- Program-Specific Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation (Combined or General)
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 title IV of WIOA:
 Sec. 102(b)(2)(D)(iii) of WIOA
- q. Quality, Scope, and Extent of Supported Employment Services
Include the following:
- q. Quality, Scope, and Extent of Supported Employment Services
q. 1. 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
The Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services (ADRS) remains committed to the provision of quality services to individuals with the most significant disabilities through the provision of supported employment services. ADRS provides supported employment services through a collaborative/partnership effort with 39 service providers statewide in PY 2018. These providers cover all counties in the state. These providers offer services to individuals with a variety of significant disabilities without restrictions regarding disability type. The SE providers are distributed throughout the state in order to ensure maximum availability to those in need of supported employment to obtain or maintain competitive integrated employment or advancement in employment.
Service providers receive funds for the provision of supported employment through an outcome-based payment system. Providers must submit evidence that each milestone has been achieved. Some milestones include consumer and employer satisfaction surveys. Consumer satisfaction is designed to reflect satisfaction with the job or identify any consumer concerns or issues. The employer satisfaction survey is designed to reflect the consumer’s job performance, stability and training needs. Supported employment funds are distributed to each provider agency based on the milestone achieved by each individual served. Job skills training is provided to individuals on site at the work setting. Supported employment services include placement in competitive integrated employment settings for the maximum number of hours possible and is based on the strengths, resources, priorities, concerns, abilities, interests and informed choice of the individual. The number of persons receiving a supported employment service has increased by an average 18% per year over the past 2 program years. In PY 2019, the SE program: had 1,264 consumers’ complete situational assessments and/or the Discovery process. 634 consumers were closed with supports in competitive integrated employment. These consumers worked an average of 23 hours a week and made an average of $8.54 an hour.
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.
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. Pre-employment transition specialist (jointly funded), as well as community rehabilitation programs are working with students at a younger age to increase the likelihood of competitive integrated employment for students with more significant disabilities. We will continue to explore 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 programs that address internship and apprenticeship 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, especially underserved youth and those with more significant disabilities. All these identified entities are a part of our Employment First efforts in Alabama. Through expansion of Project SEARCH, we currently have 4 youth programs in collaboration with Workforce Boards, Post-Secondary Education, and Alabama One-Stop Centers for internships and employment.
We continue to collaborate with Alabama APSE (Association of Persons Supporting Employment First), 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 personnel 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 have trained supported employment providers to serve consumers in their area. Many of our community rehabilitation programs provide paid work-based experiences in order for students to acquire employment skills and real work experiences. Providers are strongly encouraged to prioritize employment development efforts within in-demand career pathways.
Through the agency’s Supported Employment Administrator and two Supported Employment Specialists, ADRS provides training and technical assistance to monitor supported employment services and outcomes. Two Rehabilitation Specialists for Supported Employment assist the counselors and providers with quality supported employment and to provide training as needed to both groups. Additionally, another state office specialist assists the statewide transition specialist. These specialists’ help assure that we are providing quality services to students, youth, and adults with more significant disabilities that require supported employment. The following initiatives have been implemented by these specialists:
• Continual training and consultation on Supported Employment, Milestones, Discovery, Person Centered Profile Development, WIOA, IPS Supported Employment, Self-Employment, Pre-Employment Transition Services and Project SEARCH for students and youth.
• 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. Specialist staff consult with providers who don’t contract with VR to explain our application and eligibility process, supported employment services, the availability of benefit planners and section 511 of WIOA. SE Specialists have been working with 14C providers known to VR to provide career counseling, information and referral, and benefits counseling to individuals working 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 encourage competitive, integrated employment as a first option for students and youth with more significant disabilities.
• In partnership with the Department of Mental Health, ADRS recently released an RFP to provider agencies that contract with both departments. The purpose of the RFP is to move individuals from pre-vocational services in day-habilitation settings into community integrated employment. The effort seeks to braid funds from the two agencies to secure additional funding for intensive supports and extended support services.
• Alabama currently has 3 Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment sites. This evidence-based employment-first practice is designed to serve individuals with serious mental illness and co-occurring substance use disorder. The program is being implemented at three locations: Chilton Shelby Mental Health (a very rural area), Altapointe Mental Health in Mobile and Montgomery Mental Health Authority (both urban areas).
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 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 and is now available at 4 locations across the state.