~~• Maintaining and strengthening contracts with private non-profit organizations to provide four core components: vocational rehabilitation, transition, supported employment and rehabilitation engineering. Vocational rehabilitation, transition and pre-ETS are combined in the 2017-2018 contracts. Contracted providers are monitored via desk audits or onsite based on an established timeframe or at any time if an issue arises. By working with providers, Florida Department of Education’s Divisions of Blind Services (FDBS) will increase work-based experiences and provide career exploration in a variety of fields. FDBS coordinates with multiple partners to maximize supported employment services. (Page 48) Title I
Employment First Florida
Seven of Florida’s state agencies and nonprofit organizations, including CareerSource Florida, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD), the Department of Economic Opportunity, the Department of Education (BEESS, VR and FDBS) the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council, RESPECT of Florida and the Department of Children and Families - Mental Health and Substance Abuse came together through an interagency cooperative agreement. This collaboration improves coordination of services that help people with disabilities obtain employment and achieve self-sufficiency. (Page 61-62) Title I
The Employment First collaborative developed a comprehensive and coordinated statewide communications plan to improve outreach, describing services available to support employment and training for people with disabilities. This initiative responds directly to a key recommendation of the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities.
The Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program
The Florida Unique Abilities Partner Program recognizes businesses that are committed to providing career and financial opportunities to individuals with unique abilities and to assisting organizations that support them. Participating businesses demonstrate their dedication to strengthening communities and the economy by helping these Floridians with untapped talents become more independent and by partnering with other businesses, organizations and state resources in this endeavor. (Page 62) Title I
• Continue implementation of an interagency supported program and fiscal planning process that defines and projects the number of people who require intensive and extended services for each fiscal year. VR 24 has added policy and procedures to fund extended services to youth 24 and under who do not have access to an alternative funding source.
• Pilot innovative service models such as Individual Placement and Support (IPS) through peer specialists to provide more service options to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness. VR has entered into an Intensive Technical Assistance agreement with the Workforce Innovation Technical Assistance Center (WINTAC) to expand the VR self-advocacy service of Youth Peer Mentoring statewide. This collaboration will leverage agency resources to deliver training that would typically cost in excess of $40,000 if delivered using traditional methods. VR now offers Discovery and Customized Employment statewide and is increasing provider capacity to deliver these services. VR develops agreements with and partners with other agencies and organizations to provide customers more access to community resources. (Page 67) Title I
• Continue efforts to ensure partners recognize and support VR’s role as the primary employment agency for all individuals with disabilities, including those with most significant disabilities. VR works closely as a member of the Statewide Employment First Interagency Committee, including the Department of Economic Opportunity, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, the Division of Blind Services, Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Service, Department of Children and Families - Mental Health, Florida Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Florida Developmental Disability Council and CareerSource Florida. This promotes the coordination and collaboration of services on a statewide basis.
• Maximize the quality of supported employment service delivery, ensuring a comprehensive, continuous, efficient and effective referral process, individual program planning, coordination of intensive vocational services with extended services, information collection and dissemination, confidentiality and technical assistance. (Page 68) Title I
Core programs work through Florida’s Employment First initiative and the Higher Education Coordinating Council to expand and develop innovative ways to ensure seamless articulation and accessibility to programs leading to credentials and apprenticeship opportunities. (Page 80) Title I
LWDBs continue expanding employment and training services for people with disabilities. Eighteen of Florida’s 24 LWDBs have been approved as Employment Networks (EN) under the Ticket to Work program.
The state and several LWDBs have accessible mobile CareerSource Florida centers that provide onsite services to people with disabilities. This provides additional access to remote job fairs; to those impacted by mass layoffs; and other employment and training events for people with disabilities.
At the state level, the workforce system increased active participation on boards working to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities such as:
• Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST)
• Florida Developmental Disability Council-led Employment First Initiative and its Employment and Transportation Task Force
• Community Services Block Grant Advisory Council
• Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged
The Agency for Persons with Disabilities (APD) has representation within the workforce system and several members of the Statewide Strengthening Youth Partnership are entities focusing on providing quality services to people with disabilities. (Page 106) Title I
As an employment leader, VR strongly encourages partner agencies, organizations, and employers to promote competitive integrated employment in the community as the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities. People with disabilities who are employed experience enhanced independence and quality of life. They are also contributing to the rich diversity of the workforce so the entire community benefits. The Employment First Committee submits a report to the Governor annually, describing the coordination of participating agencies to advance the Employment First philosophy and way of work throughout Florida. (Page 180) Title II
VR continues to be an active partner with other state agencies and organizations in implementing Employment First, a national effort to assure individuals with disabilities are offered employment as the first and preferred option in planning their lives. Employment First is consistent with VR’s belief that individuals with disabilities, even the most significant disabilities, can achieve meaningful employment when provided with appropriate supports.
Executive Order 13-284 (Reaffirming Commitment to Employment for Floridians with Disabilities) was signed by the Governor of Florida in October 2013. The order mandates that an Interagency Cooperative Agreement be developed and requires nine agencies/organizations to participate in the agreement. This order has now been placed in Florida’s statute.
• The Department of Education-Division of Blind Services
• The Department of Education-Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
• The Department of Education-Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services
• The Agency for Persons with Disabilities
• The Department of Children and Families-Mental Health and Substance Abuse
• The Department of Economic Opportunity
• CareerSource Florida
• The Florida Developmental Disabilities Council
• RESPECT of Florida (Page 185) Title II
VR collaborates with the Florida Department of Children and Families Mental Health and Substance Abuse Program to improve and increase employment opportunities for people with mental illness. Part of this collaborative work is conducted through a formalized Employment First agreement, while other coordination occurs during a customer’s transition from the initial and intense Phase of Supported Employment to the ongoing and extended service phase of Supported Employment services. (Page 190) Title I
• Funds may also be used for related customized employment strategies of Supported self-Employment Services
• Provide up to four years of extended services for youth 24 and under when appropriate
• VR Consultants have provided extensive outreach to educators, community providers, individuals, families, community partners, VR staff to promote Supported Employment as an opportunity for youth to become successful in becoming employed and developing a career path.
• VR works closely with the Statewide Employment First Interagency Committee. This group focuses on promoting competitive integrated employment as a first choice for youth and adults with disabilities in Florida.
• The Program Development and Assistance Bureau provides technical assistance and support to a wide variety of stakeholders.
• VR has provided youth receiving subminimum wage employment training opportunities to encourage their consideration of competitive integrated employment opportunities. There is a four hour course focused on self-advocacy, communication, employment options in local communities, how to obtain supports and services, and other related topics. (Page 221) Title IV
• Continue to work with APD to make sure that referred customers know about the extended service resources they can get through Medicaid Waiver Funding and/or general revenue funding.
• Continue to work with a network of providers to provide technical assistance and support of innovative projects that promote employment for individuals with the most significant disabilities. (Page 222) Title IV
VR staff have worked with Employment First Partners, Agency for Persons with Disabilities, Project 10 staff, local Education Agencies and other partners to increase Third Party Cooperative Arrangements, Project SEARCH programs and other work experience programs that provide training opportunities that lead to employment.
VR staff have also collaborated with the Florida Association for Rehabilitation Facilities and the ARC of Florida to develop a package of VR services that would assist individuals with most significant disabilities to pursue competitive integrated employment opportunities. (Page 238) Title IV
A number of strategies were used to support collaboration between VR and other community resources through networking and leadership activities listed below.
• Representation on the Florida Developmental Disabilities Council and Employment Task Force. This included helping develop pilot projects on a wide array of employment topics. Administrators were involved as task force members, on advisory committees, and as monitors of projects. The projects complimented and supported VR’s mission of helping individuals prepare for, get or keep a job.
• Presentations on Supported Employment at conferences around the state. Audiences included professionals, families, and students regarding employment options.
• Participation as a board member for the Florida Association of People Supporting Employment First (APSE).
• Representation on the Statewide Employment First Initiative by VR’s Supported Employment and Transition Consultants.
• The VR Senior Consultant coordinated and developed training for providers and staff on Discovery and Customized Employment Services. (Page 240) Title IV
VR will continue to actively engage and partner in order to:
• Develop a collaborative agreement with APD specific to Supported Employment and removing or reducing barriers for employment for individuals with significant disabilities.
• Implement the Interagency Employment First Agreement between the nine signatory parties. Continue to implement the agreements at the local and state level with appropriate stakeholders.
• Maximize the quality of service delivery ensuring an efficient and effective referral process, individual program planning, and coordination of intensive vocational services with extended services available for youth and adults.
• Expand available services through youth-related initiatives. (Page 246) Title VI
The FDBS has a contractual agreement with the Florida Lion’s Conklin Center for the Blind to identify and provide supported employment and extended services for individuals with the most significant disabilities, including youth with the most significant disabilities. FDBS partners with other state agencies and organizations in implementing Employment First, a national effort to ensure individuals with disabilities are offered employment on a preferred basis. Employment First is consistent with the FDBS belief that individuals with disabilities, even the most significant disabilities, can achieve meaningful employment when provided with appropriate supports. (Page 270) Title IV
• Promoting integrated employment in the community as the first and preferred option for individuals with disabilities under the Employment First Initiative. FDBS provides training and education on integrated employment to staff and community providers.
• Maintaining and strengthening contracts with private non-profit organizations to provide four core components: Vocational Rehabilitation, Transition, Supported Employment, and Rehabilitation Engineering. Vocational Rehabilitation, Transition, and Pre-ETS are combined in the 2017-2018 contracts. Contracted providers are monitored via desk audits or onsite based on an established timeframe or at any time if an issue arises. By working with providers, FDBS will increase work-based experiences and provide career exploration in a variety of fields. FDBS coordinates with multiple partners to maximize supported employment services. (Page 308) Title IV
FDBS is one of the partner agencies included in the Interagency Cooperative Agreement effective July 2014, as part of the Employment First Initiative supported by Executive Order 13-284. This Order re-affirms a commitment to employment for Floridians with disabilities. The Interagency Cooperative Agreement has been updated and revisions are under review.
FDBS and its Employment First Partners addressed many goals, including several recommendations by the Governor’s Commission on Jobs for Floridians with Disabilities, to advance employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The goals and recommendations achieved include:
• Developing and implementing the Florida “Abilities Work” Web Portal and Help Desk; which was recommended by the Governor’s Commission to assist employers in finding candidates with disabilities who are ready and able to work, and to learn about resources that can support them on the job. (Page 315) Title IV
• Developing a multi-agency, long-term communications plan to help the state promote a consistent message of awareness among employers and encourage them to hire persons with disabilities. This collaborative plan advances employer outreach efforts of the FDBS Employment Placement Specialists to increase employment opportunities for clients.
• Forming three interagency workgroups, including a grassroots group to receive input from stakeholders at the local level and to address the objectives of the Employment First Collaborative Agreement. FDBS is an active partner in these forums and uses the work to support other related collaborative activities, such as the implementing WIOA).
• Creating an Employment First Florida website, logo, collaborative training toolkit, and promotional video to inform community partners and the public of Florida’s efforts to improve employment outcomes for persons with disabilities. FDBS Director, Robert Doyle, participated in the video and highlighted how these collaborative efforts support the employment of individuals with visual disabilities. Successful closures increased by approximately 2% since crating the training toolkit. (Page 316) Title IV
FDBS is optimistic it will improve its employment outcomes during the current SFY. FDBS will implement strategies such as collaborating with community rehabilitation programs; networking with national employment partners; expanding utilization of online job systems such as Department of Economic Opportunities’ (DEO) Abilities Work Web Portal and accompanying help desk managed by VR and the national Talent Acquisition Portal; participating in the Employment First Initiative; networking with local level employers, providing ongoing training to employment staff; developing new vocational training programs at the residential rehabilitation center; collaboratively identifying and training eligible Floridians to manage state-owned Bureau of Business Enterprise (BBE) Programs, sponsoring of appropriate self-employment opportunities; providing technology training; academic and vocational training; and increasing the number of clients with a higher level education; and increasing outreach to employers to maximize work experience opportunities for clients. (Page 317) Title IV
The FDBS has a contractual agreement with the Florida Lion’s Conklin Center for the Blind to identify and provide supported employment and extended services for individuals with the most significant disabilities. FDBS partners with other state agencies and organizations in implementing Employment First, a national effort to ensure individuals with disabilities are offered employment on a preferred basis. Employment First is consistent with the FDBS belief that individuals with disabilities, even the most significant disabilities, can achieve meaningful employment when provided with appropriate supports.
Four goals address the vocational rehabilitation and supported employment programs. These goals and strategies are:
Goal 1.0 Highest Client Achievement
Strategy 1.1: Expand opportunities for students to receive FDBS services and secure opportunities for students and youth with disabilities to practice and improve workplace skills. (Page 324) Title IV