An initiative combining the efforts of five State agencies and numerous community partners aims to help more than 2,000 Kansans with disabilities find employment and increase their self-reliance.
End-Dependence Kansas, a collaboration of the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF), the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), the Kansas Department of Corrections and the Kansas Department of Commerce, will work to promote sustainable systems change to improve the quality and quantity of employment outcomes for Kansans with disabilities. DCF’s Rehabilitation Services is serving as the lead agency of the initiative. The initiative was first announced in October 2014. Contracts have now been awarded, and training is underway.
To raise awareness of disability employment issues, DCF staff and several members of the State Rehabilitation Council joined Governor Sam Brownback as he signed a proclamation on Sept. 30, in Topeka, to designate October as Disability Employment Awareness Month.
Of the 178,000 working-age Kansans with disabilities, approximately 30 percent are considered engaged in the labor market, and 10 percent of those are currently unemployed.
DCF’s Director of Rehabilitation Services Michael Donnelly says employment opportunities and the employment rate of people with disabilities has improved over the years, but additional progress is needed. He said the End-Dependence Kansas initiative will focus attention and resources on obstacles to employment.
“A consistent theme in the state is the need to substantially increase the number of Kansans with disabilities engaged in meaningful employment with real wages and full integration,” Donnelly said. “I’m excited to see the tremendous changes that will come about from this collaboration.”
End-Dependence Kansas will serve all disabilities, with a target 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
• Persons with disabilities exiting Kansas correctional facilities
• Persons with limited or no work experience
• Persons being served or pursuing services through Home and Community Based Services Medicaid waivers
Donnelly said that 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 more segregated services.
KDADS Secretary Tim Keck encourages employers to consider this pool of candidates.
“Hiring individuals with disabilities is a smart thing to do. Your organization gets qualified employees who are motivated, reliable and committed, and who are eager to show you what they can do,” Secretary Keck said. “Give them an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and you will be richly rewarded.”
DCF’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services program has helped nearly 8,500 persons with disabilities become employed, since January 2011.