South Dakota Center for Disabilities Holds 2019 Symposium (SD UCEDD/LEND)

December 23, 2019

The University of South Dakota Center for Disabilities (SD UCEDD/LEND) recently held its 2019 Symposium & the JAM Sept. 16-17 in Sioux Falls, SD. The conference was a great success, with almost 200 professionals, self-advocates, parents, family members, students, and community members in attendance. The Center for Disabilities' 2019 Symposium was developed to bring the community together to encourage learning, leadership, and innovation as well as an opportunity for building connections toward improving the lives of individuals with disabilities and their families. The collaborative spirit of the Symposium fosters a culture of inclusion, which means healthcare, education, and human services professionals learn alongside self-advocates and their families, employers, and members of the community.

This year's theme was "Community: Fostering a Culture of Inclusion," and emphasized the importance of creating inclusive communities and opportunities for individuals with disabilities and their families. Attendees had access to three focus tracks with significant emphasis on the intersection between mental health and developmental disabilities, Native American health and disability needs, and self-advocacy/leadership. Additionally, a number of breakout sessions covered a host of other important topics such as transition, employment, and community services. On the first day of the symposium, Dr. Donald Warne began the day by delivering a very powerful keynote address on Native American Health and Disability Issues. Dr. Warne is the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as well as the Director of the Indians into Medicine (INMED) and Master of Public Health Programs, and Professor of Family and Community Medicine at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of North Dakota. An awards luncheon was held, recognizing a number of individuals and organizations for being champions on issues related to disability.

Below is the list of very deserving award winners. Distinguished Service: Julie Johnson-Dresbach Transitions Services Manager, SD Department of Health and Human Services Division of Developmental Disabilities Outstanding Family Service: Pamela Strohm Parent, Advocate, and Systems Reformer Outstanding Employer: Burger King Store 21422 5000 N Granite Lane, Sioux Falls Exceptional Employee Service: Steven Prendergast Wegner Health Science Information Center Concluding the first day of the Symposium was Russell Lehman, an award-winning and internationally recognized motivational speaker, poet, author and advocate. Lehman delivered an emotional, raw, and very personal story about his lived experience, including the triumphs and challenges of having autism. His story captured the audience and inspired all in attendance. After a day of learning and connecting, a community dance and game night was held. Kicking off the second day of the Symposium, attendees were delighted to have Dr. Yona Lunsky address Mental Health and the Intersection with Developmental Disabilities. This topic proved to strike a chord with the audience.

Dr. Lunsky, who serves as Director of the Azrieli Adult Neurodevelopmental Centre and Director of the Health Care Access Research and Developmental Disabilities (H-CARDD) Program at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Canada, provided very timely, informative, and beneficial strategies on advancing services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health needs. Concluding the conference was a panel discussion on "Developmental Disabilities Needs and Opportunities: Vision for the Future." Elaine Roberts, former Executive Director of South Dakota Parent Connection served as the facilitator. Panelists included former South Dakota State Senator Billie Sutton; Dr. Bruce Fogas, Licensed Psychologist and Director of Therapeutic Services at Volunteers of America Dakotas; Amanda Dickerson, Self-Advocate; and Tamee Livermont, a tribal member from South Dakota and Public Health professional. Staff at the Center for Disabilities have wasted no time beginning to plan for the next event which will continue to address emerging issues, and build collaborations and partnerships to reach an even broader audience.