(T-G Photo by Tracy Simmons)
Since his appointment to the newly-created post last year, he's been making his way around the state to meet those responsible for centers under his oversight. With the encouragement of State Sen. Jim Tracy and State Rep. Pat Marsh, he visited the Bedford County CDC last week.
The local non-profit has been providing early intervention services to Bedford County since it was founded in 1972. A funding cut in January, coupled with another major cut in July, has reduced the center's primary funding source by half.
Earlier this month, indicators were that a $7.2 million allowance for Family Services programs would likely be lost in the latest round of cuts to the state's budget.
Locally the move would eliminate primary funding for two programs which operate under the umbrella of the Community Development Center. Independent Support Coordination and Family Services each serve adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
ISC coordinates home and community-based services and supports 330 individuals in 12 local counties.
Family Support offers financial assistance and resource information to clients and last year helped off-set the cost of services like respite care, needed home modifications, supplies and medical items not covered by insurance to 202 families in six counties. In Bedford County 41 are served, with almost as many already on a list waiting for program funding.
In addition to a state grant of $250,834, the Family Support program receives more than $7,400 from two local community grants.
Henry is the first Commissioner of the DIDD. The agency was formerly a division of the Department of Finance and Administration before the Tennessee Legislature established it as a stand-alone department at the beginning of 2011. The department oversees a $770 million annual budget.
"We are very appreciative of Commissioner Henry's visit, and the support shown by the families served by the programs of the Community Development Center, as well as Senator Jim Tracy and Representative Pat Marsh," said Christy Jensen, coordinator of Family Support.
"Although the Family Support Program is included in the cuts proposed by the Commissioner in the [DIDD] budget for the new fiscal year, we know he is genuinely concerned for the families it helps. Our families who were here to meet him could sense that about him ... He said to keep communications open with our legislators, which is what we've asked our families to do. It's the only way we are going to save the Family Support Program."
"Obviously this center has great community support," said Henry during an informal chat with a group of parents and clients of local Family Services funding.
Henry also complemented the work and reputation of Tracy and Marsh.
"They are each well-respected in Nashville."
"We are glad Commissioner Henry got to see first hand the community support our programs have in Bedford County and to see up close and in person some of the clients the Family Support Program actually helps," added Jensen.