Children and Family Services Briefing

On February 25, 2016, the Governor’s Office hosted over 150 child welfare and disability advocates in a community coordination and planning meeting at the State Capitol. First Lady Donna Edwards, Chief of Staff Ben Nevers, and Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs and Planning Johnny Anderson encouraged individuals in attendance to continue their extraordinary advocacy efforts to advance the welfare of children and persons with disabilities. The guests in attendance participated by interacting with the cabinet secretaries from the Louisiana Workforce Commission, Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities, Department of Children and Family Services, and members representing the Governor’s Office of Community Programs.


Statewide Independent Living Council Update

The Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) has met several times this year to finalize the State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL). SILC represented Louisiana at the “SILC Congress 2016” in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss the various issues and opportunities in independent living. SILC currently seeks dedicated and passionate individuals in the disability community to serve on its council. Please call (225) 219-7550 for more information or to receive an application.


Home and Community-Based Services Providers Budget Briefing

On March 3, 2016, over 100 providers, advocates, and individuals representing state agencies attended a meeting on the 4th floor of the State Capitol to discuss the significance of the potential budget cuts as it relates to Home and Community-Based Service Providers. This event was hosted by the Executive Director of Disability Affairs, Bambi Polotzola; Michelle Alletto, Deputy Secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH); Julie Baxter Payer, Deputy Chief of Staff of Communications, Legal, and Special Projects in the Governor's Office; and Johnny Anderson, Deputy Chief of Staff of Programs and Planning in the Governor's Office. This briefing facilitated discussions relative to the challenges and problems that persons with disabilities will face if the budget is not balanced in a timely fashion and if the legislature fails to create mechanisms that will raise revenue in our state. Deputy Secretary Alletto shared with those in attendance that the DHH is working diligently with legislators to ensure that services for persons with disabilities remain intact. Alletto also revealed that the proposed budget cuts will potentially effect over 14,000 persons receiving services through Louisiana Medicaid and Waiver Services and could potentially eliminate thousands of jobs. The hosts of this briefing urged those in attendance to contact their legislators to discuss the negative impact the cuts to services will have on persons with disabilities, and to consider all avenues to raise revenue. The hosts of this briefing also compelled all interested parties to mobilize their advocacy efforts and support Governor John Bel Edwards' plan to raise and collect revenue to avoid the risk of losing services that benefit the lives of persons with disabilities and the livelihood of those individuals who serve as providers. Please visit the legislative website at to contact your legislators, attend committee meetings to voice your concerns, and stay abreast on all developments relative to the potential cuts to services.


A Message from Bambi Polotzola, Executive Director of The Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs 

Greetings! It is my extreme honor to serve as the Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs. I’ve been involved with disability issues for over a decade working with people with disabilities and their families as an educator and as a service provider. I have served on the Louisiana Developmental Disabilities Council as well as on the boards of numerous disability-related non-profit organizations. As a mother of a teenager with a disability, I understand the needs of families. My work has primarily been centered on capacity building and systemic change that supports people with disabilities to be fully included and valued members of their communities. I received my Bachelor Degrees in Accounting and Special Education from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and my Masters in Educational Leadership from the American College of Education. I’m also a 2007 graduate of Louisiana Partners in Policymaking. I, along with Governor Edwards and our entire staff, believe that we can and we must do better in regards to services and outcomes for people with disabilities. I look forward to the opportunity to work in a coordinated effort to further opportunities for persons with disabilities to enjoy full and equal access to lives of independence, productivity, and self-determination.


2016 Inclusive Art Show Contest

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 2016 Inclusive Art Show 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 “Inclusion Matters: A Better World For All.” Award medals and special recognition from Governor John Bel Edwards will be presented to the artists who submit winning artwork. The Inclusive Art Show 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.

Winning entries will be publicly displayed. All entries must be submitted by May 3, 2016. Please call (225) 219-9866 or email should you have any questions or concerns relative to this year’s contest.



A Message from Jessica Lewis, Director of the Statewide Independent Living Council

Since February, I have had the opportunity of serving as the Director of the Statewide Independent Living Council. During this time, I have enjoyed meeting many different groups within the disability community. Having family members with disabilities has made this job very personal for me. Prior to being hired as the director, I received my undergraduate degree from Southern University and my graduate degree from University of Phoenix. As a Louisiana veteran, this job has provided me with opportunities to travel across this state and meet with council members and individuals with disabilities. It has been encouraging to see the work being done to improve the quality of life for those with disabilities, and I look forward to contributing to that.