In November 2013, the Massachusetts “Blueprint for Success” was released. The plan changed day and employment services for our constituents served by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS). The state moved away from sheltered work and segregated settings to more individualized employment and community-based day support for those who weren’t going to be able to work full-time independently or with intermittent assistance.
There were a number of success stories, including this one in 2015: I see a big change in my son. When asked a question, his answer is now usually … “I can do it” instead of a shrug of the shoulders or no reply at all. The plan had three major elements for change to work: planning by agencies and across agencies in reorganizing work and day services; staff training at all levels; and funding for the more individualized services.
The partnership across the field was extraordinary and agencies worked very hard on changes. DDS funded consulting and training, much of it from its existing budget. Part of the outcome is reflected in this website for agencies.
The third leg of change is adequate funding: $26.7 Million and little of that has been funded despite initial investments. One staff person to ten or twelve individuals doesn’t work in assisting people to obtain part-time jobs or community-based day experiences. During this past year, the DDS budget looked very strong and thankfully the governor and legislature stayed firm on Turning 22 funding for graduating adults.
But for many persons with disabilities, the Blueprint is unfulfilled as they sit in congregate settings with limited community exposure. In the summer, some employment funds were reduced due to a $600 Million state revenue shortfall. But now there is an additional 2% cut hanging over our field. We need to help policymakers and officials restore what is needed for adults to be integrated and receive assistance for productive work. The U.S. Department of Labor designated October Disability Employment Month – what better time is there to give adults hope an opportunity? Please join with us as we share ways you can participate this coming month!
Leo V. Sarkissian