Recently, Minnesota revised its model of employment services for individuals with disabilities, distinguishing three types of employment services for people using home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers:
- Employment Exploration allows people to take part in experiences that introduce them to different employment options.
- Employment Development is geared toward the job-seeking process, with people finding competitive, integrated employment.
- Employment Support helps individuals maintain their employment status and build upon their successes.
Reach is adjusting along with these changes and amplifying our Employment Services Program. Larissa Beck, our Community Living Program Manager, explains that our five employment specialists are embarking on a more competitive career path with two of them having already completed new certifications.
Larissa says that our employment specialists focus on finding employment that is the “best fit” for each individual, and not just placing them in whatever jobs are available. Reach chooses not to maintain contracts with companies for group employment experiences. Instead, our specialists help people develop a person’s independence and unique skills. Higher pay is often an added bonus in these scenarios as well.
According to Larissa, we are fortunate that Minnesota is considered an “Employment First” state. As found on Minnesota’s Department of Human Services website, “Employment First means raising the expectation that all working age Minnesotans with disabilities can work, want to work, and can achieve competitive integrated employment; and each person will be offered the opportunity to work and earn a competitive wage before being offered other supports and services.”
Larissa serves on the board at APSE, an organization that believes “everyone has abilities to contribute and that their work should be recognized and rewarded with fair pay, creating inclusive workplaces.” Larissa states that Reach’s goal is “meaningful employment” for every individual we support in this way. “An individual with a disability brings a lot of value to a work place,” she says.
Dan is just one example of this. Dan recently celebrated his five-year anniversary in the Courtesy Department, bagging groceries for customers, at Lunds and Byerlys, and held down a previous job in a video store for several years. Carolyn, the Reach staff member who works with Dan says, “He is a huge asset to Lunds and Byerlys. He’s devoted to his job, and his performance has improved over the years as he has perfected his skills. Dan has gotten to know the regular customers, and they enjoy seeing him there.”
We, too, enjoy seeing all of the individuals we support thrive with their career goals as we offer them the best employment services we can.
More information about Minnesota’s Employment Services can be found at https://mn.gov/dhs/partners-and-providers/news-initiatives-reports-workgroups/long-term-services-and-supports/employment-first/