DHSS’ Division for the Visually Impaired Helps with Training for Wilmington Police Department

WILMINGTON (Feb. 22, 2017) The Delaware Division for the Visually Impaired (DVI) partnered with the Wilmington Police Department earlier this month to provide visual impairment sensitivity training for almost 65 police officers at the Walnut Street precinct. With the success of the training, conducted by DVI certified orientation & mobility therapists Heather Dougherty and Maria Lepore-Stevens, additional training dates have been scheduled for March.

Dougherty and Lepore-Stevens designed the two days of interactive training to help officers understand the difference between individuals who are blind and legally blind; how to approach and assist people with visual impairments; and how to develop awareness of everyday barriers. One activity included blindfolding participants and providing them with a white cane and sighted guide before sending them to navigate the halls, stairs, and the outside front area of the Justice of the Peace Courthouse in Wilmington. The 64 officers who participated also listened to Patti Addison and Frederick Noesner, who have visual impairments, describe their experiences and challenges.

The idea for the training came from the parent of a teen with a visual impairment who was concerned about how her son might be perceived by police if he had an encounter. “Her son dresses like a teen and often uses a hood to reduce glare from the sun,” Dougherty said. “He has limited peripheral vision. However, there really is no way to determine he has a visual impairment based on appearance alone, particularly because he doesn’t wear glasses or use a cane.”

Dougherty said the mother was concerned that her son might respond differently to police cues than people without a visual impairment. “She worried that this barrier could expose him to unwarranted issues with police,” said Dougherty, who brought the concern to Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings in January 2017 in order to discuss ways to help officers learn more about visual impairments. “The chief was highly receptive to the idea and we began to plan the training. Together, the chief and I agreed to bring in a variety of clients, pathologies, and ages, and to make the training as functional and hands-on as possible,” she said.

Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker said she appreciates the plans of the Division for the Visually Impaired to expand training to other precincts, as well as state and county police departments. “The police are a vital component of society who often must act quickly in critical situations,” Secretary Walker said. “The more they understand the diversity of the people they serve, the better they can serve all of the people, especially when quick decisions are required. I thank the Wilmington Police for embracing this training and furthering their understanding of people with visual impairments.”

DVI is a division of the Department of Health and Social Services. To learn more about DVI services including eligibility requirements or to schedule training for your organization, call 302-255-9800 or visit the DVI website.

NOTE TO MEDIA: Photos of the training are available to be downloaded from DHSS’ flickr page:


The Division for the Visually Impaired is committed to providing educational, vocational, and technical support to empower and foster independence for Delawareans with visual impairments.

The Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.

Governor Markell Issues State of Emergency Announces Level 1 Driving Warning to Begin at Midnight

Wilmington, DE – With a severe winter storm expected to generate significant snowfall in New Castle and Kent Counties, as well as coastal flooding and strong sustained winds in Sussex County, Governor Jack Markell has issued a State of Emergency effective Friday, January 22 at 5:00 p.m., and a “Level 1 Driving Warning” effective Saturday, January 23 at 12:00 a.m. [See text below].

At the Governor’s request, Delaware National Guard and DelDOT began pre-positioning their resources yesterday in anticipation of this weekend’s storm.  The State of Emergency declaration allows the Governor to deploy the Delaware National Guard, DelDOT, first responders, and other agencies to open or close roadways and take other actions to protect public safety and property during the storm event.

According to state law, a “Level 1 Driving Warning” means that any person operating a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways must exercise extra caution. All nonessential employees, public and private, are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.

If the predicted forecast comes to fruition, the “Level 1 Driving Warning” is likely to be upgraded to a “Level 2 Driving Restriction” as roadway condition deteriorate Saturday. The Governor continues to monitor the forecast regularly and will remain in frequent contact with emergency management and transportation officials over the course of the storm.

According to state law, under a “Level 2 Driving Restriction,” no person may operate a motor vehicle on Delaware roadways, except for persons designated as “essential personnel” or who have received a waiver from the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. The following persons are specifically designated as “essential personnel” under Delaware law:
•Operators of snow removal equipment (public and private);
•Persons providing public utility services;
•Persons providing healthcare services; and
•Persons providing food and fuel deliveries.

The National Weather Service has declared a Blizzard Warning for New Castle County and Kent and Sussex Counties are under a Winter Storm Watch. Residents are encouraged to avoid travelling area roads Friday night and Saturday, and Delaware residents in flood-prone areas in Kent and Sussex should seriously consider relocating during this time.

“With authorities predicting snowfall amounts of 12-18 inches, it is important that all Delawareans take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones”, said Governor Markell.  “Conditions are predicted to rapidly deteriorate during the overnight hours and through tomorrow, which will create hazardous driving conditions and the threat of flooding in low-lying coastal areas.  That’s why I’m urging Delawareans to find a safe place to be this weekend and to arrive there this evening, and why I’m asked all non-essential personnel to avoid travelling our roadways after the snow begins so that DelDOT and emergency crews can clear the roads and keep our citizens safe.”

Because of the amount of snow expected and duration of the snowfall, many roads will be snow-covered and could be impassable throughout the day tomorrow.  DelDOT has been working hard to prepare the roads for snow and to prepare its crews for a weekend of plowing.

DelDOT crews started applying brine solution to Delaware roadways on Wednesday, and have since completed those operations. All equipment used in snow removal operations have been checked and rechecked from the snow plows to the windshield wipers.  Plow trucks are being loaded with salt, and all normal snow removal preparations are underway.

DelDOT has Equipment Operators for 330 snow plows currently at work and on standby ready to act as the snowfall requires this evening and Saturday.

Yesterday, the Governor authorized the National Guard, in coordination with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, to pre-position its forces to assist local first responders with stranded motorists, flooding, and other emergencies that may require their attention. They will remain in position to assist Delawareans throughout the weekend.

Code Purple locations will open today in all three counties for individuals who are homeless and in need of shelter during the storm. More information, including a list of sites statewide, is available here. To be connected to Code Purple resources, call Delaware 2-1-1, search for “Code Purple” on the Delaware 2-1-1 mobile app or on its website at www.delaware211.org and click on the Code Purple button.

Winter Storm precautions released by the Department of Agriculture can be found here.

The Governor urges media and residents to check social media for continuous updates:

Executive Department




WHEREAS, a significant winter storm is imminently forthcoming in the State of Delaware, and the National Weather Service has issued a Blizzard Warning for New Castle County and Kent County, Delaware, and a Winter Storm Warning for Sussex County, Delaware, beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, January 22, 2016, and ending at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, January 24, 2016; and
WHEREAS, the National Weather Service forecast for New Castle County and Kent County includes predictions of whiteout conditions, including snow accumulation of 12 to 24 inches in New Castle and Kent Counties, and snow accumulation of 4-8 inches in Sussex County, resulting in potentially hazardous road and travel conditions in all three counties; and
WHEREAS, the National Weather Service estimates that the strongest winds and greatest potential for blizzard conditions will occur during the day on Saturday, January 23, 2016, but urges extreme caution in road travel during the evening hours of Friday, January 22, 2016; and
WHEREAS, the National Weather Service has also issued a Coastal Flood Advisory for New Castle County, Delaware, beginning at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 23, 2016, and ending at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 24, 2016, potentially resulting in some tidal flooding and road closures; and
WHEREAS, the National Weather Service has issued a Coastal Flood Warning for Kent County, Delaware and Sussex County, Delaware, beginning at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday, January 23, 2016, and ending at 12:00 noon on Sunday, January 24, 2016, and has predicted tidal flooding, resulting in road closures and many roads potentially being impassable on either side of Saturday morning’s high tide; and
WHEREAS, on January 22, 2016, I authorized the Delaware National Guard to assist state and local officials in all three counties with any necessary response and recovery activity for this severe winter storm; and
WHEREAS, the forthcoming winter storm is expected to create hazardous road conditions in all three counties that present an imminent danger to persons traveling on Delaware roads, as well potential danger to life, safety and property in all three counties;
NOW THEREFORE, I, JACK A. MARKELL, pursuant to Title 20, Chapter 31 of the Delaware Code, do hereby declare a State of Emergency for the entire State of Delaware.  This State of Emergency will be effective in all three counties on January 22, 2016, at 5:00 p.m., and shall continue until terminated as provided under state law.  The nature of the emergency includes projected blizzard conditions and possible road flooding in Northern Delaware, including New Castle and Northern Kent County, and high winds and coastal flooding in Sussex County, resulting potentially in hazardous road conditions throughout the State.  Along with such other actions authorized by Title 20, Chapter 31 of the Delaware Code, I specifically direct and authorize:
1. All departments and agencies of the State of Delaware shall assist in response and recovery activities, as directed by and in coordination with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), in consultation with the Secretary of the Department of Safety and Homeland Security (DSHS), necessary in those areas affected by the storm.

2. As of January 23, 2016 at midnight (12:00 a.m.), and until further notice, a Level 1 Driving Warning is in effect.  Any person operating a motor vehicle shall exercise extra caution in the operation of that vehicle for the duration of the emergency. Nonessential employees, regardless of whether employed by a public or private entity, are encouraged not to operate a motor vehicle for the duration of the emergency, unless there is a significant safety, health or business reason to do so.  State and local officials are directed to remove abandoned vehicles from roads in affected areas at the expense of the vehicle owner.

3. In addition to the Level 1 Driving Warning, this Order constitutes notice to Delaware residents and businesses in all three counties that additional driving precautions or restrictions may be forthcoming in the morning of Saturday, January 23, 2016.

4. The Delaware National Guard shall take precautionary or responsive actions directed by the Director of DEMA, in consultation with the Secretary of DSHS, upon request by local authorities.

5. I authorize the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the Delaware State Police, in consultation with DEMA and the Secretary of DSHS, to order such bridge and road closures as necessary to protect the health and safety of the public.

6. I reserve the right to take or direct state or local authorities to take, without issuance of further written order, any other necessary actions authorized by Title 20, Chapter 31 of the Delaware Code to respond to this emergency.


Governor Markell Urges Delawareans to Prepare for Impending Weather

Dover, DE — Delaware is facing a serious winter storm with the potential for blizzard conditions upstate and potential flooding, rain and heavy winds downstate. The National Weather Service has declared a Blizzard Watch for New Castle and Kent Counties, and Sussex County is under a Winter Storm Watch. The Governor urges Delawareans to begin factoring the storm into their preparations for the weekend, including changing travel plans to avoid traveling on area roads Friday night and Saturday. Delawareans who reside in flood-prone areas in Kent and Sussex Counties should consider relocating for the weekend.

“This looks like a serious storm and I hope Delawareans are treating it that way,” said Governor Markell.  “I encourage Delawareans to take precautions and stay tuned to weather forecasts and transportation updates as we go through the weekend. Tomorrow morning would be a good time to visit a Delaware library and prepare to hole up for the weekend with a good book.”

DelDOT has worked hard to prepare the roads for snow and to prepare its fleet for a weekend of plowing. If the snow falls as predicted, many roads will be snow-covered and may be impassable. For that reason, it is likely that a state of emergency and driving restrictions could become necessary this weekend. The Governor is monitoring the forecast regularly and is in regular touch with emergency management and transportation officials.

The Governor has authorized the National Guard, in coordination with the Delaware Emergency Management Agency, to pre-position its forces to assist local first responders with stranded motorists, flooding evacuations, or any other emergency that requires their attention.


Governor Markell Lays out Vision to Position Delaware for Success in Years to Come

Photos from 2016 State of the State Address

Video of the 2016 State of the State Address

Final legislative and policy agenda seeks to leverage skilled workforce, high quality of life to create new opportunities for Delawareans

Dover, DE – In his final State of the State speech, Delaware Governor Jack Markell today proposed an agenda that positions Delaware to leverage its highly trained citizens and welcoming business climate to build opportunities for sustained job creation in an ever-changing economy. SOTS16

“It is our responsibility to provide Delawareans with the bridge to the life they want — workforce training for people who want to upgrade their skills; education that aligns with the knowledge they need in the new economy; affordable and high quality health care, safe communities, and more responsive government that supports their drive to succeed,” Markell said. “We have a lot more to do and new adversities to conquer. But our progress demonstrates that we are up to the challenge.”

“When I first stood before you, we faced a collapsing national economy and a growing deficit at a time of rapidly increasing demand for public services. As a result of the recession, more than five percent of Delaware’s jobs vanished. So we all got to work, improving our business climate and making difficult decisions to balance our budgets just as many Delawareans have had to do for their own. And we’ve done so while protecting the most vulnerable among us.”

“When we reflect on the challenges we have faced, we can be proud that even in the wake of the great recession, we did not settle for a return to the status quo.”

The Governor noted Delaware’s substantial progress over the past seven years:

  • Since the national economy bottomed out, Delaware’s job growth of 13 percent has outpaced all of our neighboring states, adding more than 50,000 jobs. During the past year alone an additional 13,700 Delawareans have found jobs.
  • Thanks to bipartisan compromise, construction workers are being put back on the job through investment of an additional nearly $400 million in roads and bridges over the next decade.
  • More students are graduating from high school – the best improvement of any state.
  • In 2011, only five percent of low-income kids attended the most highly rated early childhood programs. Today, that number has been increased to 59 percent.
  • A $5.6 million state investment in downtown areas in every county is leading to more than $114 million in private investment through the Downtown Development Districts program.
  • More veterans are finding jobs while fewer are living on the streets – during the past year, 284 homeless veterans were helped to get off the street.
  • Delaware ranks first in helping youth receiving social security disability benefits to successfully transition to employment.
  • Delaware’s air is cleaner – Delaware’s carbon dioxide emissions were reduced 16% from 2009 to 2013 – and recreational and cultural opportunities are more plentiful, from 50 miles of new trails to record investments in libraries and the arts community.
  • Prisons are less crowded – the statewide detention population has dropped 18 percent in two years and coordinated programs are helping to reduce recidivism.
  • Historic steps have been taken toward equality for Delaware’s vibrant LGBT community – legislation was enacted to approve marriage equality, prohibit discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, and provide transgender Delawareans the same rights to protection from discrimination and violence.

SOTS16Recently, the Governor’s office issued a series of one-page fact sheets that outline progress that has been achieved during the past seven years on a range of areas.  Read those fact sheets HERE.

“Today, the state of our state is stronger than it has been in years.”

Markell urged lawmakers and other leaders to support several program, policy, and legislative initiatives that build upon the state’s progress and meet the shared expectation that more can be done to move the state forward.



Growing Delaware’s economy by increasing access to job training

Last year, Markell announced the Delaware Promise, a partnership among the General Assembly, business community, and Delaware schools and colleges, to help ensure that 65 percent of our workforce will earn a college degree or professional certificate by 2025. Today he celebrated the progress of this initiative and announced its expansion.

“We help grow our economy by improving access to better education and training. Even as employment in our state has reached historic highs, we confront the odd reality that Delaware employers are hiring, but can’t find enough qualified applicants.”

  • Expand the availability of SEED higher education scholarships by expanding their benefits to part-time students and those who must take a break from their studies.
  • Expand the TechHire initiative beyond ZipCode Wilmington and add a new coding program at Delaware Tech, geared toward people who need to work part time while they train
  • Grow the Pathways to Prosperity initiative, which will create training opportunities this fall for 5,000 high school students to receive workplace experience and college credits that position them for careers in key industries. Business partners have agreed to double from 500 to 1000 the number of students who have the opportunity to work directly at a Delaware employer.
  • Increase the number of students studying computer programming to 1,000 by September, up from 80 two years ago.

Building a more affordable and welcoming place to do business

“Our strong workforce is the most important reason employers locate and expand in our state.  But we also know that our employers and entrepreneurs expect Delaware to be an affordable, welcoming place to do business.”

  • Enact legislation that helps Delaware businesses use online platforms to offer a stake in their companies to Delawareans. Much of this investing can be done through what is known as crowdfunding – a way for entrepreneurs to connect with investors.
  • Modernize our tax code to promote job creation through the Delaware Competes Act.

Sustaining responsible state finances

“Because of the work we have done over the last seven years, we are still one of a handful of states with a AAA credit rating. We have reduced headcount in executive branch agencies by nearly 5 percent, saved millions by changing the way we purchase energy, and renegotiated real estate leases. The biggest challenge we face is the sharply accelerating cost of health care.”

  • Build on efforts of the state’s healthcare community to move away from an expensive fee-for-service model and toward a system that emphasizes quality outcomes at an affordable cost.
  • Improve the long-term viability of state employee health plans by: giving employees information and better incentives to choose cost-effective, high quality care, like using urgent care instead of the emergency room or telemedicine instead of an office visit; and creating a new plan for future employees to limit changes for current employees.

Investing in quality education

“We have no better example of how higher expectations – along with significant additional resources, support, and innovation – have resulted in extraordinary progress than in our schools.  Over the past several years, our students, families, teachers, and staff have set and reached loftier goals in almost every possible way. And the more we have asked, the more they have achieved, like record high graduation rates – improving faster than any other state – while earning some of the nation’s best test scores in the early grades.”

  • Better support, retain, and attract high quality teachers by raising starting salaries and introducing opportunities for educators to earn more for taking on leadership responsibilities without leaving the classroom for administrative positions.
  • Provide stipends for educators who aren’t receiving compensation for their National Board Certification.

“As much as any other state, Delaware has committed to our youngest learners.”

  • Provide funding to give more low-income children access to high-quality early learning programs, well-educated teachers, and a healthy start.

Protecting public safety supporting reentry through common-sense criminal justice reforms

“More than 600 inmates are serving mandatory extended sentences because of Delaware’s habitual offender law. Today, a person can receive a mandatory life sentence solely for drug offenses, without any conviction for an act of physical violence. The cost to taxpayers of these automatic sentences and of keeping habitual offenders behind bars for decades is enormous.”

  • Reform sentencing laws to give judges discretion to sentence offenders on a case-by-case basis so that the state can focus limited resources on keeping dangerous offenders off the streets.
  • Amend Delaware law to remove the financial bar to exercising the right to vote. Right now, a person with a felony conviction can vote as soon as his or her sentence is complete, but only if he or she has paid all fines and fees.

Professional Licensing

“One way we must make strides towards a more equal society is by ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to build a better life. Many of our licensing and certification requirements are well-founded, however, some requirements may no longer be necessary and instead prevent many from pursuing professions in which they would thrive, particularly low-income individuals.”

  • Build on recent reforms to barber and cosmetology regulations by instructing executive branch agencies, along with the Chair of the Joint Sunset Committee to conduct a comprehensive analysis of licensing requirements, with input from board representatives and the public.

Increasing access to safe and effective contraception

“Delaware has one of the highest unplanned pregnancy rates in the country – 57 percent. When people become parents accidentally, we know the outcomes for them and their children, may be diminished. There are new methods that are much more effective than the pill – methods preferred by OB-GYNs and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control – but here in Delaware our healthcare system doesn’t make it easy to choose these new methods.”

  • Launch a partnership with the national nonprofit Upstream USA to train our healthcare providers so that all Delaware women can conveniently access the full range of contraceptive choices at low or no-cost, consistent with federal law, which requires coverage and reimbursement for all contraceptives.

Treating addiction

“We have increased access to substance use treatments by as much as 100 percent, and we’ve made it easier for law enforcement, as well as friends and family, to help victims before it’s too late. These efforts are saving lives. I ask for your continued support in building on our progress.”

  • Fund a team of health care professionals who can serve more than 100 of our highest-need patients to provide the intensive services to end their constant cycle of hospitalization, withdrawal, and treatment.
  • Develop closer coordination between the Department of Health and Social Services and primary care doctors to screen for and identify more cases of substance abuse to reduce overall treatment costs and save more families from the anguish of a long battle with addiction.

The full remarks of Governor Markell’s 2016 State of the State address are posted at: http://governor.delaware.gov/speeches/2016StateOfTheState/SOTS_2016.pdf


State of the State Address: Guests of Governor Markell

Dover, DE – Governor Markell delivers his annual State of the State Address today at 2:00 p.m. in Legislative Hall before members of the General Assembly, Cabinet members, and fellow Delawareans.

In addition to looking ahead to priorities for this year, the Governor will reflect on progress the state has made by “expecting more” during challenging times over the past seven years. Our series of one-page fact sheets covering a range of areas can be found here.

Several special guests who represent topics covered in the speech will attend at the invitation of Governor Markell.  These Delawareans serve as examples of those who have secured marketable skills to thrive in the state’s new economy, secured the opportunity for self-sufficiency through state and non-profit services, and represented the best of selfless service to others.  These guests are introduced below.

Members of the media interested in learning more or interviewing these individuals following the Governor’s address should email Courtney.McGregor@delaware.gov or Jason.Miller@delaware.gov. Dawn

Dawn Milnamow recently completed a 12-week computer coding course at Zip Code Wilmington through the Delaware TechHire initiative.  Less than six months ago Dawn was struggling to get a full-time job. Last month she was hired by JP Morgan Chase in an information technology position which nearly tripled her annual salary.

-Alex Kotanides with Solar Unlimited, a Lewes-based renewable energy hot water heating system manufacturer that anticipates $1 million in sales to Mexico thanks to the state’s export initiatives.

Liza Bartle with Agilent Technologies represents private sector employers who have joined the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative, which places students with employers to learn valuable job skills that today’s employers need, from manufacturing to computer networking, health care, and culinary arts. Business partners are committing to increase the number of students who gain the opportunity to work directly with employers.

Cheyenne Hinson graduated this past year as a certified nursing assistant through the Generation USA youth employment program, a training program facilitated by the McKinsey Social Initiative that serves unemployed and underemployed youth.  Through this training, Cheyenne has overcome the challenges of unemployment to secure a position in a Wilmington-area healthcare facility, and recently earned a promotion.

Alisson Murillo Navas is among the more than 4,000 students who have received SEED scholarships at Delaware Tech over the past five years.  Alisson, who enrolled at Delaware Tech this past fall as a SEED student majoring in biological sciences, had a successful fall semester but lost her scholarship because she was one credit short of being a full-time student as she tried to juggle her academics with a part-time job.  Alisson remains enrolled in coursework and plans to continue her pre-med education after graduating from Delaware Tech.

Briana Congo participated in Project SEARCH, a workforce development collaboration among state agencies, local public schools, and Christiana Care to prepare people with disabilities for employment.  Briana was placed at Christiana Care as a SEARCH intern, where she received work-based learning experiences that positioned her for employment, and she was subsequently hired by Christiana Care as a Materials Handler. Briana

-During a 24-hour period beginning last Christmas Eve, Newark Police Corporal Marc Difrancesco personally responded to three separate reports of individuals found unresponsive because of an overdose. Through a change in Delaware law that allowed police to carry and administer the overdose-reducing drug naloxone, all three of those individuals were saved.

Chief Warrant Officer Lloyd Massey and Master Sergeant Kevin Reading represent the hundreds of Delaware National Guard servicemembers who have deployed around the world during the past year.  Chief Warrant Officer Massey, a member of the Operational Support Airlift Agency, recently completed a deployment to the Horn of Africa and Master Sergeant Reading was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Yashika Bailey is an Air Force veteran who had been facing homelessness and unemployment.  She has been able to land back on her feet through housing that she initially received through a local non-profit and an apartment she’s now renting with assistance from a government-sponsored housing program.  Yashika has also secured employment and is serving her state as a member of the Delaware Air National Guard.