Employment Supports – who pays?

We are all in agreement that people deserve to earn a fair wage – that is not in question.

Forget Me Not

Forget-me-not when making decisions about ME

 

When we are working with a population of people with significant intellectual/developmental disabilities who may often have additional mental/medical/physical/behavior disabilities we are talking about a very complex situation.  Our goals are to encourage as much independence and integration as possible and we realize that this most often includes personal supports to be in place.

For services and supports that are to be driven by person-centered planning and thinking with personal choice, most often this population has no choice or the choices are made by those who have no idea what the collateral damage of their decisions will be on those they are making the choices for.  Choices which are said to “improve the quality of life” – without asking and working with those actually involved – how are these so-called choices proven to improve the quality of life of those affected?

One very recent issue is the closure of pre-vocational training jobs and facilities.  Many people worked at these sites by CHOICE but that has been taken away because everyone deserves minimum wage.  That’s fine – but in order to do the work to earn minimum wage, many of these people need paid supports in order to find and keep a job.

The issue is not only what the employer will pay the employee but who will pay for the support needed so the employee is able to work?  We need to address this issue.

Currently the wage to a job vendor (in King County, Washington) is $73.00/hour whether an individual is receiving supports to find a job, or receiving job coaching to maintain a job.  The counties authorize a certain number of hours for each person within employment services.  There is a cap of $3,600 payment to a vendor per month (approximately 50 hours of employment for the employee who makes about minimum wage if they are actually employed.)

When the choice of pre-vocational training jobs was eliminated, most have been left with scraps.

King County PVS clients 2019

Pre-Vocational Training – clients spent an average of 58.4 hours a month on-site – time that was both work/therapy/socialization.  Clients worked an average of 43.9 hours a month of that 58.4 hour average. .  This means that all people in the pre-vocational services had an average weekly engagement of 14-15 hours.

Fast Forward to the collateral damage of the current situation due to their choice taken away –

Community Inclusion – 45 people – average of 9 hours a month (decrease of 49 hours of engagement)

Employment Services – Total 62 people –

  • 23 people are actually “employed” working an average of 8.75 hours a week (decrease of 49 hours of engagement a month)
  • Employment rate of 37% (depends on how this is figured – could be 25%,  37% or 58% – I believe the correct percentage is 37% based off of how many are in the employment service and how many actually have a job)
  • 39 people have no employment – ZERO hours of engagement

King County Previous PVS clients

 

The Take Away –

  • who is paying for the authorized funds for support?  How much and for what supports and services?  For those with NO employment are the vendors still being paid for supports?
  • We went from a high employment and engagement rate for this population to an extremely low employment and engagement rate.  What was the cost?  Not just in dollars but in meaningful life experiences.
  • Do these people feel more integrated and engaged and feel their life has more meaning than before this choice was taken away?

It behooves us to look at this and understand the collateral damage.

We believe in choice and wise use of the meager resources we have in methods that will best serve the most people.

Encourage your legislators to address the JLARC report and issues regarding person-centered planning and choice, quality of life for both the individual and their supports -we do not live and work in isolation.

 

Time to get back to work!

Now is the time to start planning for the upcoming legislative session.  As a community member, it is very, very difficult to be aware of these planning meetings in which paid advocates come up with their annual agenda.  Typically, the issues are not shared or discussed with the community and public until it’s a done deal.

This year, I contacted the King County Developmental Disabilities Administration regarding the legislative committee and planning sessions.  For some reason, the meeting dates and participants were not being shared on the website.  After my inquiry, I have received the information that I requested and an invite to the upcoming meetings.

I greatly appreciate the opportunity to participate in these planning meetings. With that being said, I am also disturbed by the gas-lighting that occurred at the meeting.

The issues that I raised at the meeting was the fact that in Washington State (an Employment First state) which means that a person age 21 or older with intellectual/developmental disabilities MUST try employment services first for 9 months before accessing community inclusion services under “Employment and Day Programs”  within DDA.

In addition, a person utilizing the employment supports (regardless if they are actually working at all or have minimal hours (5 or less a week) they are restricted from accessing community inclusion.  These two supports are mutually exclusive.

Many times these people have no community engagement or opportunities for meaningful interactions during this first 9 months or afterwards.  When these people are left without active supports, they lose skills and become more isolated and we believe that these supports should be able to be accessed concurrently (as many other states offer them.)

There were several representatives from The Arc of King County (paid advocates) at the meeting in addition to representatives from the state DDA, King County DD Admin, and representatives from other agencies which serve people with IDD.

The Arc of King County Director of Advocacy and the Arc of King County Family Engagement Coordinator both spoke up and stated that I was wrong in my statement that people receiving employment supports were not able to also access community inclusion.  I questioned when that change had been made and I was told that it was made several years ago and was in the waivers.

Being “corrected” by these paid advocates and “experts” at this public meeting was really a slap in the face.  They provided false information with their attempts to discredit what I was advocating for.

I followed up with emails to both of these people and to the King County Administrator who was running the meeting.  When questioned and asked for resources to back up their comments, both of these people wrote back to me that I was CORRECT in what I had said at the meeting.

What was the purpose of them speaking out against my comment?  What was the reason that they provided false information to those in the legislative planning meeting?

Employment Programs – DDA Fact Sheet 2019

Community Inclusion – DDA Fact Sheet 2019