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Jobs for All... An Olmstead Initiative:
Grant number, name, and location: Jobs for All... An Olmstead Initiative Athens GA, #E-9-4-2-0114
Grant recipient: Institute on Human Development and Disability/University of Georgia
Project lead: Institute on Human Development and Disability/University of Georgia
Subcontractors: Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, Alabama WIB, Janice Capilouto Center for the Deaf, Central Alabama Easter Seals, East Alabama Easter Seals, Department of Rehabilitation Services, Department of Medicaid, Governor's Office on Disabilities, Small Business Development Centers, STAR Program.
The Georgia Workforce Action project was housed at the University of Georgia's Institute for Human Development and Disability. The grant was complemented by a broad host of partnerships at a systemic and practical level and by the Cobb County Community Services Board, an organization in the greater Atlanta area that had received an ODEP Customized Employment grant. As with other grants in close proximity, these two worked with and benefited from one another.
- Peer mentors acted as an important gateway to the One-Stop system for individuals who previously have little experience with it.
- Sustainability could be a process of building on the foundation a grant established, rather then simply perpetuating grant activities.
- Medicaid buy-in designs had to account both for the needs of customers and the political realities of cost/legislative passage.
The Employment First Institute
The Georgia Workforce Action grant took a unique approach to sustainability. Rather than simply attempting to maintain the efforts of the grant through other means, they attempted to build on the foundation offered by the grant's activities to achieve more than they could through the auspices of a specific project. Collaborators brought together by the Workforce Action grant worked collaboratively to form the Employment First Institute - an entity that would perpetuate and enhance many of the grant's original goals (click here for more information). Stakeholders included:
- State Independent Living Center
- Vocational Rehabilitation
- Shepherd Center - a community provider of direct services, including Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach to over half the state
- Governor's Council on Disabilities
- Cobb/Douglas Community Services Board - the Developmental Disabilities funding conduit and recipient of the state's Customized Employment grant
- Institute for Human Development and Disability - the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the University of Georgia
- Advocacy Center - the state's Protection and Advocacy Center
- One-Stop representative
The formal goals of the institute were as follows:
- Create, sustain, and disseminate innovation and innovative practices
- Work with systems and policies to improve outcomes
- Provide technical assistance to, and potentially assist in the creation of, community providers
- Transform attitudes and perceptions
- Provide leadership in the connectivity of innovative work
At the time of this writing, stakeholders had already made informal commitments of time, money, and other resources to support this institute. Given the breadth of the organization, it had the potential not only to perpetuate the innovation of the grant but to build upon it.
The Employment First Initiative Statement
The Employment First Institute Initiative was based on a document developed collaboratively through the efforts of the grant—essentially a statement of intent endorsing customized practices and employment for people with disabilities. The process of developing this document engaged many state agencies in the concepts of Customized Employment, and proved to be the foundation of later efforts to establish the institute.
Technical Assistance to Providers and Agencies
This aspect of the grant clearly built a strong foundation for sustainability. In addition to offering effective direct services through collaboration, the Jobs for All grant provided considerable technical assistance and training for community providers throughout the state of Georgia. Given the broad rural areas of the state, this proved to be a challenge. Customized practices required intensive hands-on training and oversight that were challenging to imbue in another system. They also required a system of partnerships to surround and support the services. As such, even working in conjunction with the Customized Employment grant, there was a limit to the effectiveness of these efforts. Still, the grant accomplished the goal of limited replication, and established strong partnerships at the state level to support their outreach efforts. Due to the effort this goal continued to require, the Employment Institute made it a central part of future efforts.
In the early part of the grant, presentations were made to Workforce Investment Boards to ensure buy-in in the highest levels of the workforce system. Although this intensely local and time-consuming method of dissemination was challenging to support in a large rural state, it was nonetheless the best way to secure meaningful buy-in from local partners.
In each of the project's three replication sites (Clayton County, Columbus, and Savannah), a peer mentor was identified and made active. This mentor worked directly with customers to assist them in the employment search and bolster their capacity for self-determination. The peer mentor carried many of the same responsibilities as a navigator or job coach, but with the capacity to speak more directly to an individual's experience.
At the time of this writing, one of these peer mentors had obtained employment with the One-Stop system in that area.
The National Center on Workforce and Disability provided assistance to Jobs for All's major partners, the Independent Living Center, and Shepherd, which proved Benefits Planning, Assistance, and Outreach services as well as other community services, in their attempt to craft and secure the passage of a Georgia state Medicaid buy-in (click here for more information). This effort would, of necessity, carry in to the next year of the grant's activities. However, to date, the following progress had been made by state representatives:
- The state Medicaid infrastructure was engaged in the process and working closely with state leaders to craft the buy-in language.
- Many major choices had been made about the language, including income limits, co-pays, and uptake rates.
- The state's previous buy-in attempt, though appealing in the services it could offer, had been impossible to sell to the legislature because the subcontractor who worked with the state had recommended a prohibitively expensive plan. This effort created negative feeling that was, in this round addressed and overcome. The current effort focused on securing a commitment from many partners, and had begun to craft a buy-in that was both highly effective and met the state's political and fiscal limitations.