- Program-Specific Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation
The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan* must include the following descriptions and estimates, as required by section 101(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by WIOA:
* Sec. 102(b)(D)(iii) of WIOA
d. 2. Q. i. The Quality, Scope, and Extent of Supported Employment Services to Be Provided to Individuals with the Most Significant Disabilities, Including Youth with the Most Significant Disabilities.
ADRS continues to seek methods to increase participation of individuals with all types of disabilities in supported employment programs. Initiatives for improving transition services for students with more significant disabilities are being implemented. Since WIOA students with more significant disabilities are being referred and receiving services at a much earlier age. SE providers are providing Pre-Employment Transition Services to these students with an emphasis on work based learning. We are procuring additional pre-employment transition specialist (jointly funded) to increase the likelihood of competitive integrated employment for students with more significant disabilities and expansion of innovative opportunities and collaborations including student led enterprises, participation in work based learning at a younger age, and successful programs like Project SEARCH. We will continue to work with career and technical education to develop innovative programs that address internship and apprentice opportunities as well as certifications in employment areas, especially in high demand areas for our state. We will continue to work with Workforce development to identify and provide services to youth in the area, especially underserved youth and those with more significant disabilities. All these identified entities are a part of our Employment First efforts in Alabama. We are currently submitting 3 RFP’s for collaborations with Workforce Boards, Post-Secondary Education, and Alabama One-Stop Centers for internships and services to youth through expansion of Project SEARCH to youth in their areas. • Efforts continued to collaborate closely with Alabama APSE (Association of Persons Supporting Employment First)—The Network on Employment, Alabama Department of Mental Health, and the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities (DD Council), to provide training to staff, pre-employment transition specialist, skills training instructors, SE providers, IPS staff and other employment staff in Alabama that serve individuals with disabilities. Customized employment and Discovery are included in this training. ADRS continues to expand services within the state to increase opportunities for individuals to access to supported employment services. All counties in Alabama all have trained supported employment providers to serve consumers in their area. Many of our community rehabilitation programs provided paid summer work experiences that include job exploration, work place readiness, instruction in self-advocacy, in demand jobs in their areas, and paid work place paid work experience with employers in their local areas. Two additional staff members were hired as Rehabilitation Specialists for Supported Employment to assist the counselors and providers with quality supported employment and to provide training as needed to both groups. Additionally another state office specialist was hired to assist the statewide transition specialist. The addition of these specialists’ will help to assure that we are providing quality services to students, youth, and adults with more significant disabilities that require supported employment. We continue to include Discovery and customized employment in our bi-annual training with staff to assure better job matches, and more opportunities for internships and training to consumers requiring SE. The following initiatives have been implemented:
• Continual training and consultation by state office staff on Supported Employment, Milestones, Discovery, Person Centered Profile Development, WIOA, IPS Supported Employment, Self-Employment, Pre-Employment Transition Services and Project SEARCH for transition students. • Continued collaboration with the Alabama Department of Mental Health on moving consumers from facility based services to community based, competitive integrated employment. This includes making sure counselors have a better understanding of Medicaid waivers, SS implications, including work incentives and providers who don’t contract with VR know about our application and eligibility process, supported employment services, the availability of benefit planners and section 511 of WIOA. SE Specialists have been working with providers known to VR to provide career counseling, information and referral, and benefits counseling to those in subminimum wage employment. This includes information on the supported employment providers in their area. We have also worked with school systems in our state to provide documentation and instruction on limitations and requirements for youth entering subminimum wage employment. VR, in collaboration with the State Department of Education, developed procedures and documentation for both the LEAs and VR. This in addition to efforts to reach students at a younger age should greatly encourage competitive, integrated employment as a first option for students and youth with more significant disabilities. Documentation collected from individuals currently in sub-minimum wage employment suggests the median age is over 50.
• Collaboration continues with Alabama Association of Persons Supporting Employment First (AL—APSE) and Alabama Department of Mental Health to offer bi-annual job coach training to new job coaches, job developers, pre-employment transition specialists, skills training instructors, IPS staff, mental health staff and case managers. This training is conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University and provides instruction on best practices, innovative strategies and customized employment. For the last two years Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind sent local and regional staff personnel who serve those with sensory impairments.
• We continue to provide the GATE Project for provider agencies who have consumers in sheltered work who are seeking employment in their communities. GATE was recognized by ICI (Institute for Community Inclusion) as an innovative strategy to move consumers from segregated employment to competitive integrated employment. It is a partnership with our agency, the Department of Mental Health and local employers. This program is embedded in the workplace and gives the opportunity for those who will require extra time and additional supports and training to learn a job. This unique program braids funds from the two agencies to secure the supports and training needed. • Alabama currently has 11 Project SEARCH sites. This model, founded by Cincinnati’s Children Hospital is an innovative, transition/work model for students with most significant disabilities. Two employment sites, utilizing two school systems, were piloted in August 2012, and the program has grown to 11 sites since that time. This collaborative effort involves the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Department of Mental Health, and the State Department of Education, the Developmental Disabilities Counsel, ten local school systems, one post-secondary partner and eleven employers. Other school systems have expressed an interest in having this program and we expect to continue our expansion. We are currently writing 3 RFPs to expand this very successful program to youth in other parts of the state. If approved Workforce, Post-secondary education, and the Alabama one stop career centers would partner. • Alabama was one of seven states awarded a SAMHSA grant to provide evidence—based Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment. This evidence—based practice was initially implemented at Chilton Shelby Mental Health (a very rural area) and at Altapointe Mental Health in Mobile (an urban area). This year we are adding a third site in Montgomery, Alabama and are currently working on a plan for sustainability and expansion.
• Connections is designed for students and youth who have social skills deficits, specifically those with Autism. The program runs the entire school year and not only teaches social skills n the classroom, then moves those skills into real world settings in the community to practice them. This year long social skills acquisition program is then followed by supported employment services or employment services based on the needs of the participant. This program began in Birmingham, Alabama. Because of the success of Connections, we have expanded to three sites and will be adding a fourth site in August of this year. • The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services provides a Supported Employment Administrator and two Supported Employment Specialists to monitor supported employment services and provide training and technical assistance. Each supported employment provider operates under a milestone/outcome—based program to ensure quality outcomes and appropriate employment options based on individual choice. Consumers are offered the opportunity to participate in community—based assessments to facilitate an informed decision regarding their employment goal. Job development is provided on an individual basis to locate employment based on the consumer’s interests, skills, limitations and community living needs. Job coaching is also provided at the work site to ensure that the individual has the necessary training, skills and supports to work. Once the consumer is stable in the workplace, extended services are planned and implemented to protect the long—term success of the job. Consumer and employer satisfaction regarding the services provided are measured at the time of employment and again before case closure. Extended services are a continuation of ongoing support services provided to individuals with the most significant disabilities. These extended supports are provided at the completion of stabilization, during the successful rehabilitation Milestone and beyond ADRS case closure. The option for Discovery and Customized Employment, or for Person Centered Profiles along with assessments are available to consumers to maximize success for individuals in supported employment. Supported Self-employment is also available for individuals wanting to start their own business.