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Statewide Disability Organizations Form New Network

The Georgia Developmental Disabilities Network (GDDN) is a consortium of 15 Georgia disability-focused organizations that are committed to connecting people with resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launched at the beginning of the pandemic in Spring 2020, GDDN has hosted monthly phone calls to support individuals with disabilities, parents and family members, caregivers and other stakeholders to share COVID-19 challenges.

Additionally, the monthly webinars provide resources for Georgians with disabilities and other stakeholders that offer guidance on navigating various topics such as Medicaid waivers, employment, Appendix K and more.

Susanna Miller-Raines, Operations Coordinator at Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability (CLD), spearheaded the formation of GDDN. She spoke to Making a Difference about the network and how it plans to continue advocating for Georgians with disabilities.

How did GDDN come about?

Many of us have worked together for years and many organizations already had relationships. Georgia State’s CLD, University of Georgia’s Institute on Human Development and Disability, the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) and the Georgia Advocacy Office are already a part of the DD Network. And then, by working with other organizations, we have all developed relationships throughout our work.

We all have different roles and responsibilities within the community, and we all serve different groups of people. We got full support and pulled everyone together to provide different perspectives based on our mandates and work in the community.

Who does the GDDN aim to serve?

The pandemic presented specific challenges that affected the disability community at a different level.The pandemic presented specific challenges that affected the disability community at a different level and gave individuals and families different things to think about when it came to services, medical appointments, employment and so much more. We wanted to specifically serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and their families.

Tell us about GDDN’s webinars. What kind of information do they cover?

The network’s webinars started with some of the basics of DD services such as understanding Appendix K, getting medical services and more. Then, we started to survey our audience and brought experts to address the topics that were also important to our callers.

IT HAS BEEN EMPOWERING TO PULL TOGETHER AND MOBILIZE A GROUP OF POWERFUL ORGANIZATIONS THAT ARE SHARING THEIR KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE OF THEIR RESPECTIVE WORK.Many wanted to learn about access to financial resources, for example understanding how the stimulus checks works, who gets it, how is someone who is a dependent going to get it, etc. We also had many discussions on mental health and dealing with isolation. Attendees did an idea swap that allowed everyone to share how they might be solving this problem.

We also did a webinar on education that featured the state director of special education who shared the master plan for students with disabilities and guidance for districts. Parents also learned about their rights and how to serve students who might not be getting services like speech therapies.

Other topics included assistive technology, employment, access to food banks and updates on COVID-19 from a source from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Are there future plans for the network among other issues that are important to the disability community? Absolutely. We have a whole new level of connectedness. At this point, we all know each other, and we have also invited organizations that are new to the network. We now have a platform that we can spring into action around other issues that matter to the disability community.

What has been a rewarding experience of seeing this network grow and support the community?

It has been empowering to pull together and mobilize a group of powerful organizations that are sharing their knowledge and expertise of their respective work through the webinars and reach individuals with I/DD and their families during a time of crisis.

While GDDN continues to provide information on COVID-19 updates, the network is now expanding its webinars to discuss legislative advocacy and how to advocate with legislators as the Georgia General Assembly’s 2021 session is underway.

The webinars are now held monthly, and all recordings, transcripts and information are available on GCDD’s website.

GDDN Partners:

  • Adult Disability Medical Healthcare
  • The Arc Georgia
  • Bobby Dodd Institute
  • Center for Leadership in Disability at Georgia State University
  • Department of Public Health Georgia
  • Down Syndrome Association of Atlanta
  • FOCUS
  • The Fragile X Association of Georgia
  • Georgia Advocacy Office
  • Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
  • Institute on Human Development and Disability at the University of Georgia
  • Parent to Parent of Georgia
  • Spectrum Autism Support, Education and Resources
  • Tools for Life – Georgia’s Assistive Technology Act Program
  • Uniting for Change