A new partnership between Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities, TCDD, is creating a statewide presence to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities, caregivers, partners and providers in communities throughout Texas.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 19% of people in the U.S. and more than 5 million Texans have a disability, said Andy Crocker, AgriLife Extension statewide program specialist in gerontology and health, Amarillo.
“With Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s mission to help Texans better their lives, this partnership with TCDD will allow us to serve new audiences with our research-based, practical, applicable education,” Crocker said.
“Every state has a developmental disabilities council, so TCDD brings to the table that network, and we will be able to leverage their expertise and national partners,” he said. “We, on the other hand, have a presence in every Texas county, and we bring that network to TCDD.”
AgriLife Extension programs are delivered throughout the state by a network of local educators and volunteers. For instance, the Family and Community Health Unit focuses on topics such as child and adult health, nutrition, child care, financial management, passenger and community safety, and building strong families. The goal is to encourage lifelong health and well-being for every person, every family and every community.
The disability population in Texas is just as varied and diverse as the state they live in, said Beth Stalvey, Ph.D., TCDD executive director. Just like all Texans, people with disabilities are from diverse cultural backgrounds, live in concentrated urban centers or remote rural areas, and participate in community life in different ways. Because the state is diverse in so many ways, the experiences of people with disabilities and those who provide care are also diverse, which includes how they access support and services, information and resources.
“TCDD already works with our numerous grantees and partners from around the state to expand our impact, but through this partnership with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, we’ll have more opportunities to connect directly with people with disabilities,” Stalvey said. “We’ll be able to more completely understand the specific needs of Texans and to identify strategies to reduce barriers at the local level.”
By establishing five regional community outreach coordinators in conjunction with AgriLife Extension, TCDD gains the visibility, benefit and reputation of being active and engaged in understanding specific needs, identifying strategies to reduce barriers and networking to form new partnerships and support at the local level, she said.
The new coordinators hired are Skyler Mueller, Amarillo; Anthony Ross, Corpus Christi; Richard Williams, Dallas; Rosa Guel, Weslaco; and Morgan Bradley, College Station. Each of these individuals is located at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in their town or the AgriLife Extension campus.
The coordinators are charged with building community support and resources around individuals with disabilities and those who provide care, Crocker said. They will share and expand best-practice models through collaboration with community partners and create cross-disability and cross-cultural partnerships through local community engagement.
Stalvey said the partnership focuses on multiple goals and objectives in TCDD’s 2017- 2021 state plan. This includes support of promising new practices, addressing linguistic and cultural barriers, and promoting leadership and advocacy training among self-advocates, families and other allies.
For more information, go to TCDD’s website: https://tcdd.texas.gov.