FREELAND, Md. – Oct. 10, 2017 – October is National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, and Penn-Mar Human Services is pleased to announce that after an extensive, year-long application process it has become an approved Pennsylvania “Employment First” provider in partnership with the PA Department of Labor and Industry’s Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR).
In 2016, in accordance with regulations set by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Executive Order 2016-03 “Establishing ‘Employment First’ Policy and Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment for Pennsylvanians with a Disability,” Penn-Mar initiated the process of expanding its already established Community Employment program, for individuals it supports with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), and becoming an approved vendor partner with OVR in York County – to assist the agency in providing “vocational rehabilitation services to help persons with disabilities prepare for, obtain, or maintain employment.”
In Maryland, Penn-Mar is already an approved vendor for the state’s Department of Education’s Division of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), whose mission is to provide leadership and support in promoting the employment, economic self-sufficiency and independence of individuals with disabilities.
Beginning in 2010, Penn-Mar, a recognized leader in providing quality supports and services to hundreds of adults with IDD in Pennsylvania and Maryland, began the process of transitioning its employment services from the popular, but antiquated sheltered workshop model to an inclusive community-based employment program. In 2012, the nonprofit closed its sheltered workshop in Glen Rock, Pa., and started successfully partnering with businesses, organizations and area schools to provide meaningful job opportunities for the men and women it supports.
According to Vanessa Whitman, Penn-Mar’s PA Community Day Service administrator, the nonprofit’s expertise in competitive integrated employment for people with IDD is a boon to OVR, which is tasked with providing a wide range of vocational services to eligible applicants with any disability, but which, given Pennsylvania’s shift towards more community employment for people with IDD, did not have all the necessary resources to handle the influx of new employment cases.
“As a state provider, we now receive outside referrals through OVR for job coaching and job exploration and discovery,” said Whitman. “Prior to our vendor status we only supported the individuals we serve through our programs.”
Pennsylvania’s “Employment First” mandate now requires that all individuals with disabilities who want community employment go through OVR, which also provides the funding for employment services. “All the individuals Penn-Mar placed in competitive community jobs prior to the new regulations have been grandfathered in,” said Whitman.
The entire year-long application process began with first, applying for provider status for job coaching services. Then OVR established a state funded Exploration and Discovery pilot in York County for which Penn-Mar also needed to apply. This entailed all of Penn-Mar’s employment services staff, already trained in exploration and discovery, to be certified in order to meet OVR’s training and certification requirements to participate in this pilot. Exploration and discovery is an assessment of an individual’s skills, abilities, interests, motivations and ideal work conditions.
Thanks to the help of a $250,000 challenge grant from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, to expand its Community Employment program, Penn-Mar was able to continue providing vital employment services, while it underwent the OVR provider application process.
For more information about Penn-Mar’s Community Employment program, contact Vanessa Whitman at 717-235-8068 x 147, or visit www.penn-mar.org.
About Penn-Mar Human Services
Penn-Mar Human Services, founded in 1981, serves more than 400 adults with intellectual disabilities through its residential, respite, educational, vocational and supported employment programs in northern Baltimore, Carroll and Harford Counties in Maryland, and in southern York County in Pennsylvania. www.penn-mar.org
Relevant Disability Employment Data for Pennsylvania
- About 1.6 million working-age people with a disability live in Pennsylvania
- 19 percent of U.S. population has a disability
- 66 percent of U.S. population is working age (typically 16-64)
- In Pennsylvania, there are more than 105,000 students with a disability ages 14 – 21 (transition age)
- More than 50,000 adult Pennsylvanians with an intellectual disability and/or autism are served by a publicly funded home- and community-based service program
- More than 20,000 new applicants were referred to OVR for employment assistance in 2016
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 20 percent of people with a disability participate in the labor force, compared with a 63 percent rate for all people
- The US Office of Disability Employment Policy estimates that 70 percent of working-aged individuals with disabilities nationwide are unemployed, and one-third of those employed earn an income below the federally mandated minimum wage. Without job opportunities and fair wages, individuals with disabilities are nearly three times as likely to live in poverty than people without disabilities.
- The poverty rate for individuals with disabilities in Pennsylvania is at 27.8 to 30.2. The national average is 28.7 percent. In the non-disabled community, the poverty rate is 10.9 to 12.8 percent in Pennsylvania.