State Employment Leadership Network
The Department of Mental Health Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) is a member a new national initiative, the State Employment Leadership Network, made up of 16 participating states. The SELN is a project jointly sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services (NASDDDS) and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston (ICI). The SELN was started to reinvigorate employment outcomes for people with developmental disabilities.
Nationally, numbers of individuals employed in integrated settings has stagnated in the last 10-15 years. There are wide variations among states in integrated employment rates of people served by state DD systems (less than 10% in five states to over 45% in five other states.) Missouri reported 9% in 2007 down from 12% in 2001. NASDDDS, ICI and the participating states believe significant potential exists to expand employment in integrated settings and that the coordinated efforts of the SELN will help to accomplish this expansion. SELN and participating states identified the following reason for joining the Network:
- Rekindle excitement and innovation around integrated community employment
- Improve employment outcomes
- Improve data systems
- Improve QA systems
- Improve payment systems and create incentives to promote employment
- Provide better access to benefits counseling
- Improve relationships with stakeholders—families, providers, business community, school systems, VR agencies
- Manage more effectively the challenge of launching employment initiatives in midst of other systems change
Benefits of participating in the Network include training and technical assistance; sharing of best practice information through the members only SELN website and teleconferences; access to improved data reporting systems to track employment outcomes, research and issue papers on relevant topics; and interstate collaboration and joint problem solving. To date, DDD has participated in the SELN self assessment process with the guidance of SELN staff who visited Missouri in December 2008. SELN staff conducted similar site visits to all participating states throughout the fall of 2006 through 2008. SELN staff prepared reports documenting the states’ site visits, including summaries of strengths and possible areas to include in each state’s strategic workplan for employment.The SELN staff and state representatives have met and facilitate the network states in working to address cross-cutting state issues and priorities through teleconference and web conferences. DDD staff also participate in monthly SELN Steering Committee calls.
The SELN also works to bring together states that are recipients of Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Medicaid Infrastructure Grants (MIG). Over the past decade CMS has issued grants to states to create new ways for people with disabilities to be included in their local communities. Target areas have included transition out of institutions, support systems, housing, social inclusion, and work. The Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG) is focused on removing barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Missouri unfortunately does not have a MIG however states like Connecticut created a buy-in program under Medicaid so that people no longer had to choose between working and having the health insurance and support services they need. Connect-Ability is Connecticut's second Medicaid Infrastructure Grant.