Disability in Iowa: Working Together!

November 16, 2023

In early November, the Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), home to Iowa’s UCEDD, LEND program, and IDDRC, teamed up with our sister organization, the Iowa Developmental Disabilities Council, to host “Disability in Iowa: Working Together.” Iowa’s state legislators were invited to CDD for a learning session to increase their awareness of the work we do on behalf of Iowans with disabilities, and to help them understand more about the experience of living with a disability, including the challenges of access to supports and services.

Kelly Von Lehmden, Iowa LEND Training Director, welcomed everyone to the event and led introductions, which included a variety of CDD staff. Iowa state representative Josh Turek, who has been working with CDD and the DD Council to build awareness of disability issues among the state’s legislators, helped promote the event. State legislators in attendance included:

  • Steven Bradley
  • Timi Brown-Powers
  • Claire Celsi
  • Elinor Levin
  • Sarni Sheetz
  • Art Staed
  • Kelsey Thien (aide)
  • Josh Turek
  • Elizabeth Wilson
  • Adam Zabner


The event agenda featured presentations and follow-up discussions about these priorities:

  • Direct Support Professional (DSP) shortage crisis
  • Medicaid gaps in services
  • Building the capacity of providers in the state
  • Maximizing competitive integrated employment opportunities for people with disabilities


Participants heard presentations from: Associate UCEDD Director, Caitlin Owens; CDD Medical Director and LEND Project Director, Dianne McBrien, MD; CDD Physician Director and Hawk-IDDRC co-Director, Lane Strathearn, MBBS, PhD; DD Council Executive Director, Brooke Lovelace, and Public Policy Manager, Carlyn Crowe.

UCEDD Program Manager and Employment Training Specialist, Judy Warth, moderated a panel of people, who shared stories of their experiences with disability. The panel included CDD staff: Ed Esbeck, Dawn Graber, Ben Grauer, Dayrin Lovan; and Claire Wilke, who is a DSP and former Iowa LEND trainee. The event ended with a robust Q&A period, and a tour of CDD. And it provided state legislators with a great display of the knowledge and expertise working together at CDD, and in the state of Iowa!

For questions about the “Working Together” event, get in touch with Caitlin Owens at [email protected].