SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS), Vermont’s second-largest community mental-health agency, provides an award-winning employment program for individuals with disabilities.
The Zero Project, which locates models worldwide that improve the lives of those with disabilities, recognized the State of Vermont as the number one DS Supported Employment Program in the world. The core philosophy of supported employment in Developmental Services is the belief that people with cognitive disabilities can contribute to the workforce when provided individually tailored supports and thoughtful job matches. This notion sets Vermont far apart from other states and countries where individuals often go into sheltered workshops or congregate work groups that isolate them from the regular workforce and real jobs in the business community.
At HCRS, person-centered thinking and supports are the basis of all its services. HCRS consistently finds quality job placements and is committed to the varied vocational needs of the people they support. With a quality job match, a person gains self-esteem and validation by working alongside members of their community; this creates lifelong friendships, which foster true community integration and natural supports. Earning money empowers individuals’ choices on where and how to live their life as well as contributing to the State’s overall tax base. All these benefits to the individuals being supported as well as their communities make supported employment a great investment for everyone. Without the DS Supported Employment programs like those at HCRS, individuals with Development Disabilities would be unemployed and not have the quality of life they desire and deserve; by working they are a valued part of each community in which they live.
In late February, Vermont’s Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living traveled to the United Nations in Austria to receive the 2017 Zero Project award. This recognition is based on Vermont’s rapid progress in integrating people with disabilities into the workforce. Vermont’s employment program for individuals with disabilities is well known. Many other states and countries come to Vermont to learn about the principles that guided the establishment of this program including employment, decent work, and meaningful vocational education and training of persons with disabilities.
Today, about 1260 Vermonters with developmental disabilities are working. HCRS’ employment rate for individuals who receive developmental disability services is 58 percent, as compared to the national average of 35 percent.