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TN DIDD Achieves Person-Centered Excellence Network Accreditation

On January 15, 2019, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (TN DIDD) achieved Person-Centered Excellence Network Accreditation from CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership. The accomplishment demonstrates a deep and continued commitment to quality enhancement, person-centered practices, and a steadfast focus on what really matters to people receiving services throughout the state. TN DIDD achieved their first Network Accreditation term in 2015, becoming the first – and currently only – state service delivery system to attain this designation.

“A common phrase across CQL and among our partners is that quality is a journey, it’s not a destination,” says Mary Kay Rizzolo, CQL President and CEO. “TN DIDD embodies this philosophy, as they use this accomplishment as a catalyst for further advancement. This is not the end, but the rejuvenation of another beginning.”

Courtney Kelly presents at TN DIDD Network Accreditation event

Starting in August 2012, TN DIDD began this significant undertaking and has worked diligently over the years to improve the quality of services being provided, and in turn, the quality of life for people receiving those services. Network Accreditation provided TN DIDD with a framework for defining, measuring, and evaluating quality from the person’s perspective through understanding, assessing, and measuring the existence of the factors, sub-factors, and probes involving the Basic Assurances®. It also entailed the use of Personal Outcome Measures®, a discovery process where people receiving supports and those who know them well explore quality of life outcomes, and the supports in place to help people achieve those outcomes.

“Receiving the prestigious distinction of CQL Accreditation for the second time underscores that our services are among the best in the entire nation and are truly putting people first,” states Debra K. Payne, TN DIDD Commissioner. “This is one of the proudest events to be involved in, in my entire career.”

The accreditation has had a substantial impact across the state, affecting roughly 400 contracted providers, with around 20,000 Direct Support Professionals and 8,000 people supported. Through Network Accreditation, TN DIDD has tripled the number of self-advocate mentors among people receiving services, who support their peers through training and education about living, working, and engaging with their communities. At the Network Accreditation celebration event held on January 15, 2019, some of the self-advocate mentors shared how TN DIDD’s initiatives have impacted their lives.

“I’ve had the chance to meet people and see new places,” says Ernie, a self-advocate mentor in Tennessee. “I have been able to help people speak up and speak out for themselves.”

Debra Payne presents at TN DIDD Network Accreditation event

Over the next four years, DIDD will continue their successful efforts in capacity-building, quality monitoring, measurement, and improvement, as well as their use of data collection and analysis methods. “Accreditation is about everyone coming together to transform a culture and support people to live the lives they envision for themselves,” adds Payne.


Since 1969, CQL | The Council on Quality and Leadership has been a leader in working with human service organizations and systems to continuously define, measure, and improve quality of life and quality of services for youth, adults, and older adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities. CQL offers accreditation, training, certification, research, and consultation services to agencies that share our vision of dignity, opportunity, and community for all people.