VocRehab Vermont is always looking for new ways to do our job better. We work hard to reach the people facing the greatest barriers.
We're creative in finding ways to respond to their unique needs. This habit of innovation has resulted in new service models and systems change initiatives that have won national recognition. And we keep thinking up new stuff to try.
Systems Change Initiatives
New and Innovative Initiatives
Health Careers for Youth at Copley Hospital
This five-week summer internship program was created to allow youth with emotional, behavioral and learning disabilities to get a hands-on introduction to careers in the health sector. This was made possible through a partnership between VocRehab Vermont, Copley Hospital, Lamoille County Court Diversion and Restorative Justice, and the Vermont Department of Labor. In this program, youth are paid to work in a variety of hospital areas, including the Orthopedic, Dietary and Human Resources departments. This internship is funded through a Department of Labor Summer Youth Employment Programs grant and offers a life changing experience for youth and hospital staff.
Youth Employment Specialist
Youth between the ages of 14 and 24 made up 34% of our job-seeker base in 2009. One of the initiatives to better serve this population has been the development of the Youth Employment Specialist (YES). The YES program provides individualized attention and support to youth with disabilities whose path to permanent employment often entails a progression of early career exploration, pre-employment training, post-secondary education and training, work experiences and competitive job placements, and follow-up support. In Rutland, four supervisory unions have joined together with VABIR to offer YES services to students with a wide variety of disabilities. This initiative has proven the fl exibility of the YES program and the willingness of schools to join together to fund these services.
Assistive Technology Reuse Project
Assistive technology, or AT, helps people of all abilities achieve a wider range of tasks and independence at home, school and in the workplace. Since 2007, VocRehab Vermont has worked in partnership with the Vermont Family Network on the Assistive Technology Reuse Project, funded in part by the Vermont Works Medicaid Infrastructure Grant. In 2009, Vermont won a National Award at the National AT Reuse Conference in recognition for its high participation rate in New England’s public AT exchange site (www.getATstuff.com) that connects owners of AT that is no longer needed with people seeking AT devices. The AT Reuse Project developed a similar system for school districts — Vermont AT School Swap (www.Vermont.ATschoolswap.com) — which now has 29 participating Supervisory Unions/Districts and is growing, offering significant savings potential in tight school budgets.
A lack of reliable transportation can be a huge barrier for many of our consumers when it comes to fi nding and retaining employment. Overcoming this barrier is often a major expense for us as we pay for repairs, tires, insurance and bus and taxi fares. To save staff time and better utilize resources, VocRehab Vermont is using funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to contract for a Car Coach. This outside advisor provides hands-on assistance to help our consumers assess their vehicle needs and educate them on credit, loans, budgeting and car maintenance. The Car Coach can even negotiate with car dealers on behalf of the consumer to help arrange a loan with up to $1,600 of ARRA funds toward a down payment.
Working Bridges Resource Coordinator Project
The Resource Coordinator project is a critical component of a multifaceted effort VocRehab Vermont is supporting in partnership with United Way’s Working Bridges initiative. The effort seeks to bridge the culture gap between employers with middle-class expectations and workers struggling with the realities of generational poverty, disability, or immigrant life. The Resource Coordinator (RC) serves multiple employers by providing on-site assistance to employees experiencing problems that interfere with work. The RC can help low-income workers with challenges like fi nding housing, reliable transportation and childcare, and also serve as liaison with state agency staff to facilitate access to public assistance programs. This service improves job performance and employee retention while freeing supervisors to focus on job-related issues instead of employee-life-related issues.
Community Employment Coalitions
We are supporting several Community Employment Coalitions (previously known as Job Developer Coalitions) throughout Vermont. Coalitions gather with key workforce partners in local communities to coordinate outreach and streamline contacts between employers and job developers who represent multiple interests and populations. The fi ve original coalitions seeded in 2008 with Vermont Works Medicaid Infrastructure Grant funds have been joined by seven new coalitions that formed with no funding support. All of Vermont’s districts now have coalitions with broad membership representing both public and private agencies.
Benefit Offset Project
VocRehab Vermont has been a leader in promoting employment among Social Security benefi ciaries who have the most serious disabilities and face the greatest disincentives to working. We are able to help them increase their income and reduce their dependence on public benefi ts. Based on past success, Vermont was among four states nationwide to participate in the Social Security Disability Insurance Benefi t Offset Pilot, and was the fi rst to demonstrate statistically signifi cant results in this random assignment study. Vermont found statistically signifi cant increases in the rate at which test group members earned above the Substantial Gainful Activity (SGA) level (the level at which SSDI benefi ts are affected). One subgroup experienced a 20.5 percentage-point increase in the fi rst year post-enrollment, from 17 percent to an average post-enrollment rate of 38 percent.
Dropping milk prices have added incredible new pressures on dairy producers whose time and resources are already stretched thin. Such stress can take a heavy toll on individuals’ health and productivity. VocRehab Vermont’s Invest EAP employee assistance program, the Agency of Agriculture, UVM Extension and a group of private businesses have teamed up to offer producers the Farm First Program (FFP). Invest EAP will deliver FFP services to provide dairy producers and their families with counseling, support and resource information for fi nancial, legal and personal issues.
As Vermont and other states send signifi cant numbers of Active Duty, National Guard and Reserve personnel to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it becomes increasingly more important that State and Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Programs work closely together to meet the needs of new and current veterans with disabilities. Since 2009, ten VocRehab Vermont counselors from nearly every district offi ce in the state meet quarterly with the VA Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) counselors who serve Vermont veterans with disabilities at the VA Hospital in White River Junction. Through these meetings we collaborate on shared cases, learn from each other and discuss referrals. We have brought in guest speakers on Vermont veterans’ services from a newly established transitional housing program in Northfi eld and a psychologist from the Veteran’s Center in White River Junction. As a result of this networking, one of the VR&E counselors has established regular days to meet with Vermont veterans in State VocRehab offi ces in the northern part of the state with plans to include the southern part of Vermont. This is a valuable relationship between both VocRehab and VR&E programs that serves the needs of Vermont veterans with disabilities in the best and most effective ways possible.