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Kessler Foundation Grants $450,000 to the University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development

Innovative Supported Employment Approaches to be Piloted in Three Midwestern States

The Kessler Foundation has awarded a two-year, $450,000 Signature Employment Grant to the University of Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD) to launch the Midwest Disability Employment Consortium: Just in Time Employment Supports – a collaborative initiative that aims to increase supported employment service capacity and efficiencies while improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities in the Midwest.

The grant is part of a $2.3 million awarded by the Kessler Foundation to organizations across the U.S. to support initiatives that create and expand job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The Midwest Disability Employment Consortium will comprise the University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDDs) in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. The Consortium will launch pilot projects in each state that focus on the use of virtual technology platforms, such as the iPad, to address state specific concerns. Each partner will provide “Just in Time” employment supports and services, including follow-along job coaching and virtual job placement, to workers with disabilities, job coaches, and employers in both rural and urban areas.

“Each of these priority states share common concerns for balancing the needs of rural communities, where access to job coaching and behavioral supports is challenging, with urban centers, where caseloads are extremely large,” explained Elaine Katz, MS,CCC-SLP, senior vice president of grants and communications at the Kessler Foundation. “The Consortium aims to address these concerns, as well as other barriers to employment for people with disabilities in the Midwest, through the innovative use of readily available virtual technology platforms. We look forward to assessing the large-scale outcomes generated by this multifaceted approach.”

The Iowa UCEDD, the CDD, intends to implement a pilot project that focuses on the use of iPad and Telehealth technologies to provide long-term employment supports and crisis intervention services in the workplace. The Nebraska UCEDD, the Munroe-Meyer Institute, plans to implement a pilot study involving working-age individuals with intellectual disabilities who are seeking or have obtained employment. Telehealth technology will be used to deliver technical assistance and provide strategies and solutions to job coaches and employers in-real-time. The South Dakota UCEDD, the Center for Disabilities, will develop and implement a pilot program focused on the use of virtual technology platforms with vocational staff serving rural, urban, and Native communities. Technical assistance will be provided for job coaches during training, fading, and follow along services to provide support and opportunities to enhance their knowledge, skills, and creating problem solving.

“The University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities in Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota have joined together around the shared goal of fostering collaboration in support of improved employment outcomes for people with disabilities in the Midwest,” remarked Julie J. Christensen, LMSW, PhD, director of Iowa’s UCEDD. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to partner with the Kessler Foundation on this project, which represents a unique opportunity to take a multi-lens and multi-state approach to exploring innovative solutions for expanding access to long-term services and supports for people with disabilities to succeed in the workplace. This project aims to pilot new approaches to support direct care staff, workers and businesses through the use of available and accessible technologies.”

The Consortium plans to place 94 people with disabilities into competitive, long-term employment by the end of the two-year grant period. The Consortium expects to serve as a disability employment think tank, as well as a demonstration, evaluation, and policy adviser hub, housing best practice data uniquely suited to meet the needs of people with disabilities in the Midwestern states.

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