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New Resources for States in Assessing Implementation Progress on Employment First Systems Transformation and Most Integrated Employment Settings

June 29, 2017

If you haven’t recently visited the Employment First website, you may have missed three important new resources; this user-friendly website offers comprehensive information on state policies, publically available data on the employment of people with disabilities, technical assistance initiatives, systems change initiatives, enforcement actions, and more. The three newest resources are (1) an Employment First (E1st) Transformation Guide, (2) a Provider Transformation Manual, and (3) a Most Integrated Employment Setting Self-Assessment. All three resources are timely as we mark the anniversaries in June and July of the Olmstead decision and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which promote opportunities for integrated employment and community participation for people with disabilities.

The “E1st State Transformation Guide” is intended to help state government leaders, policy-makers, disability advocates, and other stakeholders to learn about what is working in areas that support Employment First. The Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) identified 10 Critical Areas to Increase Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE) based on the recommendations put forth in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Advisory Committee on Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Individuals with Disabilities (ACICIEID) Final Report. The 10 areas are Employment First Policy, Rate/Reimbursement, Capacity Building, Interagency Coordination, Provider Transformation, 14(c) Phase Out, Employer Engagement, Mental Health, Seamless Transition, and Data Collection Systems. The E1st State Transformation Guide is intended to help states make systems change plans and decisions by applying the ACICIED recommendations at the state and local level. The Guide also gives examples of how these changes have already been successfully achieved in other parts of the country.

The Provider Transformation Manual was created to capture learning from ODEP’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (EFSLMP) and to support ongoing progress in participating states. Based on ODEP’s Criteria for Performance Excellence in Employment First Systems Change, the manual is intended to help guide and support organizational transformation using an Employment First approach. This new manual features eight modules written by Employment First Subject Matter Experts on the following topics: (1) Leadership and Setting the Tone for Change, (2) Strategic Planning, (3) Making It Happen (Operations Focus), (4) Funding, (5) Individualized Planning and Services (Customer Focus), (6) Reorganizing Staff for Transformative Change, (7) How Are We Doing? (Measuring Results), and (8) Beyond Transformation.

The Most Integrated Employment Setting (MIES) State Self-Assessment Tool is intended to help agencies assess existing policies, service delivery practices, and funding trends to determine their strengths and gaps in meeting the goal of serving people in the most integrated employment settings. States are encouraged to use this self-assessment tool for the dual purpose of (a) facilitating a cross-systems review of existing policies, enrollment and eligibility processes, capacities of providers and direct support professionals, and funding priorities across systems; and (b) initiating a thorough planning process across systems focused on collective action and mutual accountability. A collaborative approach to state planning can inform fiscal and budgetary priorities, align policies, and enable agencies to leverage resources across systems.

MIES is a voluntary self-assessment to assist in planning and decision-making across systems. Specifically, states are encouraged to utilize the results of the State self-assessment to answer the following questions:

•    What steps should the state take to better align policy, practice, and funding?
•    How can the state build and sustain capacity of front-line staff in serving individuals with disabilities in the most integrated setting?
•    What expectations should be placed on providers in order to assure greater access to multiple community-based day and employment services offered in the most integrated setting?
•    How does the state measure progress in addressing existing gaps and challenges over time?

Information on the Employment First website has been compiled to inform state efforts to increase competitive integrated employment opportunities for youth and adults with disabilities, with information that is updated as new data and resources become available.

LEAD Center will host a national webinar to provide an overview of the MIES tool as well as new resources on the Employment First site, and how these resources can be used to promote Employment First. Join the LEAD Center mailing list to get updates and announcements of upcoming webinars.

Visit the E1st website today to access tools and other useful resources; visit the LEAD Center website for information and resources to support your Employment First systems change initiatives.