Changing Lives through Integrated Employment
Employment First promotes community-based, integrated employment as the first option for employment services for individuals with disabilities. Conversations about Employment First are taking place in Rhode Island and across the nation. Rhode Island is part of the national movement toward a greater emphasis on community employment that echoes a general shift toward services designed to integrate individuals with disabilities into their communities, providing them with the same opportunities and responsibilities as all other citizens.
Recently, BHDDH and ORS jointly held an all-day conference at Save the Bay facilitated by the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC). Attending the conference were DD agencies executive directors, ORS administrators and VR Counselors, and BHDDH Administrators and staff. The focus of the day came out of the results of a survey that went out to providers, ORS, and BHDDH administration and line staff in early May.
WINTAC synthesized the survey's results to underscore the needs of the providers to meet the demands of the DOJ Consent Decree, and provide a base for discussion. The meeting's objectives were to:
- Create greater mutual understanding of competitive integrated employment
- Recognize partner progress
- Review alignment and differing business models
- Create collaborative solutions.
The WINTAC facilitators, Paula Pottenger, Jeanne Miller, and Ron Vessell from the University of Arkansas CURRENTS, WINTAC Partners, also assisted the group to identify the State's top priorities and establishing how best to align resources and share ideas and strategies towards Employment First Initiatives and Consent Decree requirements.
Next steps will include some further training and technical assistance in the areas of employer engagement, supported employment (including customized employment and self-employment), as well as job driven strategies.