TOPEKA – Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer is pleased to announce the launch of End-Dependence Kansas, a new initiative to increase employment of Kansas with disabilities. Details of the effort were unveiled during news conferences today, in Topeka and Wichita.
“This project builds on Governor Brownback’s commitment to improving opportunities for employment and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities,” Lt. Governor Colyer said. “I’m very proud that five of our cabinet agencies have come together to establish this project. End-Dependence Kansas demonstrates a collaborative approach to a single mission of helping our citizens with disabilities get and keep jobs in the community.”
End-Dependence Kansas is a five-year, $25 million investment so that community partners are better able to provide evidence-based employment services. This effort is expected to help an estimated 2,000 Kansans throughout the state achieve competitive, integrated employment. The initiative also promotes sustainable improvements to the quality and quantity of employment outcomes in the long term. End-Dependence Kansas will emphasize and support community partners to prioritize competitive, integrated jobs in the community rather than sheltered employment, non-work day activities or other segregated services.
The five agencies involved in this project, include the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC) and the Kansas Department of Commerce.
“Work is an essential component of self-sufficiency, a greater self-esteem, a healthy lifestyle and being fully included in society,” DCF Secretary Phyllis Gilmore said. “Kansas employers benefit too, by having access to a qualified talent pool to meet their workforce needs.”
During the news conference today, DCF Rehabilitation Services (RS) Director Michael Donnelly outlined details of End-Dependence project:
- Community partners will have the opportunity to apply for funding to implement or expand evidence-based employment services. RS expects to issue contracts in 2015, after a competitive Request for Proposal process.
- A contract will be awarded for training and technical assistance to support community agencies as they implement evidence-based practices.
- End-Dependence Kansas will serve all people with all disabilities, with a targeted effort for youth with disabilities transitioning from high school to employment, individuals interested in employment as an alternative to Social Security or other benefit programs, and persons being served or pursuing services through Home and Community-based Services Medicaid waivers.
- Each of the five State agencies will participate in the project oversight panel to ensure cooperation, sustainability and program accountability. A stakeholder group will also be formed to provide advice and input on implementation of the project.
In fiscal year 2014, RS helped 1,555 Kansans with disabilities find employment, with an average hourly wage of $9.91. Those assisted include Nicole Denney, who works as an elementary school counselor in the Leavenworth school district. She manages anti-bullying efforts and teaches children about positive character traits.
“I do things sitting down, but I’m as capable as anyone else,” Denney said. “In my school, my wheelchair is normal.”
End-Dependence Kansas will expand existing employment programs. Funding for the project comes from the Vocational Rehabilitation annual formula grant funds, through Title I of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, and current State general funds. The match rate is 78.7 percent, federal and 21.3 percent, State.
The announcement of End-Dependence Kansas is being made in conjunction with the State’s observation of Disability Employment Awareness Month. Governor Brownback issued a proclamation, recognizing the skills, reliability and productivity that Kansans with disabilities bring to the workforce.