An interagency agreement to strengthen the network of services that will help transition students with disabilities into the workforce was signed earlier this month in Medina County, bringing additional support to current collaborative efforts. The Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD), area school districts, and other community-based organizations have teamed up to promote the mission and vision of the Employment First initiative, making opportunities for jobs that are integrated into the community the first priority for people with developmental disabilities. More than 20 state and local officials gathered at the MCBDD Achievement Center for the symbolic signing, where MCBDD Superintendent Annette Davis-Kramp observed, “Employment First is everyone’s business –schools, County Boards of DD, families, and employers. It is steps such as these we are taking today that will make it successful.”
Agencies supporting the interagency agreement include all Medina County local school districts, MCBDD, Medina County Educational Services Center, and several local community partner agencies. The DODD Employment First team is excited about the new opportunities that can evolve from a county-wide approach. Speaking at the signing, Employment First Project Manager Joe Kowalski noted,
“Medina County is helping to lead the way in terms of leveraging the collective strengths of local and state agencies to employ people with disabilities. While some other communities have been struggling a little with the needs of transition-age students, Medina County has found a way to energize these efforts. We will follow this approach with interest.”
ODJFS New Online Services
Furthering the statewide approach to expanding opportunities for community-based employment for people with DD, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is offering job search assistance for people with disabilities with a new online service. OhioMeansAccessibility.com works along with the ODJFS’ site OhioMeansJobs.com posting resumes and providing referrals to potential employers interested in hiring people with disabilities. The website also offers information about starting a business, building financial assets, transitioning from school to work, work incentive programs, and health care. Employers can use the site to find information about hiring incentives, workplace accommodations, employment law, and engaging a qualified and diverse workforce.
Agency Employee Exemplifies Ability at Work
Individuals working in paid employment that recognizes and utilizes their skills and talents were among those honored at the recent Synergy Conference in Columbus. Among them was Michelle Marcellus, an employee of Ability Works in Sandusky. Michelle beamed a surprised smile as her name was called to receive an ESDY award recognizing her many on-the-job contributions to the agency where she ably uses her credentials – including a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Kent State University. She also is in the process of re-connecting with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) early next year to further explore other paid employment options. She stated,
“Being presented the ESDY Award was a huge validation of my work. I sincerely want to thank my Service and Support Administrator Larrick Zirkle, and Lisa Moore, a friend and Ability Works colleague for the nomination.”
Job Training for Better Community Employment Outcomes
After 58 years, the Lucas County Board of DD’s Lott Industries is expanding its employment options by offering training for jobs in the restaurant/food service industry. The non-profit agency trains employees to work on-site at businesses throughout the community, and operates two facilities – one in Toledo and one in Maumee.
Lott Industries Sales Manager Tim Menke explained, “Our goal is to be more of a training facility where we teach individuals different jobs to build their skill sets so we can prepare them to find them a job in the community. With the kitchen facility at the Toledo location, we will be training people in food preparation and related skills — everything they would need to know to work at a restaurant so they can work there successfully.”
Darke County Connections Work for Sam
According to Eric Lee, public information specialist at the Darke County Board of DD, the agency operates under two philosophies — Employment First, and Community First. Sam Ploch is a great example of how this dual philosophy can result in positive employment outcomes. Sam is a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome who graduated from Greenville High School where he studied Interactive Media (IMTV) through Greenville’s Career Tech Center. His goal is to become a professional videographer.
After graduation, Sam began working at Wayne Industries. Sam was afraid that at Wayne Industries he wouldn’t be able to use his skills from IMTV, but instead he was asked to video-record events and trainings, work previously done by staff. Sam is responsible for setting up and tearing down the equipment, along with recording, copying, and cataloging the DVDs. He said,
“It is so great to continue to use my talents that I learned in IMTV. Thankfully, Jeff Miller (Director of Wayne Industries) saw my potential.”
Sam also is now contracted to work with two neighboring agencies as a videographer, earning well above minimum wage. In addition, he explores his love of history and nature through both paid and volunteer work in the community. See story at Darke Journal.com.
Medicaid Buy-In Now Helping 9500 Ohioans
Long-time advocate for improved employment opportunities within Ohio’s DD community, Chuck Beatty recently reported updated information on the Medicaid Buy-In for Workers with Disabilities (MBIWD) program. This Medicaid-funded program allows individuals with disabilities who are employed to qualify for Medicaid benefits with higher income and resource limits, and to buy into Medicaid by paying a premium based on income. The program launched in 2008.
Beatty notes that, as of this month, there are now 9500 Ohioans with disabilities enrolled. In May there were 9408. Chuck tours the state providing information about Medicaid Buy-In, and is available to give a presentation on the subject, at no charge, anyplace in Ohio. He noted recently, “My personal goal of having 10,000 enrolled in Medicaid Buy-In by January 1, 2015, is looking more reachable every month.”
Connect with DODD on Facebook where we are sharing news and information highlighting NDEAM.
Related resources are at the Employment First website and at U.S. Department of Labor Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) website.