I write you today to introduce myself. I was recently named President and CEO of Riverfront, a remarkable organization that creates opportunity for so many adults with special needs. One of my priorities is reaching out to community leaders for an ongoing conversation about creating more of those opportunities.
The successes Riverfront has enjoyed this year are propelling us to redouble our efforts in a number of key areas, one of which is exploring innovative partnerships with local companies. We are always eager to hear about emerging needs that could be fulfilled by a little ingenuity, some training, and a lot of willing hands.
How a Nonprofit Organization Moved From Disaster to Recovery in a Matter of Days, with a Little Help from their Friends.
On Friday, in the early hours before dawn, Reach, Inc., an organization that is a member of RFW in Action lost its building in a fire.
By that evening, in addition to offers of assistance from the local community, other members of the association began pledging help, with one (Chippewa River Industries) offering a program location for some of the individuals with disabilities; another (Eisenhower Center) offering tables, chairs, and cash; and a third (Opportunity Center) offering 15 computers, a server, and IT support for their installation.
Yesterday, U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released a report on the ‘ADA Generation’—the young men and women who have come of age since the Americans With Disabilities Act was enacted—that offers bold steps to improve the employment of these young Americans as they seek competitive employment. Chairman Harkin was the Senate author of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 23 years ago, helped grant the promise of equality to Americans with disabilities. But today, more work remains to be done to knock down one of the last remaining barriers—the gap in workforce participation that exists for millions of young adults,” Harkin said. “A ripe opportunity exists for Congress, the federal government, and the business community to work hand-in-hand to make competitive, integrated employment the first choice for individuals with disabilities. The goals of equality of opportunity, full participation in American society, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency are the birthright of this young generation, and we must work together to ensure this promise is met.”
Chairman Harkin’s report identifies four key areas of opportunity to improve support for members of the ADA generation as they seek competitive employment. These areas are:
- Increasing support for high school students as they plan for their transition into the workforce
- Improving the transition of the ADA generation as they enter postsecondary education and the labor market
- Changing the assumptions in disability benefit programs that discourage young people with disabilities from working
- Leveraging employer demand, correcting misconceptions about employing people with disabilities, building strong pipelines from school to the competitive workforce, and establishing supportive workplaces.
Harkin also sets a high—but achievable—benchmark for increasing the workforce participation of young people with disabilities, to 250,000 by 2015. In 2011, Harkin worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to establish a goal of increasing the workforce participation of people with disabilities by more than 20 percent, from 4.9 million workers to six million workers by 2015. To accomplish these goals, Harkin reiterates that that the public and private sectors must work together to provide young adults of the ‘ADA Generation’ with quality work and internship experiences while they are still in school.
Harkin also calls for enactment of several key pieces of legislation—including a reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act¬ (WIA)—to create opportunities and incentives for young people with disabilities to work. The HELP Committee recently passed by a bipartisan vote of 18-3 a WIA bill that reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act, including vocational rehabilitation (VR) programs. Harkin worked on a bipartisan basis to make improvements to the Rehabilitation Act—Title V of WIA—aimed at making sure that young people with disabilities have increased preparation and opportunities for competitive, integrated employment. The bill requires state VR agencies, in conjunction with local educational agencies, to make “pre-employment transition services” available to students with disabilities.
The bill will also require individuals under the age of 24 with a significant disability to make a serious attempt at competitive, integrated employment—including getting pre-employment transition services and utilizing VR services—before he or she can consider working at a sheltered employment setting. For individuals who are currently in sheltered employment settings, the bill will increase opportunities to move into competitive, integrated employment by requiring ongoing career counseling, information, and referrals about programs that offer employment-related services and supports. Updates to the bill also focus on creating better alignment of government programs at the national level that are focused on employment and independent living for people with disabilities.
Chippewa River Industries is poised to expand at 1000 Lake Wissota Drive, including building a 20,000 square foot warehouse on its Chippewa Falls property.
But David Lemanski, the president and CEO of the non-profit agency, said CRI would be hurt financially if a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid proposal is adopted nationally.
“We would probably see close to a 40 to 50 percent reduction in revenues. This is an industry-ending federal policy,” Lemanski said on Tuesday.
Opportunities, Inc. will be hosting two grassroots advocacy presentations.
The first will be October 24th held at:
Opportunities, Inc. (Madison)
930 Stewart Street
Madison, WI 53713
from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. Light hors d'oeuveres and beverages will be provided.
The second will be October 25th held at:
Jefferson County Park
503 North Jackson Avenue
Jefferson, WI 53549
from 10:00am to 2:00pm. A thanksgiving menu buffet will be provided.
ContinuUs CEO Teri Buros to speak at Portage Long Term Care Forum
RFW in Action Executive Director Thomas Cook also to speak
Madison, Wis., – Teri Buros, the chief executive officer of ContinuUs, the Managed Care Organization (MCO) formerly known as Southwest Family Care Alliance, will speak at a Long Term Care Forum on September 24 in Portage. She will be joined by the organization's regional program manager, Lisa Peterson, in making a presentation about the MCO's philosophy and specialized expertise.
ContinuUs, which is a Latin term that means "connected together," according to Ms. Buros, recently was awarded a contract to expand its services into south central Wisconsin, in competition with the first MCO to serve the area, Care Wisconsin. The A-Team of South Central Wisconsin invited Ms. Buros to speak at the Forum, which will be held at Northwoods, Inc., located on U.S. Highway 51 South just 2 miles south of the city limits of Portage, from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
ContinuUs is under contract with the Department of Health Services to deliver long term care services through Wisconsin's Family Care program. Family Care helps adults who qualify for government-funded assistance because of aging or a disability to live as independently as possible in their own homes and to work in their local communities.
Following the presentation by Ms. Buros and Ms. Peterson, Thomas Cook, executive director of RFW in Action, will provide an update on the ACCSES National Grassroots Action Campaign to Preserve a Full Array of Service Options. ACCSES members and the families of the people they serve are engaged in a campaign to write letters to Members of Congress asking them to contact the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a request to modify a proposed regulation that would restrict or eliminate service options, including group homes, center-based day programs, and center-based work programs. A more extensive background document on the HHS proposed rule can be found here. Mr. Cook will be providing materials to help concerned citizens join this campaign.
Wisconsin's Community Rehabilitation Programs provide employment opportunities to thousands of people with disabilities and economic disadvantages. Rehabilitation for Wisconsin in Action represents CRPs and other organizations that provide employment and community living services.
Companies and organizations that employ people with disabilities to help fulfill client logistics needs have a broad mission to help their people stay employed. But they know they can't do that unless they've got a good business model.
"Were very good at what we do: says Eric Gerarden, general manager of ProSolutions, which is connected to the non-profit NEW Curative Rehabilitation in Green Bay. ProSolutions might convince a manufacturing company to try them out simply because of their mission, but "unless you're actually able to meet the business need, you're not going to be able to build those business relationships and keep that business longterm."
More than 9 percent of Wisconsin residents of working age have a disability, and a third of those have a cognitive disability, according to the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. In August, the National Governors Association at its 105th Summer Meeting in Milwaukee encouraged states to work with businesses to improve employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and Wisconsin is already on the way.
On the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, RFW in Action received this memo from ACCSES regarding the legal basis for the state of Wisconsin continuing to provide center-based prevocational services as part of the full array of employment services. Although the Systems Transformation agreement reached between the state of New York and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposes to remove the option to participate in these employment programs at some future date, there is a clear basis for them in federal statutes, regulations, and policy guidance.