RI Job Seekers with DD May Seek Help at Provider Fair Friday as State Tries to Boost Employment

 By Gina Macris

Rhode Islanders with developmental or intellectual disabilities who want to work can explore the job-development services of 14 private agencies during a fair Friday, Jan. 6, at the Arnold Conference Center on the campus of the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals in Cranston. 

The fair runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to a spokeswoman for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. 

Of the state’s 36 private providers of developmental disability services, 14 have confirmed their attendance, the spokeswoman, Sophie O’Connell, said Wednesday. 

They are:

·         Avatar Residential, Inc.

·         Bridges, Inc.

·         Community Living of Rhode Island, Inc.

·         Community Work Services

·         Frank Olean Center, Inc.

·         Gateways to Change, Inc.

·         James L. Maher Center

·         Looking Upwards, Inc.

·         Perspectives Corporation

·         J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center

·         West Bay Residential Services, Inc.

·         WORK Inc.

·         Work Opportunities Unlimited Contracts, Inc.

·         Seven Hills Rhode Island 

A total of 17 agencies have finalized contracts with the state that will reward them with one-time stipends for staff training in supported employment, the placement of clients, and job retention for six months, according to O’Connell.  

A federal court order required the state to have performance-based contracts in place by Aug. 1, 2016 but negotiations between the provider agencies and the state on the performance-based supported employment contracts dragged on  through December. 

The contracts are intended to help the state comply with a 2014 federal consent decree requiring it to desegregate daytime services that emphasized sheltered workshops and isolated day programs. 

The original job fair flier put out by BHDDH in early December said more than 20 providers would attend Friday’s event, but that projection now appears to have been overly optimistic. O’Connell said the state hopes additional providers will commit to the fair before Friday morning. 

As recently as three weeks ago, members of the community-based Employment Force Task Force created by consent decree expressed concerns that the one-time bonuses in the incentive program were not enough to sustain expansion of job development and supported employment services. 

O’Connell, however, later said that agencies submitting applications for the program were able to “outline their ability to serve both their current clients and new populations.” 

She said Jan. 4 that the state hopes to finalize contracts with all the agencies soon. The state will monitor the agencies’ work in job-hunting and job retention as part of an effort to evaluate the impact of the program in the community, she said. 

Individuals who already are served by a private agency, as well as those who direct their own services, with family support, are welcome to attend.  Questions regarding the event may be directed to Tracey Cunningham, Associate Director of Employment in the Division of Disabilities, at 401 462-3857 or by email at tracey.cunningham@bhddh.ri.gov.