup to make revisions to the Dyslexia Handbook and a draft is expected for the State Board of Education meeting in September.

  1. Announcements and Updates
    Council members discussed dates and locations of future meetings of November 7-9, 2018, February 6-8, 2019, May 1-3, 2019, and August 7-9, 2019.


Chair Durheim adjourned the meeting at 12:10 PM.

Beth Stalvey, Secretary to the Council