Deaf Services co-sponsors annual statewide conference

DBHDD Deaf Services co-sponsored the Georgia Association for the Deaf Conference (GAD) held June 17 – 21 at the Jekyll Island Convention Center. The conference provided a forum where leaders exchanged valuable information about the promotion of the rights of Deaf people.

This venue provided the first opportunity for the Deaf Services of DBHDD to introduce its new branding efforts to spread the vision of communication equity in the delivery of services. Deaf Services rolled out a new theme: Access, Inclusion, and Respect, and incorporated it within the booth concept and video. These three aspects communicate the commitment to change the course of communication service delivery.

“The Deaf Services team understands and appreciates the value of access; for without it, individuals cannot be heard. Our team focus remains advocacy for Georgia’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing citizens, ensuring that they have a voice in the process of service delivery,” said Dr. Candice Tate, Director of Deaf Services.

Dr. Tate hosted an open forum, encouraging the Deaf community to enter into a dialogue about their concerns and perception of the state of mental health and service delivery in Georgia’s Deaf community. Some of the issues discussed included group home administration and whether a dedicated Deaf group home could exist. Additional questions were poised concerning Deaf Services funding. In addition, quality of care questions and concerns on behalf of immediate family members were raised about how to qualify and obtain services for their respective family members.

DBHDD Deaf Services sought to deliver the educational message by modeling respect for each individual at the conference by actively engaging each participant, answering their questions, and providing information face to face. Kelly Stockdale, a Deaf Operations Analyst for DBHDD, said, “Being able to model these concepts of access, inclusion and respect in an environment of open dialogue, where we are listening to others, allows us to gather the information that will support removing barriers, and positions the team to define, implement, and measure the effectiveness of our services.”

Other topics discussed during the conference included the use of video remote interpreting (VRI) in hospitals, the challenges of utilizing VRI and the impact of replacing live interpreters. The DBHDD Deaf Services focus on inclusion and respect correlated with Chris Wagner’s discussion of oppression, both within and external to the Deaf community. Additional topics included a presentation by “HEARD” (Helping Educate to Advance the Rights of the Deaf) concerning the advocacy of rights for Deaf individuals held or incarcerated within the local, county, and state legal systems.

The GAD Conference continues to provide a forum where key information within and about the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities can be shared. Partners and stakeholders include a cross-section of individuals with a vested interest in the Deaf community. This group remains dedicated to the protection and promotion of the rights of the Deaf through advocacy.

National Association of the Deaf Conference

Atlanta hosted the 52nd Biennial National Association of the Deaf Conference, which took place between July 1 and July 5 at the Hilton Atlanta.

 “It was exciting to meet so many other community members and leaders from around the country supporting the 2014 National Association of the Deaf conference theme of deaf civil rights, which parallels the mission of DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services to provide and promote equal accessibility and choice of services and programs to our deaf and hard of hearing communities,” said DBHDD Deaf Services Director Candice Tate, Ph.D. “Deaf services staff were honored to attend the opening ceremony with Commissioner Berry and Assistant Commissioner Gault, and several attendees approached us later during the conference to express how much it meant to see our state leaders support and lead our efforts to ensure equal behavioral health care access for all Georgians.”

New director of Deaf Services

Dr. Candice M. TateThis week, DBHDD welcomes Candice M. Tate, Ph.D., as director of the Office of Deaf Services. Dr. Tate is a deaf psychologist fluent in American Sign Language (ASL). She brings over 15 years of experience in therapeutic and assessment services to both deaf and hearing populations. Her work on “Trauma in the Deaf Population: Definition, Experience, and Services” was published by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and has been used as a resource by DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services.

The hiring of Tate reinforces the DBHDD’s commitment to ensuring that individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing have service accessibility equivalent to that of the hearing population. Tate’s background gives her a comprehensive outlook on culturally appropriate solutions to workforce and system needs across the state. Her informed perspective will help to refine the department’s service delivery model as DBHDD works with providers to employ a workforce that, wherever possible, specifically includes ASL-fluent staff.

Tate holds a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Western Michigan University and a doctorate in clinical psychology from Gallaudet University (2005). Over the past eight years, she has pursued her commitment of increasing consumer access to public mental health systems via training, consumer input, policy implementation and program evaluation. In 2008, she started Purple Monarch PLLC, which offers a full range of psychological services from therapy to assessment.

Tate’s own hearing loss was discovered when she was two and a half years old. She was placed in a mainstream school and did not learn ASL until she entered the clinical psychology program at Gallaudet. She developed a passion for helping people with access issues when she worked at a group home for individuals with developmental disabilities during her last two years of undergraduate studies. The experience inspired her to pursue a career in mental health focusing on linguistic and cultural accessibility.

Tate was raised in Montana but has worked across the United States with varied populations in a wide range of settings, including Rochester, NY; Washington, DC; Denver, CO; and rural Montana. Her exposure to different communities gives her a strong cross-cultural perspective. “I am committed to working within Georgia’s diverse deaf and hard of hearing communities to develop and expand an array of culturally and linguistically accessible services and technologies necessary to achieve overall health and well-being,” Tate said. She emphasizes the need for consumer input, “we will be listening directly to the communities and will develop these services based on their self-identified and assessed needs for services.”

Not unfamiliar with Georgia, Tate previously lived in Augusta for one year. She looks forward to being back in Georgia and is excited to join the DBHDD team. Her work will center on the implementation of meaningful system changes to deaf services at the state, regional and local level. “I feel honored to be a part of this change, and I believe that DBHDD has assembled a strong and qualified team that will successfully work together to achieve our vision and goals,” she said.

DBHDD is pleased to welcome Tate. Under her direction, Georgia will be well-positioned to become a leader in providing better access to behavioral health and developmental disability services for everyone the department serves.

New interpreter coordinator joins DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services

Deb WalkerDBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services welcomed new statewide interpreter coordinator Deb Walker in February. Deb brings almost 20 years of experience as a certified interpreter by the national Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf. In 2003, she completed the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Mental Health Interpreter Training. She has since been involved in the program as an instructor. Deb also held the “Qualified Mental Health Interpreter” designation (awarded by the State of Alabama) for six years and served as the practicum coordinator for the Alabama Office of Deaf Services for three years while working at Greil Psychiatric Hospital in the segregated Deaf Unit. Deb has lived in Georgia for four years and worked as a community interpreting provider before joining DBHDD.

Deb joins DBHDD’s Deaf Services coordinator Amy Peterson and community liaison Barry Critchfield. The Office of Deaf Services provides access to DBHDD services for individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or deafblind. “Our office is working to make sure access is provided so that people who are deaf can receive services equivalent to those accessed by the non-deaf population,” Walker said. “We are striving to eliminate communication as a barrier to accessing services.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act places the incumbency on providers to offer interpreters for individuals who are deaf. DBHDD’s role is to facilitate training and coordination for interpreters and to help providers find easy access to certified interpreters.

“We rely on mental health interpreters to facilitate communication between the service provider and the consumer. When it comes to mental health for people who are Deaf, the interpreter has to know American Sign Language (ASL) well enough to be able to distinguish subtle variances in communication,” Walker said.

Currently, Georgia’s mental health interpreters attend the same 40-hour training course provided by the Alabama Department of Mental Health that Deb completed in 2003. DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services is working to bring the next two steps of credentialing – supervision and evaluation – to Georgia. Under this new system, participants will continue to attend the course in Alabama, then return to Georgia to complete a 40-hour practicum and an evaluation. All three steps will be necessary to carry the designation of “certified mental health interpreter.”

“Any time you bring an interpreter into a mental health assignment, both the Deaf individual and the clinician have to believe that what is being communicated to each other through the interpreter is correct. How do they know, however, that what is being relayed to and from is accurate if no one is able to monitor the interpretation?” said Walker. “Our goal is to make sure that Georgia has a standard by which both parties can feel confident that the sign language interpreter is adequately trained to handle the nuances that are unique mental health appointments. We have a long, exciting road ahead of us but our sleeves are rolled up, and we’re moving forward.”

For more information about DBHDD’s Office of Deaf Services, contact Deb Walker.