Diversity Fellow Project, Roxanna Topete

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Engaging Underserved Communities to Address Chronic Inequities in Accessing DD Services in California Related to Race, Ethnicity, and Language

Engaging Underserved Communities to Address Chronic Inequities in Accessing DD Services in California Related to Race, Ethnicity, and Language [download poster]

meet Roxanna Topete >

Project Narrative

1. Please describe your activities during your fellowship experience. Describe your final capstone project(s).
I’m actually amazed at all the activities I got to jump into during my time with this Fellowship. -From the beginning, I was sitting in on regional center’s public meetings with parents who were concerned with the current findings of Purchase of Service (POS) Disparities for the year of 2016.
  • I went through LEND training which meant I got to meet some amazing graduate/post-doc students, collaborate with other professionals over hypo situations involving Intellectual/Developmentally Disabled (I/DD) children and families, and got to go through an intensive leadership training through LEND.
  • I became an interviewer for the National Core Indicators Survey (NCIS), a project coordinated by the State Council on Developmental Disabilities (SCDD), where I went to the homes of 38 I/DD adults and asked them questions regarding their overall health and state of happiness with the services and supports received from regional centers.
  • I went to Washington DC and gave a poster presentation regarding my project on POS Disparities and met with Capitol staff for both Kamala Harris and Diane Feinstein to discuss the beneficial training we have through LEND.
  • I worked with Disability Rights California (DRC) attorney Evelyn Abhouhassan to create bill letters for parents so that they could easily understand DRC’s bill positions which were placed on the DRC website.
  • I attended a fiscal hearing in Sacramento and briefly spoke to those in attendance the importance of understanding the needs of I/DD people of color constituents.
  • I was the only JD in a sea of MDs at the California Medical Association’s (CMA) Advocacy Training Day where I met with California Senators in Sacramento to advocate for the passage of Senator Lara’s Health for All Act which would make California the first state to provide universal healthcare in America.

Final Capstone: It is a white paper on how the Developmental Disabilities (DD) Network Partners collaborate for a multi-pronged approach to address Purchase of Service (POS) Disparities in California’s Regional Center System. This paper is a narrowly tailored description of what my project was supposed to teach me which I could not piece together until the end of the Fellowship. It is a must read for those who do not know about the DD Network Partners and how the partners work towards resolving a problem. I have also included the poster I presented at the AUCD conference which gives visual examples of the POS disparities problem and how it is being addressed for resolution.

2. Who did your project inform, help, influence or impact? (UCEDD, individual, community, state) How?
My project has had a wide audience. At the AUCD conference, it became a point of interest for states with large Native American communities to understand how POS disparities may be impacting their community and if not so much, why. It has also been a source of knowledge for parents to understand more how the DD Network Partners have been working to provide a resolution.

In regards to the writing bill letters for DRC, that information has helped parents understand what laws are in the senate or assembly house in Sacramento that if passed may help or hinder their children’s lives in California.

Being an outspoken advocate who took this project on, I’ve made connections with people/parents who will or already are having an impact in their community when it comes to disability rights. I stood with them in Sacramento. At the fiscal hearing on I/DD, someone on the fiscal committee board disregarded the findings of the NCIS survey claiming only 20% of consumers participate. I spoke up explaining the extraordinary fear in Latina/o communities presently since having the president that we have and explained that regardless, as someone who is an interviewer for the project, I had a number of 50% success because I, as one of them, explained how important it was to participate. I was nervous, but I was compelled to set the record straight. It’s recorded and in public record on the California Channel.

3. Why did you choose to work on that project(s)?
When I had first heard about this fellowship and the project about Purchase of Service (POS) disparities, I was excited about the opportunity to learn more about the systems in place when it came to addressing a problem like this one. How do we serve the underserved and correct a problem where the underlying complexities are language and cultural barriers?

4. What did you gain from being a Diversity Fellow?
This was a very exciting experience for me. I love collaborating with people from different fields and I definitely got to meet and grow relationships with others who are just as passionate as I am in their respective fields. I gained a great mentor, Dr. Wheeler. I met and got to work with attorney Evelyn Abhouhassan at the Disability Rights California office in Sacramento while doing bill letter assignments for her. I also got to work with Thomas Hamlet at the State Council on Developmental Disabilities while I was doing interviews for their National Core Indicators Project. I have had the chance to make these really great connections and I plan to use these bridges to make more connections.

Going through the LEND training program, I learned more about certain disabilities and the resources that are out there to help both the child and parents. We had leadership training and through that I learned my personal strengths and weaknesses as both a learner and leader. I’ve gained a sense of confidence because of this program. I’m very grateful to have been able to go through this experience.

5. How will this experience impact your education or career decisions?
Honestly, I was on the fence whether I would be entering the legal field as either a Labor Law attorney or a Disability Rights attorney. I had just slightly more experience in the labor law field interning with the oldest worker’s rights law firm in San Francisco. The experience I’ve had with this Fellowship is that I now understand that my presence is much more needed in this field. My project had to do with disparities and overall my life goal has always been to help my community. People of color have always been underserved in all areas especially in the legal arena. When people say there is an overabundance of attorneys in this country, it is important to stress that there is an overabundance of white attorneys that do not reflect our great diverse nation. I’ve seen the plight of families of color with disabled children and disabled adults of color. I fully desire helping this state strive to maintain their rights and to preserve their dignity. That’s how impactful this fellowship was for me and I hope that this fellowship is just as impactful for the next fellow.

6. What are your future goals? Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
Five years from now, I hope to have my own little office as an attorney working on cases that affect policy changes on capitol hill. Another goal is to continue my side passion of taking on small community projects whether volunteering to do so or being active on a group committee. It is important to me to always be active. Justice is my passion.

7. What recommendations do you have for other Fellows?
Communicate with your supervisor about your desired goals for the Fellowship from the start. Create friendships with other Fellows. Ask what other Fellows are doing. Try to collaborate with other fellows if possible. Ask for clarification on all things when needed as you are not an expert…yet. The more you put into this Fellowship, the more you will get out of it. It’s as short and sweet as that.

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