KCDHH Communicator, Connecting you to Current News Team Kentucky: An Agency of the Education and Labor Cabinet
VOLUME 42, NO. 1
January 2024

Staff Attends Governor’s Employee Holiday Open House

KCDHH staff attended the State Employee Holiday Open House at the Governor’s mansion and had the chance to meet with Governor Andy Beshear. After a brief chat they took the opportunity to teach him some new signs. Since the first signs he learned were “We will get through this together” they taught him how to sign his new slogan, "Forward, Together." Pictured below is (left to right) Jessica Endler Smith, Blake Campbell, Anita Dowd, Governor Andy Beshear, Rachel Morgan Kincaid, Emily Kimbell, and O.J. Disney.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Driver's Communication Designation

Did you know that you can now request a special code be added in the vehicle registration system? If you are pulled over, this code will allow law enforcement officers to know that you are deaf or hard of hearing and that there may be communication barriers before they ever approach your car. This is a voluntary program and it is only meant to foster the safety of deaf or hard of hearing drivers and law enforcement by reducing the potential of misunderstandings. The only parties that will be privy to the fact that you are a deaf or hard of hearing driver are county clerks and law enforcement. This information will not be available to the public.

For more information and an ASL Video, please visit: Drive.ky.gov/CD

Deaf Artist Presents Artwork to Governor Beshear

Jennifer Harris' art depicting Governor Beshear with text reading, 'We will get through this together.' On December 28, the Executive Director, KCDHH Kentucky Association of the Deaf (KAD) board representative and Kentucky deaf artist, Jennifer Harris, met with Governor Andy Beshear. Jennifer presented the Governor with a portrait she had drawn of him signing "We will get through this together" and thanked him on behalf of deaf and hard of hearing Kentuckians for opening the door to effective communication during the pandemic and continuing to be inclusive for all.

Lawmakers File Over 200 Bills in First Week of 2024 Session

Lawmakers filed more than 200 bills with issues ranging from milk safety to the death penalty as the Kentucky General Assembly rolled through the first four days of the 2024 legislative session.

The House and Senate convened the 60-day regular session on Tuesday, January 2, and maintained a lean schedule throughout the week with a heavy focus on introducing bills in the chambers and assigning them to committees.

Kentuckians can track the action through the Legislative Record webpage, which allows users to read bills and follow their progression through the chambers. Capitol observers can also track budget bills on the 2024 Budget Bills webpage.

May 21 is Primary Election Day in Kentucky

The 2024 Primary Election is May 21. The deadline to register to vote in the 2024 Primary Election is April 22, 2024, no later than 4 p.m. local time. If you have any questions about voting, please contact the Kentucky State Board of Elections at 502-573-7100. Click here for more information on registration, absentee ballots, polling locations, and sample ballots.

Chat Online with 988 Lifeline Available 24/7

If you're struggling, you can videophone, call, text, or chat online with the 988 Lifeline. 988 is available 24/7 and confidential. There are crisis counselors available to listen and support you without judgment. When contacting the 988 Lifeline, there is no need to reveal your condition unless you choose to. The crisis counselor will be able to support you either way.

Scholarship Available to DHH Students 2024-2025

A $1,000 scholarship for students who are deaf or hard of hearing and pursuing an undergraduate degree is now available. The scholarship will cover tuition, books, and supplies. Recipients may use the funds for any semester, including summer or during the 2024-2025 academic school year. Sertoma and Oticon, Inc. is providing the funding for the scholarships. Those interested must submit their application and required materials by April 1, 2024, 12:59 a.m. Winners will be notified by June 30. For eligibility, required materials, and to apply online, click here.

Spotlight on Mental Health

Expanding Peer Support Services in Kentucky

By Michelle Niehaus, LCSW (michelle.niehaus@ky.gov)
Program Administrator, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services
Dept. for Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities

Sometimes what a person needs most is someone else who understands them. Someone with shared life experiences and a shared language. As humans we need to communicate and connect, to know that others have gone through similar challenges and overcome them. We need hope.

Peer support specialists are trained individuals with lived mental health experience who provide hope and understanding to people who are experiencing mental health or substance use challenges. Peers use their stories and experiences to help support others in breaking down barriers and connecting with those who can help them on a recovery journey.

Over the past year, the Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities (DBHDID) partnered with Bridgehaven Mental Health Services for a Deaf and Hard of Hearing Peer Incubator Project. Using time-limited funds available from COVID grants, we were able to train eight individuals to become Certified Adult Peer Support Specialists. We also supported communication access for Bridgehaven's Center for Peer Excellence "Peers in the Know" learning series and monthly check-in calls.

Several of the peers are now ready to provide direct services. Dominique Harding works onsite at Bridgehaven. A man with hearing loss who both speaks and signs, Dominique has a warm personality and is committed to helping people heal. He can connect people in the Louisville area with the Bridgehaven groups and offerings. Information about Bridgehaven’s services is available here: https://www.bridgehaven.org/.

For those living outside of Louisville, individual appointments are available through Bridgehaven either in-person or via Zoom. Jade Bell, Maria Castle, and Tessa Fain can connect in their regions. Learn more about them through the Bridgehaven's Center for Peer Excellence (CPE) website https://www.bridgehavencpe.org/ or email Brad Leedy at Bleedy@bridgehaven.org to request individual services.

Kentucky Medicaid pays for most all Bridgehaven services; however, the staff will work with anyone who wishes to receive services to determine an affordable monthly fee based on income if there is no insurance or the insurance doesn’t cover Bridgehaven services.

Not quite ready to request services but want to learn more about mental health and recovery? The Bridgehaven peer support team will be offering a series of free groups in late January and throughout February. Topics will include what recovery his, how peer support works, grief, loss, belonging, LGBTQ issues, depression, grief, and anxiety. Peers will provide a welcoming environment where people can learn together and share experiences. Watch for more information on the KCDHH website Events page or contact Bridgehaven for the schedule and link.

DBHDID is fortunate to have many partners in the Community Mental Health Centers. Four Rivers was an early adopter of our peer support model and was quick to seek opportunities to hire. Joey Colson is working at Turning Point, their Recovery Community Center in Paducah. A CODA (Child of Deaf Adults), Joey offers support from a "been there, done that perspective." He signs and can also arrange for interpreters as needed. For more information, please see https://4rbhturningpoint.org/.

While we hoped to attract new service providers through the incubator project, we didn’t expect to identify peers with hearing loss already in the field. It has been a joy to connect with people familiar with peer support who are now embracing and learning about their hearing loss as well.

Laurie Qualah, the Point Person for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services at Seven Counties, saw the need for separating out communication access for those with hearing loss and those who are Deaf and use ASL. She recruited and hired Adult Peer Support Specialist Judith Gaddie to work primarily with individuals who are hard of hearing and have Serious Mental Illness such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia. Judith will be joined by a Deaf peer going through training in January. Services from the peers or the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services therapist or case manager can be requested by going to this website: https://sevencounties.org/.

It's exciting to see our peer program grow to include options at Bridgehaven, Community Mental Health Centers, and Recovery Community Centers (RCCs). Recovery Community Centers are not treatment centers but, rather, serve as local hubs for community-based supports. This infographic explains more and shows where you can find the RCC closest to you. RCCs will provide communication access. They also have VideoPhones available onsite. This winter and spring DBHDID will be working with our peers to identify people to offer office hours at local recovery community centers. If you have a request for where you would like to see peers available, please email Michelle.Niehaus@ky.gov.

As we seek to expand services across Kentucky, we continue to recruit for potential peers. Do you have personal experience with mental health or substance use diagnoses? If you would like to be considered in the last peer support class for the project, please contact Michelle.Niehaus@ky.gov ASAP. It starts January 22nd in Louisville!

2023 has been an exciting year for growing peer support. Our Peer Support Incubator Project funding will end in March, but the partnerships will continue. As we begin 2024, DBHDID deeply appreciates Susan Turner, Brad Leedy, Stewart Bridgman, and the entire Bridgehaven team. Together, we can grow high quality accessible services with sign language users and people who have hearing loss. Here’s to making 2024 a year of hope, healing, recovery, and new connections!

DBHDID Adult Peer Support Specialists Training

Did you know that the Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectual Disabilities for individuals’ (DBHDID) partnership with Bridgehaven enabled DBHDID to train eight new Peer Specialists this year? Peer Support Specialists bring important perspective and support to individuals in recovery with substance use or mental health diagnoses. There is a training on January 22 and interested peers should contact Michelle Niehaus for an application at michelle.niehaus@ky.gov. You may also call or text 502-892-9122 or leave a VP message at 502-385-0460.

Save the Date

DBHDID Offers Three Part Skills Development Series

The Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental and Intellectural Disabilities will host a three-part skills development series on working with sign language users in substance use treatment recovery. This free series will be presented by Makato Ikegami, DSW, MSW, LCSW, and is open to alcohol and drug counselors, social work, professional counselors, and nursing. The trainings are from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and include:

Registration for 2024 National EHDI Conference Open

Early registration for the 2024 National Early Hearing Detection & Intervention (EHDI) Conference is now open. The conference will be March 17-19 in Denver, CO. Register here discounted rates available for certain deadlines.

Danville Deaf Night Out Schedules 2024 Meetings

Everyone is welcome to attend Deaf Night Out in Danville at Morley’s Backyard, 234 East Walnut. It will be a time to meet old friends and make new ones. Dates include the following:

There will also be a "Throwback 1980's Prom" on Saturday, June 8.

For more information, contact Jason Smith by videophone: 859-439-0739, email: bleedofblue@gmail.com or text: 859-410-9521.

Tech Updates

Audio Radar Enabling DHH Gamers to "See Sound"

Airdrop Gaming is excited to announce that their innovative Audio Radar is now in production and shipping. This groundbreaking product is set to enhance gaming for everyone, especially the deaf and hard of hearing community. Audio Radar is a unique accessory that transforms game sounds into visual signals. This allows players to ‘see the sound', creating an inclusive gaming experience. It's ideal for deaf and hard of hearing gamers, visualizing key sounds like footsteps and alerts. Audio Radar works with Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, making games more accessible and enjoyable for all. Read more here.


Calendar of Events

PLEASE EMAIL US AT: kcdhh@ky.gov

KCDHH Resources:


KCDHH’s Telecommunications Access Program (TAP):
Landline or wireless equipment for Kentucky residents who are deaf,
hard of hearing, speech impaired, or have both a hearing and vision loss.

KCDHH Commissioners



632 Versailles Road
Frankfort, KY 40601

Voice: 502-573-2604
Videophone: 502-416-0607
Toll Free: 800-372-2907
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