19 Dec Thank you friends!
As we approach the end of 2017, I find myself, as I’m sure many of you do, reflecting on the year behind us. This year, the Statewide Independent Living Council of Tennessee (SILC) faced many transitions. We saw changes in our leadership, responded to federal threats to our funding and program structure, deepened the unity of the Independent Living (IL) Network, and expanded collaborations with community partners. Thanks to supporters like you, we were able to rise to our challenges and use transitions to grow our capacity to achieve our mission: to promote and expand the IL philosophy and services across our state better than ever.
Some of the projects we are most proud of this year include:
- Our pilot project, Rural Independent Living Outreach and Advocacy, a collaboration with Empower Tennessee and the Community Development Center, brought IL services to seven previously unserved rural counties. With just one part-time advocate we held more than 30 outreach events and provided direct services and support to just as many. Our conversations with consumers in this region have reinvigorated our commitment to expand services in rural areas of our state. As one woman said through tears, “There are so many people I can send to you that need your help like I did.”
- Our collaboration with the intellectual and developmental disability community sparked several statewide advocacy efforts to educate community members and policy makers about issues such as Medicaid cuts and access to healthcare in general. Powerful messages about the importance of healthcare as necessary to live independently were shared in our #WeAreMedicaid social media campaign by all SILC members. Joined by the SILC Chair and members of T.A.R.P, we took these stories to Tennessee legislators in Washington, DC. More than ever, it is crucial that legislators get first-hand knowledge about the impact healthcare has on the capacity of Tennesseans with disabilities to live independently. It was an honor to share our consumer stories and extend the reach of advocacy efforts at home.
- The SILC’s new website was launched this year. Following several months of planning and review by people with disabilities using difference screen readers, we’ve finally gone public. We’re thrilled to have this unifying and user friendly resource available to the IL Network. The site’s best new features include: an overview of Independent Living and the SILC; tools to further engage the public including ongoing needs assessment, community calendar, blog, and links to social media; and password protected sections for CILs’ directors and SILC Members to access additional information and trainings.
With our victories under our belt, we move into 2018 with excitement. Though we’re not keen on resolutions, we are big on goals. As such, these are the goals that I ask your support in achieving:
- Continue systems advocacy for essential services necessary for independent living
- Increase funding to expand services for rural Tennesseans with disabilities who are currently living in one of more than 50 unserved counties.
We have achieved many things we are proud of this year, but the need for our work continues. Making substantial progress toward these goals is part of meeting that need. So, as you plan your giving for the new year, we hope you will join the SILC and support the expansion of independent living for Tennesseans with disabilities.
Linnet Overton, Executive Director