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CHFS Community Podcast highlights ordinary people doing extraordinary work at the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. Episodes are hosted by Secretary Eric Friedlander and produced by Julianne Hatton in the capitol city of Frankfort. Send your questions or suggestions to CHFS.community@ky.gov. Thank you for your support!

Oct 13, 2020

October is audiology month, and I recently had the opportunity to speak to Michelle Niehaus, Program Administrator with the Kentucky Division for Behavioral Health. Michelle is one of only nine state coordinators focused on mental health and substance use services for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing in the U.S.

Michelle’s passion for the deaf and hard of hearing began at age 12 when she encountered a group of people on a bus trip who were using sign language. Some members of the group taught basic signs to Michelle and she was hooked. From there, she used her signing skills to volunteer at an agency for people with developmental disabilities. This led to a degree from Indiana University, graduate school at Washington University, and a career driven by advocacy for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

Kentucky is a leader in supporting the deaf and hard of hearing, but there is always more we can do to address inequities in services for those in the commonwealth.  In this podcast, Michelle provides ideas about how CHFS can address disparities and improve health outcomes for the deaf and hard of hearing.

And finally, we discuss the silver lining of the COVID-19 epidemic including telehealth and the return of kynect to help provide Kentuckians the basic human right that is healthcare. Michelle would argue that communication is a basic human right, too. I hope you enjoy getting to know Michelle, and learning more about blessings and challenges faced by those with hearing loss in Kentucky.