Disaster Resources for People with Disabilities

Disasters can come without a moment’s notice and can drastically impact our lives, which is why the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs wants to provide you with beneficial information for emergency preparedness.  The Louisiana Emergency Management Disability and Aging Coalition (LA EMDAC) created the Louisiana Guide to Supports & Services for Individuals with Disabilities, Elders and Their Families Affected by Disasters.  It includes links to state agencies, education services, communication, transportation, advocacy & support organizations, and disability specific organizations.  The following links provide information for individuals with disabilities, including the Center for Disease Control’s Emergency Preparedness: Including People with Disabilities and Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness’ Get a Game Plan.


National Disability Institute to Host Financial Inclusion Summit in New Orleans

On September 20, 2017, the National Disability Institute will host the Financial Inclusion Summit: Assuring People with Disabilities Access to Mainstream Financial Services. This summit will bring together leaders in government, the financial services sector, the disability and asset building communities and Fortune 100 companies to discuss strategies for improving financial access for individuals across the spectrum of disabilities.  The Summit being held in New Orleans will provide the opportunity for like-minded peers and colleagues to design the next generation of collective efforts that seek to fulfill the promise of the Americans with Disabilities Act to bring people with disabilities more fully into the economic mainstream. You can register for the summit here.


GOLD Awards to be Held on November 15; Deadline to Nominate is October 2

The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) will host the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) Awards on November 15, 2017, at the Old State Capitol. The GOLD Awards recognizes extraordinary individuals and organizations who have contributed their time and talents to benefit the lives of people with disabilities in Louisiana.   Two new awards this year are the Elected Official of the Year and the Public Servant of the Year.  Governor John Bel Edwards will welcome guests to the GOLD awards. The deadline for submitting a nomination is Monday, October 2nd, 2017.  Click here to download the nomination packet.


Inclusive Art Contest; Deadline to Submit Artwork is October 2

To bring greater awareness of the importance of inclusion in today’s society, the Governor's Office of Disability Affairs (GODA) encourages you to participate in the 2017 Inclusive Art Contest. GODA will be accepting entries that illustrate or describe ideas related to this year’s theme and accompanying definitions of inclusion of persons with disabilities; this year’s theme is “Together We Succeed.” Award medals and special recognition from Governor John Bel Edwards will be presented to the artists who submit winning artwork on November 15th, 2017, at the Inclusive Art Show at the Old State Capitol. First Lady of Louisiana Donna Edwards will present the awards to the winning artists. The Inclusive Art Contest is open to all residents of Louisiana. Contestants are encouraged to use art as a means to share their vision, experiences, and talents to demonstrate this year’s theme. Click here for more information and registration form.


Louisiana Autism Spectrum and Related Disabilities (LASARD) Project

The mission of the LASARD Project is to work in partnership with school districts to increase their capacity to provide and support the use of evidence based practices for students with ASD and related disabilities in their schools.  To further that mission, LASARD offers technical assistance, coaching and mentoring within districts, schools and classrooms and provides ongoing opportunities for professional development not only for schools but for the community at large.  The LASARD Project is a joint venture between the LA Dept. of Education and the LSUHSC Human Development Center.  To take advantage of the resources LASARD has to offer, please go to our website and subscribe to our email list.  You will be kept informed of upcoming workshops and registration opportunities. 

Here are resources you can access:

  • Twelve webinars per school year are free and open to anyone interested.
  • High School Workshop will be offered in November for educators and family members focusing on issues affecting high school students with ASD. If you subscribe to the LASARD email list you will be notified when registration opens.
  • Video examples highlight effective practices in Louisiana schools. These practices include evidence-based practices that are effective not only for students with ASD and related disabilities, but for all students. 
  • Strategy guides are short (generally 2 pages) informational guides of practices for educators and family members of individuals with ASD.  Each guide includes information on a specific practice, steps for implementation, helpful tips, a scenario, and resources. 
  • The LASARD autism training modules include nine self-guided trainings on topics related to educating students with ASD.  Each module lasts approximately one hour, and upon successful completion of a short quiz, one CEU is offered for each module.  The modules include basic information for educators of students with ASD and related disabilities, or anyone seeking information regarding effective educational practices.  The current module topics are: behavior, communication, social interaction, transition, environment, curriculum and instruction, collaboration, inclusive practices, and assistive technology. 
  • Facebook page - www.facebook.com/LASARD.Project/
  • Instagram - www.instagram.com/lasard_project/


Governor’s Office to Host Human Trafficking Symposium

Did you know that every year in Louisiana, an increasing number of children and adults are forced into sex trafficking? On September 20, 2017 from 9am-12pm, the Governor’s Office of Programs and Planning in partnership with Baton Rouge Community College and host of cross-sector partners will host a Statewide Human Trafficking Awareness Symposium on Baton Rouge Community College’s campus. The symposium will bring together key leaders and stakeholders that serve trafficking victims, adult and youth survivors, and interested stakeholders to learn more about best practices in identifying and working with trafficking victims. The Symposium will consist of expert testimony from adult survivors, Louisiana State Police, NGO leaders, and others. There will also be a panel discussion to provide people with a better understanding of the services that currently exist for victims, successes and challenges for providers, the greatest gap in services, biggest needs for survivors, as well as prevention strategies. Registration for the symposium is free, and you can sign up here.


GOV Talks on Elderly Services 

The Governor’s Office of Programs and Planning hosted GOV Talks on August 23, 2017. The discussion of this GOV Talks was focused on the types of services offered for Louisiana’s aging and elderly population, and the panelists were Tara LeBlanc with the Office of Aging and Adult Services as well as Sharon Buchert and Teresa Broussard from the Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs. They spoke on a range of topics such as assistance for prescription drugs, eligibility requirements, and access to services. You can watch GOV Talks on Elderly Services at this link.  For more information regarding the services offered by these programs please visit Louisiana Answers or call the Office of Aging and Adult Services at 1-866-758-5035.


Spotlight: Jaime Duplechine, self-advocate

On July 21, I celebrated 22 years of being known and seen as a person with a disability. At 15 and unlicensed, I decided to get behind the wheel of a vehicle and was involved in a single vehicle accident that left me completely paralyzed. While, after injury, hasn’t been an easy journey, it has definitely been a journey that has been adventurous and victorious in so many different ways.  When I grasped the concept that my disability is simply a part of me and not who I am, I made the decision to continue living life as though nothing has changed. My disability has only changed the way I live life and not who I am as a person.

Learning to live again and pursuing my education have been the most important aspects of life. I finished my last two years of high school in a year and a half and continued on to college. In 2002 I graduated from Bossier Parish Community College with my Associates Degree in the Computer Information Systems. In December of this year, I will be completing my Advanced Diploma in Theology and my Bachelor’s Degree in Christian Ministry. I’m not quite sure where I’m going to go from there, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to pursue a Master’s Degree program in Christian Counseling.

Throughout the past couple years of my journey, I have been introduced to some of the greatest organizations which, of course, puts me in contact with some of the most amazing people who are now part of my life. For so many years I never knew so many great organizations existed for the greater good of all people with disabilities and I am extremely honored to say that I am, now, linked to many of them.  In 2015, I was greatly honored to take the opportunity and represent our state as Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana (America) titleholder. It was an amazing year and from that experience I have become a board member of the Brain Injury Association of Louisiana/United Spinal Association – Louisiana Chapter  and the Louisiana’s Statewide Independent Living Council. In 2016, I was nominated and selected to receive the “Outstanding Individual with a Disability Award” for Lafayette Awareness Committee for Citizens with Disabilities and the “Patsy Barrett Memorial Award” from the Governor’s Outstanding Leadership in Disabilities (GOLD) Awards.

Just this year, I have been greatly honored to, once again, represent our great state on a local and national level as the Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana USA 2017 titleholder. I placed third runner-up in the national level and was the recipient of the “Mona Johansson Spirit of Life Award” and the “Most Creative Costume Award.”  From these experiences, I have gained a liking for speaking and have joined a local Toastmasters club here in Lafayette. Toastmasters has helped me to find my voice, just as all of these other organizations, but it is showing me the proper way of delivering speeches to change and empower others. I just finished my Competent Communicator manual and am looking forward to working my way up in the club as well as pursuing my career as a motivational speaker.  I am a recent graduate of Partners in Policymaking Louisiana and look forward to putting forth more efforts toward advocacy and education to make life better for all people with disabilities here in Louisiana.


Community Integration: A Holistic Approach for Transition and Diversion

The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) Executive Director attended the Community Integration: A Holistic Approach to the New Core Service for Transition and Diversion conference.  The conference spoke about 8 topics regarding Transition and Diversion and how the Centers for Independent Living (CIL) can link the two. The concept of the conference was to inform Center Directors and SILC Directors that there will be an update to reporting that must be submitted to the Administration on Community Living (ACL) along with making sure that these core services are being done effectivity. The conference also explained the difference made between Transition and Diversion, and how this would affect the centers. The training explained the difference made between TRANSITION, which is facilitating the transition of individuals with significant disabilities from nursing homes and other institutions to home and community based residences with the requisite supports and services, and DIVERSION, which is providing assistance to individuals with significant disabilities who are at risk of entering intuitions so that the individuals may remain in the community.  In group activities, the Executive Director lead the group in discussions in which they described as the necessary elements of independent living (IL) services that are implemented in the new core services required for institution transition and diversion, and how important it is for individuals with disabilities to live on their own and be contributors to society.


Louisiana Fosters: Louisiana's Children - Our Children

First Lady of Louisiana Donna Edwards has launched a new statewide initiative aimed at connecting Louisiana’s foster families with community services that can aid them in their ability to provide quality care to the children in their homes.  The program which builds on the quality parenting initiative that was started last year by the governor and his administration to help reform the way parents are trained and recruited to the foster care system.  The goal of the program is to bring faith based and community organizations, companies and government together to help provide families with the as much support as possible.  Department of Children and Family Services Secretary Marketa Garner Walters said after the announcement of the program, “Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone has something to offer. Whether that means sponsoring a child’s dance lessons or little league sports equipment, providing childcare for a foster parent’s night out, offering low-cost office space to an organization that helps foster families or leave time to a family who fosters, there is something everyone can do to help.”   The First Lady eloquently reminded those in attendance that “Louisiana’s foster children are our children – yours and mine – and it is our responsibility to provide what they need.”   Information on the program and the resources it offers can be found at www.LouisianaFosters.la.gov.   Governor John Bel Edward and First Lady Donna Edwards ask everyone to support Louisiana's foster families and help make a more nurturing environment for our children in this video.

Prior to the launch of this initiative, the Governor’s Office of Programs and Planning hosted GOV Talks on Foster Care in Louisiana on November 10, 2016.  You can view the live recording here.  


Restore Louisiana

The response rate for the Restore Louisiana survey collecting data from the 2016 floods is still not what it needs to be. Approximately - only 1/2 of the people who could qualify for assistance have completed the survey.  This survey is different and separate from the FEMA application and process.  FEMA is administered by the federal Office of Homeland Security.  Restore Louisiana is funded by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD).  Funding as it’s made available to Louisiana has been dispersed in stages based on various factors.  For instance, the first round of funding went to people who were elderly, disabled, and/or had low income. 

At its meeting on Friday, Aug. 18, the Restore Louisiana Task Force unanimously approved Gov. John Bel Edwards’ request to expand the homeowner assistance program to all homeowners who had flood insurance during the March and August 2016 floods. In addition, the task force unanimously approved the governor’s request to increase grant award amounts to those who are already eligible for both construction work and reimbursements. The measures, which now go to the governor and then HUD for final approval, could allow thousands more flood-impacted homeowners to apply for awards.

The measures approved Friday would make several key changes in the homeowner assistance program’s eligibility requirements, including:

  • Expanding eligibility to all homeowners with flood insurance who still have an unmet need after insurance proceeds
  • Increasing the award amount homeowners receive for costs of flood-related repairs that have not yet been completed
  • Increasing the percentage homeowners are reimbursed for repairs already completed to date, more than $16 million has been awarded to over 500 homeowners, and more than 40,000 homeowners have completed the flood-damage survey.  The changes approved on Friday do not require homeowners to re-take the survey if they have completed it.

The survey can be found at http://restore.la.gov/.  For questions or to complete the Homeowners Flood Damage survey by telephone, call 866-735-2001, Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm.