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f. Arrangements and Cooperative Agreements for the Provision of Supported Employment Services

Describe the designated State agency’s efforts to identify and make arrangements, including entering into cooperative agreements, with other State agencies and other appropriate entities in order to provide supported employment services and extended employment services, as applicable, to individuals with the most significant disabilities, including youth with the most significant disabilities.

Current Narrative:

Supported Employment (SE) is available in Alabama for individuals with the most significant disabilities who require intensive support services, and extended support services for an appropriate and successful employment outcome. These services are provided in all regions of the state by 39 approved community—based organizations. Supported Employment services are available to individuals regardless of their disability. Currently, the primary disabilities served include persons with significant intellectual disabilities, severe mental illness, cerebral palsy, autism spectrum disorders, visual and hearing impairments, severe orthopedic impairments, traumatic brain injury, and other most significant disabilities. The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services currently utilizes a Milestones service and payment process. Milestones, a service and outcome based payment system, has significantly improved the quality of supported employment throughout the state, while proving to be more cost effective for the agency. Providers of supported employment are paid for successful outcomes achieved by individuals participating in supported employment. The Milestones program segments the rehabilitation process into four distinct areas: (1) Determination of Needs/Person Centered Profiles and the Discovery Process, (2) Hire, (3) Job Retention/Coaching and (4) Closure. Extended supports including natural supports are available at the job site, and are provided for the duration of the employment. Providers of long term supports are required to document at minimum twice monthly contact with each consumer successfully working in the community, and to maintain this documentation in case files for the duration of that consumer’s job. ADRS can fund extended supports to youth for up to 4 years or until they reach the age of 25 and are no longer considered a youth. If VR is funding extended services, the case must remain open until the individual is receiving these supports funded through another source. 
To ensure the highest quality of services, collaborative training is provided by ADRS, ADMH and Virginia Commonwealth University’s Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Workplace Supports.  This training is provided to improve the consistency of service delivery by job coaches, pre-employment transition specialist, skills training instructors, AIDB staff, IPS staff and others in the community that offer employment services to individuals with most significant disabilities. This training includes information on the provision of extended services, customized employment and supported self-employment. Training is available to all SE providers as well as other agencies that collaborate to provide supports to an individual working in the community. These agencies include the Alabama Department of Mental Health, The Alabama Department of Education, the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. 

Project SEARCH, a statewide initiative to improve transition services for students with most significant disabilities began in Alabama in FY 2012 with two pilot sites. Alabama now has 16 Project SEARCH sites for students and youth with disabilities including those with most significant disabilities.  We will continue to work to expand this program.  
Cooperative Agreements between the Local School Systems (LEA’s), Alabama State Department of Education, Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, the Alabama Council for Developmental Disabilities, the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Community Rehabilitation Programs and the local employer supporting the program.  Youth programs are in partnership with Postsecondary Education, local workforce boards, One-stop Career Centers, Community Rehabilitation Programs and the employer. In a collaborative effort with Alabama Department of Mental Health, we are initiating a braided funding stream using the Milestone payment system and Medicaid dollars in order to move people from pre-vocational services in segregated settings to competitive integrated employment.

Individualized Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment is an evidence based approach to supported employment for individuals with serious mental illness.  IPS, based on zero exclusion, competitive employment in the community, mental health treatment and employment services being integrated, benefits planning is included, job search occurs rapidly, employment specialist develop relationships with employers in their communities, job supports are continuous, and consumer preferences are honored. Currently IPS is being implemented at Chilton Shelby in West Alabama (rural site) and Altapointe in Mobile County and Montgomery (urban sites).   We currently have a cooperative agreement with the Alabama Department of Mental Health that includes both the DD Division of the Department and the MI/SA Division. This agreement gives and Overview of both Departments including their purpose, changes reflected in WIOA, the Legal basis for the agreement, Overview of the Departments and the Responsibilities of the Partners, Eligibility, Plan Development, Referral Process for the Departments, State level shared objectives, Responsibilities and Implementation- including extended services to individuals with most significant disabilities.