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Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board Customized Employment Grant:
Partnership and Collaborative Efforts
Grant number, name, and location: Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, Fairfax, VA #E-9-4-1-0074
Grant recipient: Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board
Project lead: ServiceSource
Subcontractors and partners: The Department of Rehabilitative Services; the Department of Family Services (the One-Stop Career Center operator in the relevant areas); multiple community providers, such as ServiceSource, the Laurie Mitchell Employment Center, AccessVA (online housing registry for individuals with disabilities in Virginia); and the Department of Mental Health.
- The broad applicability of customized employment strategies to a larger audience is a key feature of partnership efforts.
- Parity between Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and customized employment (CE) goals will allow for dissemination of CE practices with VR support.
- A wide range of funding streams allows for a larger spectrum of potential long-term services.
- As One-Stop Career Centers are largely self-directed service centers, the project is seeking to empower consumer groups to make the best use of them.
While this grant features many partnerships, the primary collaboration has been between ServiceSource and the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board (NVWIB), which directs the One-Stop Career Center system in this workforce development area. ServiceSource is a large Community Rehabilitation Provider (CRP) with network affiliations along the East Coast and a long history of activity in the three counties under the NVWIB. Though the grant is one mechanism for the partnership between the workforce system in this area and ServiceSource, the partnership is also larger than the grant, and as such is expected to outlast the grant.
Another significant partnership whose ties have been strengthened over the course of the grant is the one with VR (Department of Rehabilitative Services, or DRS) and the school systems. The CE grant has sought to support the efforts of school-transition teams and create a meaningful place for One-Stop services in the mix. These efforts, in which the grant was largely playing a coordinating role, are also expected to persist after the grant expires.
The collaboration among DRS, ServiceSource, and the One-Stop has also been strengthened by the recent move to a fee-for-service structure for staff who were previously supported by the grant. With the unique potential of the partnerships and methods used in the grant now demonstrated, a competitive CRP-type model has been created on the foundation of their three-part collaboration. The strong bonds between ServiceSource (whose history as a CRP accustoms it to this type of work with VR) and the One-Stop have provided an opportunity to work collaboratively that would not otherwise exist.
As a further means of sustaining this partnership, the project has applied to DRS for funding to provide Disability Navigator services in the Fairfax One-Stops, which would extend funding for many of the grant staff and allow the majority of the grant's partnerships and priorities to continue under the aegis of the Navigator project.
As the grant is coming to a close, grant staff has begun the process of building a long-term partnership with the Department of Mental Health (MH), including familiarizing MH with the potential of customized employment. In recognition of the overlap between their service populations, the One-Stop and MH are both working proactively in this direction.
Mental Health and Vocational Rehabilitation
The DRS fee-for-service and the mental health service provision are largely dependent on the relationship between DRS and the One-Stop, the two key partners in these transition efforts. To strengthen the practical element of this partnership and prepare for the expiration of the grant, project staff have carefully detailed their interaction with DRS and established key protocols for referrals and service provision. In collaboration with DRS, these protocols are being used as the foundation for One-Stop staff training on these same issues. Also factored in to the complexity of this relationship is the DRS Order of Selection, which restricts the number of clients DRS can serve due to funding limitations. Order of Selection is perceived by some One-Stop staff as poor service and lack of responsiveness toward certain customers by VR.
Benefit Planning Assistance and Outreach
The Laurie Mitchell Employment Center, a community mental health agency and major grant partner, received a grant through the Department of Rehabilitative Services and the Department of Medical Assistance Services to provide benefits planning to customers with mental illness through the Falls Church and South County One-Stops.
Another grant partner, Access VA was able to begin providing benefits-planning services through the grant in Fairfax County (click here for more information). Though this service was initially funded by the grant, Access VA has managed to secure other grants and reprioritize its funding in such a way that it will be able to continue providing services after the termination of this grant.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
On the basis of the accomplishments of this grant, the Department of Family Services (DFS) in Fairfax County received a grant to provide additional employment support to TANF recipients with disabilities. DFS is also a key operator of the One-Stop in this area and a key partner to the Customized Employment grant. This continuation of services represents a movement to apply customized employment to a wider audience. As was true in the project, all major grant partners will be included in the effort.
Ticket to Work and Work Incentive Improvement Act
The Customized Employment project is also attempting to employ Ticket to Work funds from the Social Security Administration (SSA) by using ServiceSource and the One-Stop as Employment Networks, an effort expected to bear more fruit with the coming of the new Ticket regulations from SSA.
Service Coordination Teams
Through the use of Service Coordination Teams, at first supported primarily by the grant, many diverse partners, including the local ARC and other local CRPs, were brought into the grant's activities and into One-Stops as a whole by their participation in a particular client's services. While not systematized partnerships, these collaborations represented a wide range of involvement in and exposure to the One-Stop system by organizations and systems that might not otherwise have had any contact with it.