The Council engages in advocacy, system’s change and capacity building activities for people with developmental disabilities and their families in order to promote equal opportunity, self-determination, and community inclusion.


The Nevada Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (NGCDD) is authorized in accordance with Public Law 106-402 of the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act (DD Act) and established under NRS 232.320 within the State of Nevada.  The Council  operates in partnership with the Nevada Disability and Advocacy Law Center  (NDALC) and the Nevada Center for Excellence on Disabilities (NCED) under the “Developmental Disabilities Network”. The NGCDD is funded annually by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AIDD) with matching funds of 25% appropriated by the Nevada Legislature. The Council operates on the Federal Fiscal Year Dates of October 1 through September 30th.

What We Do

The Council is committed to the development of a coordinated array of component services, supports and other assistance designed to achieve independence, productivity, integration and inclusion into the community for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD). The Council does not participate in direct service activities as mandated by the DD Act. Key activities include conducting outreach, providing training and technical assistance, removing barriers, developing coalitions, encouraging citizen participation, and keeping policymakers informed about disability issues.

Our goals are based on gaps in service identified through the development of our FFY 2017-2021 5 year state plan based on Federal “Areas of Emphasis” as outlined in the DD Act. The DD Act allows the State Councils to determine the areas of emphasis upon which to focus. 

The Council accomplishes its goals through activities carried out by NGCDD staff and partnering with other established agencies and organizations to address areas of mutual concern through sub-grants to develop and implement projects that address innovative ways to fill service gaps and develop infrastructure for the State. Visit our Projects & Activities Page for more information on our current grants awarded and staff projects. 


NGCDD Bylaws 06-2014

Position Statements

1. Employment

Working age people with developmental and other disabilities are among the most unemployed and underemployed segments of our society.  Too often, unemployment is often accepted as an inevitable result of living with a significant developmental disability.  Employment is the avenue to independence and increased socialization for individuals with developmental disabilities.

The Nevada Governor’ Council on Developmental Disabilities (NGCDD) believes that individuals with developmental disabilities who can and want to work should have access to the resources and supports necessary to gain and maintain meaningful community-based employment.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Remove barriers that create disincentives for people with developmental disabilities to find and maintain competitive employment (employment includes supported employment, job training and job coaching) with competitive wages in the community. These barriers may include: transportation, flexible options for on the job supports, and continued or potential health care benefits.
  • Implement “Employment First” policies that transform the expectations of state agencies, service providers and people with developmental disabilities. Under “Employment First’, the expectation is that a person with a developmental or other disability can and wants to work, and a successful outcome is finding these individuals meaningful and gainful employment that meets their needs and interests by tailoring services to help them succeed in the workforce.
  • Fully fund the state vocational rehabilitation (VR) program that are significantly under funded to meet the employment needs of individuals with severe disabilities who need VR services to obtain employment.
  • Engage the private sector to raise awareness about and support for inclusion of people with developmental disabilities in the workforce and provide training, incentives and other supports to the business community to increase hiring of people with developmental disabilities.
  • Increase, maintain, or reallocate funding for transition to work programs that successfully assist young people with developmental disabilities as they age out of education settings and prepare to seek, gain and maintain meaningful employment. Increase accountability at the local level to assure that students have jobs when they graduate.
  • Strengthen funding for self-employment initiatives that enable people with developmental disabilities to start their own businesses and/or be self-employed.
  • Adopt proactive polices by federal, state and local government agencies to recruit, hire, train and mentor people with developmental disabilities.
  • Provide incentives to employers to support integrated, community employment at minimum wage or above.

2. Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is a confirmation of whether or not products or services meet or exceed customer expectations.  Quality Assurance involves advocacy, capacity building, and systemic change activities resulting in improved choice in consumer and family-centered services for individuals with developmental disabilities. Quality Assurance activities include interagency coordination and collection of data resulting in improved services, supports, and other assistance.  Such activities promote self-determination, independence, productivity, and inclusion in all aspects of community life for individuals with developmental disabilities.

NGCDD believes individuals with developmental disabilities must define their own quality of life/services. All service systems, such as education, employment, health, housing, child care, recreation, transportation, and any other system that impacts persons with developmental disabilities, should actively engage these individuals and their families in quality assurance.  This includes identifying problems and making improvements that enhance the quality of life for people with developmental disabilities.

Policy Recommendations

  • Support compliance with all laws, certification requirements, licensing standards, and contractual obligations.
  • Promote and support individuals to find and maintain relationships with people in their communities beyond paid providers and caregivers.
  • Ensure access to home and community-based services and supports that are planned and implemented in keeping with each individual’s unique needs, expressed preferences, and decisions concerning his/her life in the community.
  • Empower individuals by embracing the principles of self-determination and applying person centered practices.
  • Demand statewide Quality Assurance information management systems that assist in collection, tracking, trending, and analysis of meaningful personal outcomes.
  • Ensure access to information and supports necessary to affect public policy at the local, state, and national levels.
  • Ensure access to information about services and supports that individuals & families need to make informed choices.

3. Public Transportation Systems

Within our society, freedom of movement is a fundamental right. However, it remains a largely unfulfilled promise for citizens with disabilities. Millions of Americans with developmental disabilities have difficulties obtaining transportation that serves as a vital lifeline to employment, education, health care and community life.

NGCDD  believes that all publicly funded and/or regulated transportation service systems must be: seamlessly coordinated among all modes of transportation; expanded in suburban, urban, rural and unincorporated areas to connect places people live with places they work, shop, socialize, worship, attend school, access health care, etc.; incorporated with mobility management and training services for individuals with developmental disabilities; designed to appropriately address insurance and liability of vehicles and operators who serve in a coordinated transportation environment, including non-profit providers); based on principles of universal design; supported by stable and adequate funding; and fully accessible to all people with developmental disabilities.

Policy Recommendations

  • Increase funding for mass transit programs (including para-transit).
  • Encourage pooled use of vehicles purchased so that underutilized vehicles may be shared.
  • Simplify the coordinated planning process for the programs that serve people with developmental disabilities and create transparency and accountability.
  • Promote incentives that encourage greater mobility for people with developmental disabilities.
  • Advocate that transportation providers to have up to 15% of their fleet include accessible vans/taxi cabs – and require training for drivers on how to assist passenger with developmental disabilities.
  • Support coordinated human services and public transportation planning process and its structure.
  • Encourage use of uniform data collection to evaluate customer satisfaction and to support coordination of transportation efforts.

4. Community Support

Over 5.4 million children and adults have developmental disabilities, and most of them live at home with families.  However, they often receive too few, if any, services and face long waiting lists for needed supports.

NGCDD believes that people with developmental disabilities should receive community supports to allow them to live in the setting of their choice to enable them to participate fully in community life. Children with developmental disabilities should remain with their family or an alternative family model and receive the necessary supports to enhance community living.

Policy Recommendations:

  • Change state services and programs to reflect the preference for community based services versus institutional living.
  • Address inequities in access to and funding for direct support caregiver services for all disability populations; including increasing wages for direct support professionals to create a more stable and qualified workforce.
  • Ensure the availability of respite care for families with members of all ages and disabilities.
  • Promote the use of special needs trusts to financially assist families with disability related expenses to empower people with developmental disabilities to become more self sufficient and promote the use of asset development.
  • Remove waiting lists for community living options by increasing financial and other supportive resources.
  • Ensure the rapid movement of individuals with developmental disabilities from institutions to community options with necessary supports and the transfer of the individuals’ funds to the community programs.

5. Health Care

Individuals with developmental disabilities are more likely to experience early death, chronic conditions, and preventable health conditions, compared to persons without disabilities. Even with access to care, people with developmental disabilities often have difficulty recognizing and communicating their own health care needs. Moreover there is a significant shortage of qualified, trained health care professionals who are prepared and willing to treat them.

NGCDD believes that comprehensive health care must provide affordable health care coverage, improved quality, and better cost control, while addressing the significant health and health care disparities faced by individuals with developmental disabilities. In addition to improving access to quality medical care for persons with developmental disabilities, the health care system  must improve the way our State provides long term services and supports related to health care (such as assistance and supervision with activities of daily living, taking medication, and preparing meals).

Policy Recommendations:

  • Comprehensive health care must adequately address the following:
  • Access to affordable health care coverage for Nevadans with developmental disabilities, removing any bias based on pre-existing conditions, congenital impairments, or whether the intervention is habilitative or rehabilitative in nature.
  • Assure greater access to quality care by health care providers trained to meet the medical needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Provide appropriate, accessible health care for individuals with developmental disabilities.
  • Ensure all policies and programs result in the creation of equal treatment in health related services to all individuals.
  • Encourage inclusion of individuals with developmental disabilities in prevention and wellness programs.
  • Develop and strengthen the “medical home” model to meet the health care needs of individuals with developmental disabilities.

6. Housing

Across the nation, people with developmental disabilities face a severe crisis in the availability of decent, safe, affordable and accessible housing.  Nevada continues to promote inclusion for people with developmental disabilities to live in their communities and guard against return to congregate facilities or other institutions.

NGCDD believes that citizens with developmental disabilities should live in inclusive, safe and affordable communities of their choice and be provided with the needed individualized supports and accommodations.

Policy Recommendations

  • Increase the supply of affordable and accessible housing options that are integrated in the community, including temporary housing, rental housing and/or home ownership, to meet the growing unmet needs of people with disabilities and their families.
  • Significantly increase funding for and protect the integrity of HUD programs, U.S. Department of Agriculture housing programs, as well as all other federal/state housing programs providing funding for people with disabilities.
  • Provide funding to address the need for safe, affordable and accessible emergency housing for individuals with disabilities.
  • Remove barriers that prevent people from temporary housing, rental housing, or buying their own homes.
  • Require that projects developed with public funds and apply design standards identical to those in Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • Eliminate discrimination based on disabilities in all sales, rental, and other non-assisted living accommodations.

For statements on official letterhead please contact the Council.

Council Members

Council members are appointed by the Governor and include individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities; parents or family members of individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities; and individuals who represent agencies that provide services to people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Sixty percent (60%) of the Council must be made up of individuals with disabilities and/or parents of individuals with disabilities.

  1. Jodi Thornley – Council Chair, Parent
  2. Stephen Schumacher – Council Vice Chair, Advocate
  3. Jacob Arant – Advocate
  4. Julie Bowers – Department of Education
  5. Lisa Bonie – Non Governmental Agency (NNCIL)
  6. Jenny Casselman – Parent
  7. Diana Davis – Parent
  8. Jennifer Frischmann – ADSD
  9. Ron Futrell – Parent
  10. Aimee Hadleigh – Parent
  11. Vickie Ives – Title V of the SSA (Public and Behavioral Health)
  12. Kathleen Kingston – Parent
  13. Russell Lehmann – Advocate
  14. Jack Mayes – Protection and Advocacy Agency (NDALC)
  15. Lauralyn McCarthy – Family Member
  16. Kimberly Palma-Ortega – Parent
  17. Brian Patchett – Non Governmental Agency (Easter Seals, NV)
  18. Santa Perez – Advocate
  19. Cody Phinney – Title XIX of the SSA (Medicaid)
  20. Renee Portnell – Parent
  21. Steve Rock – University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (NCED)
  22. Arthur Reitz – Parent
  23. David Sorensen – Advocate
  24. Vivian Turner – Rehab Act of 1973 (Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation)

Council Staff

Council Committees

  1. Executive Committee: Chair: Jodi Thornley, Members: Santa Perez, Kimberly Palma-Ortega, and Renee Portnell
  2. Evaluation Committee: Chair: Kimberly Palma-Ortega, Members: Jack Mayes, Santa Perez, Renee Portnell, Steve Rock, Jodi Thornley
  3. Budget Committee: Chair: Santa Perez, Members: Mary Liveratti, Steve Rock, Jodi Thornley, Jenny Casselman, Marianne Lockyer
  4. Policy Committee: Chair: Renee Portnell, Members:  Lisa Bonie, Jack Mayes, Brian Patchett, Santa Perez, Stephen Schumacher

Agendas and minutes of past Committee meetings can be found on our Event Calendar, Agendas and Meeting Minutes Page.

Other Important Links

If you have further questions about the council, becoming a council member, or general questions or concerns, please contact Ellen Marquez, Executive Assistant at elmarquez@dhhs.nv.gov or  775-684-8619.