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Hello DHS,

Last week, the Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities held their annual Developmental Disability Awareness celebration, including special guest Governor Kitzhaber. The event was to celebrate self advocacy - that is, people with disabilities speaking out and taking an active role in planning their lives and the programs that affect them. Today, self advocacy is an important force in Oregon and is best represented by the statement "Nothing about us without us."

Here at DHS, our goal is to ensure that our programs and services for people with developmental disabilities are aligned with their needs and wants. Last month, Mary Lee Fay, our hard-working Director of the Office of Developmental Disabilities, sent a message to her staff and stakeholders summarizing our commitment nicely.

I'd like to share her message with you, too.

She said: I want to take a moment to connect with all the committed and talented professionals around Oregon who work tirelessly to support and empower those with developmental and intellectual disabilities. March is Developmental Disabilities (DD) Awareness Month, an opportunity to recognize the talents and contributions of the approximately 40,000 Oregonians who experience developmental disabilities and the families, professionals, and communities that support them.

The work you do every day is one of the reasons that Oregon is a national model for the services we provide and the way we provide them. Our self-directed approach is continually discussed at the national level and impacts the way leaders think about and approach service delivery. Your excellent and compassionate work is not only appreciated at the local and state levels, but is noticed at the national level as well.

The national theme this year is "Our Community is Better Together" and across the nation, organizations devoted to serving individuals with developmental disabilities are planning special events in March to raise public awareness of the many abilities people have, regardless of disability. Here in Oregon, Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month activities will culminate in a celebration of self advocacy hosted by The Oregon Council on Developmental Disabilities (OCDD) and The Arc Oregon. Governor Kitzhaber will present DD Champion Awards to two individuals who exemplify the voice of self advocacy in Oregon. The 2012 DD Awareness Poster, "I have a voice," which celebrates self advocacy, will be unveiled during the event.

During Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month, I want you to know how much your work impacts and touches the lives of Oregonians and how appreciative I am personally of the work you do. Thank you.

I'll add my personal appreciation to Mary Lee's remarks and say thank you to all of you who work with the DD program. The work you do makes an important daily impact on our clients and their families.

I really like the empowerment that's delivered in the phrase "Nothing about us without us," and I hope we can all take a little of that kind of self advocacy forward with us as we face the challenges ahead.

Thank you all and have a great week.


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