IDD Care Coordination Manager Tom Wilson Recognized for Commitment to Improving Lives

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — December 13, 2018 — 4 min read
Tom Wilson isn't just an IDD Care Coordination Manager for Cardinal Innovations' Northern Region, he's also a dad who knows firsthand what it takes to raise a child with an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). In fact, he knows times two.

Wilson's daughter Dakota is 18 years old and will graduate high school this year. She is diagnosed with Von Lohuizen Syndrome (M-CMTC), a rare genetic condition that has caused some intellectual and developmental disabilities. Wilson also has a 3-year-old daughter with Down syndrome named Arya (named for one of the popular characters in Wilson's favorite show Game of Thrones). 

“I like to think I'm helping create positive changes to a system that they may one day rely upon," said Wilson about his work in Care Coordination. Wilson and his wife also have two sons – Hunter, 13, and Chance, 6. 
Earlier this year, Wilson was nominated by Jessica Moore for a Cardinal Leads Award for going above and beyond the call of duty in his work, which exemplifies Cardinal Innovations core values of accountability, courage, compassion, integrity and having a pioneering spirit/attitude in ways that have a high impact on the organization. Cardinal Leads nominees are featured in Leadership in Action articles throughout the year. 

“Everything that Tom does is influenced by his desire to help people get better lives," Moore said. “He holds himself to high standards and challenges his team to do the same. Tom's commitment and dedication to helping those with disabilities has led to requests for him to serve on the steering committees and/or boards of various external groups including NCAPSE (statewide group for Supported Employment)."

Wilson also led the statewide effort to redesign the existing Individual Support Plan template for members on the NC Innovations Waiver, resulting in a plan document that is more person-centered and puts the member first. He serves as the Cardinal Innovations representative on Project SEARCH, a national best practice model for Supported Employment for kids exiting high school. This is a partnership between Cardinal Innovations and several external stakeholders. 

Project SEARCH is a program that began at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. It has since developed into a nationwide model for Supported Employment for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The model relies on a partnership between Vocational Rehabilitation, the Managed Care Organization (MCO), the school system, and a host business (often a hospital) to provide real life internship work to students in their last year of high school that will lead to marketable skills and job readiness upon graduation. This model leads to competitive employment instead of day programs and sheltered workshops for people with IDD. 

As IDD Care Coordination Manager, Wilson is primarily home based but travels across Cardinal Innovations' 10 Northern Region counties and offices, as well as to our other regions. Wilson supervises four IDD Care Coordination Supervisors who in turn supervise 33 Care Coordinators. Wilson said part of the job is troubleshooting and problem solving in difficult situations that his team faces with members, families, or providers. He also represents Cardinal Innovations in various external roles with stakeholders such as the ISP Workgroup and Project SEARCH. 
Helping young people with IDD diagnoses find a path to employment is something Wilson understands as his daughter approaches the end of high school. Dakota has been doing an internship with a local restaurant and wants to study culinary arts, her dad said. 

Wilson said seeing Dakota graduate will be a proud moment. “It's been a struggle to get there, but we got there," he said. 

Dakota's condition is so rare that only 150 people in the world have ever been diagnosed with it, Wilson said. She doesn't understand non-verbal social cues like facial expressions and struggles with abstract thought. “She presents as having autism. It's been a multi-year quest for a solid plan for her because it is such a rare disorder," Wilson said.

One of the effects of the disorder is that it causes one side of her body to grow faster than the other. This included her brain. One side functions normally and the other was damaged because her brain grew too fast and ran out of room in her skull, which caused damage to part of her brain. 

Being the parent of two children with IDD diagnoses definitely influences Wilson's approach to his job as IDD Care Coordination Manager, he said. His wife also works in the field. Their work requires them to know how to help kids like theirs, but he said, “I often just sit back as a parent and a professional and wonder how some parents do it." 
And then he gets to work making sure members like his girls are getting the services they need so they can live their best lives, too. 

“I like helping people find and live their best lives. It's not only a career for me, it's also personal," he said.
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