‘Expect Employment’ report details progress on disability employment

Report presented to Gov. Lee details work towards closing the employment gap for people with disabilities in Tennessee

JACKSON—Expansion of a successful internship model across the state and identifying a shared goal to close the state’s employment gap for people with disabilities are some of the areas of progress identified in this year’s “Expect Employment” report. The report documents the progress made by the Employment First Task Force.

Gov. Bill Lee received the report at West Tennessee Healthcare at Jackson Madison County General Hospital after touring and meeting several interns who participate in Project SEARCH at the hospital. This national internship model is offered at 15 sites across Tennessee and has led to the employment of many people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the conclusion of their internships. 

“Public-private partnerships are an important component to ensuring employment opportunities for people with disabilities exist,” Gov. Lee said. “We know that state government cannot achieve success alone, and we are grateful to have the support and partnership of outstanding organizations from across the state.”

Created in 2013 through Executive Order No. 28, the Employment First Task Force is charged with eliminating barriers, streamlining services and increasing integrated and competitive employment for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, substance abuse disorders and other disabilities.

“The collaborations we have with programs like Project SEARCH and partners like West Tennessee Healthcare are creating life changing opportunities across the state,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “We believe a thriving Tennessee is one where individuals with disabilities have competitive integrated employment options in the communities where they live.”

“Employment for people with disabilities is more than checking a box, it’s about changing a life,” Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Brad Turner said. “People with disabilities are already making valuable contributions to the workforce and ensuring that our department is engaging with employers to make those connections is a top priority for me.”

This is the sixth report to the governor and the first presented to Lee. Highlights of this year’s progress include:

  • Development of a goal to close the statewide employment gap between people with and without disabilities by 5% by 2023.
  • A 300% year-over-year increase in the use of pre-employment transition services, which help prepare students in school for transitioning to employment.
  • Expansion of Project SEARCH sites from 12 to 15 statewide in the 2019 Fiscal Year.
  • Launch of the alternate academic diploma, which provides a new diploma pathway for students with disabilities.

The task force, which is co-chaired by DIDD and the Department of Human Services, meets quarterly. Representatives from the Departments of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, Labor and Workforce Development, Education, Economic and Community Development, and Health as well as the Division of TennCare, the Tennessee Council on Developmental Disabilities, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center and several disability advocacy groups are also members of the task force.

Read the full report at: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yd0z1gsttr6hxut/2019_Expect_Employment_Report.pdf?dl=0

About the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities is the state agency responsible for administration and oversight of community-based services for approximately 8,000 people with intellectual disabilities as well as 4,000 people through the Family Support Program.  Every day, the department strives to support people to live rewarding and fulfilling lives. It does so by ensuring people are free to exercise rights, engage with their broader communities and experience optimal health. DIDD is the first state service delivery system in the nation to receive Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership. It has also been recognized as a national leader in its efforts to increase competitive, community-based employment outcomes for people with disabilities. 

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