~~EMPLOYMENT FIRST is a framework for systems change that is centered on the premise that all citizens with disabilities, including individuals with the most significant disabilities, are capable of full participation in integrated employment and community life. Individuals with disabilities are a multi-skilled workforce resource for employers. An inclusive workplace promotes diversity, expands the tax base and creates an expanded pool of qualified candidates for available jobs. ‘Employment First’ is about creating an environment for individuals with disabilities, including individuals with the most significant disabilities, that empowers them with choices for their future, reduces poverty, eases demand on state and community based social service agencies and provides workers with a sense of achievement.
Competitive integrated employment will be seen as the first and primary option for all individuals with disabilities, including individuals with the most significant intellectual and developmental disabilities (ID/DD), who apply through informed choice for workforce services. (Page 57) Title I
DVRS subscribes to the Employment First principles adopted by the Governor in April 2012, and the agency believes that these principles should be accomplished in the context of long-term career pathway development. (Page 110) Title I
Since the Governor has declared through Executive Order, that New Jersey become the 14th Employment First state, the DVRS is reexamining all of the current MOUs in order to ensure policy aligns with the intent of Employment First. (Page 239) Title IV
The DDD serves individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who meet the functional criteria of having a developmental disability, are eligible for and maintain Medicaid eligibility, and are at least 18 years of age at the time of application and 21 years of age to receive services. Conditions generally considered developmental disabilities include intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida, and autism. Part of DDD’s implementation of the Employment First Initiative includes an annual discussion with individuals served, family members, and Support Coordinators providing care management services to identify each individual’s current employment status and identify how to assist the individual in reaching his/her employment outcomes. (Page 242) Title IV
New Jersey is an Employment First State, and particular attention is given to youth with the most significant disabilities who, through informed choice, wish to pursue competitive integrated employment. DVRS has approved supported employment vendors who also vendor with DDD. The DDD system provides support coordinators to their participants who identify the individualized services needed and help arrange for those supports. DVRS counselors meet with DDD support coordinators and identify supported employment vendors common to both agencies in order to ensure a smooth transition of funding. DVRS is piloting “discovery” throughout the state in order to provide counselors with the tools to address the needs of this unique population. (Pages 248-249) Title IV
New Jersey is also an Employment First state, and DVRS has identified goals to increase the number of individuals with significant ID/DD to avail themselves to DVRS services that result in an integrated competitive employment outcome. (Page 251) Title IV
• Strategic objectives to meet the DVRS Employment First initiative include the following:
• More individuals with significant developmental disabilities (DD) and ASD will have greater access to become DVRS consumers.
• DVRS staff members, vendors, and state partners will have the expectation that employment is the first and preferred option for adult activity for those with DD.
• DD consumers including transition students and persons in workshops will have increased opportunities for a smooth transition into employment via a defined process established by DVRS and state partners.
• DD consumers will be provided with programs and services that offer job targeted skill development, education and training.
• DD individuals will have increased opportunities to become DVRS consumers, obtain job skills, and obtain competitive employment that matches their interests, skills & capabilities.
• Through a leverage of services with DDD, DVRS will serve an increased amount of individuals with DD, including individuals with ASD. (Page 263) Title IV
In addition, the agency recently signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with the DVRS, the general VR agency, and DDD, a sister agency within the New Jersey Department of Human Services and an agency that provides a full array of employment supports including extended services to individuals with a wide array of developmental disabilities, with the goal of furthering Employment First principles in the state by increasing access to supports needed to obtain and maintain employment. (Page 331) Title IV
Funds received under section 603 of the Rehabilitation Act will be used for the provision of services that lead to supported employment. The goal is to meet the needs of individuals with the most significant disabilities to attain competitive, integrated employment. Priorities will be given to individuals with disabilities, including youth with disabilities, who demonstrate a need for intensive supported employment support in order to achieve substantial, gainful employment. These goals align with New Jersey’s emphasis on Employment First. (Page 332) Title IV
DVRS and CBI recently entered into a new MOU with DDD. The MOU identifies that resources to expand extended services and supported employment opportunities for youth with the most significant disabilities will be allocated for youth being served by DDD through individualized budget allocations specific for employment support in competitive, integrated settings. This agreement further supports New Jersey’s emphasis on Employment First. (Page 332) Title IV