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National Disability Employment Awareness Month

Seven Hills Rhode Island launched “Employment Matters: You Can Make It Work” a specialized, person-centered supported employment program for adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The announcement coincides with the release of The U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) “Increasing Access and Opportunity” theme for October’s annual observance of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM).

Seven Hills Rhode Island, a Woonsocket-based, comprehensive health and human services organization supporting more than 1,000 residents throughout the state. Their holistic approach provides a range of health care, behavioral health, community supports, assisted living, day habilitation, educational, and vocational expertise to children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.

Components of this comprehensive and uniquely targeted program include: pre-employment “Discovery,” community mapping, community and occupational accessibility, targeted training, personalized coaching identifying “Ideal Conditions of Employment” and ongoing support to ensure the best potential of sustained success. The primary target population will be those who have not previously achieved success either by attaining employment for a significant period of time or by satisfying their own personal goals related to independence community access or inclusion.

“Our discovery process begins with the person, not a skills or inventory test,” comments Mellissa Charpentier, Seven Hills’ Employment Matters program director. “We focus on understanding the whole person rather than an assessment of what the person cannot do.” An unbiased, judgment-free look at a job seeker’s daily life provides the best foundation of customized employment-meeting condition’s necessary for the individual’s success as well as the needs of the employer.

Consistent with this year’s national theme, Seven Hills plans to increase access and opportunity include working with select partners to provide services and resources, such as people, places and associations, and a personalized employment plan developed with and tailored to the participant.

“It’s not just about a job, it’s about a life,” notes Ms.Charpentier. “Our holistic approach and extraordinary one-to-one support, specifically peer-to-peer support for members and their families and caregivers/family support, are among the unique elements of this program. That, and the fact that we actually provide the adaptive equipment participants need after conducting a professional assessment.” Their specialized technology department offers assistive technology and ongoing educational resources.

Opportunities abound throughout the program and touch all facets of the participants’ lives. Integral to this program are close relationships with agencies and partners resulting in a coordinated variety of day services and employment support. Specifically, Seven Hills plans to connect participants with peer mentors, with business liaison in the appropriate fields; fostering relationships at every phase of the process reinforces and strengthens the participants efforts and commitment.

In focusing on the whole person, Seven Hills’s program prepares each individual to present their best self. That means preparing the participants for personal relationships, gainful employment, and community engagement.

Ongoing practical and personal support for this targeted community is critical. To achieve this goal, Seven Hills is providing in-person and virtual remote individual counseling, group classes, conference calls and video chats, as needed.

Partners included in the team effort include fellow developmental disabilities organization provider J. Arthur Trudeau memorial Center, Inc., with collaboration and consultation with RI developmental Disabilities Council (RIDDC), the RI Cross Disabilities Coalition, Seven Hills Assistive Technology Department, family engagement specialist Sheila Coyne, and communications specialists, Debra Morais. Funding for this project has been made available  from the state of Rhode Island: Dept. of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH).

ABOUT SEVEN HILLS

Seven Hills Rhode Island is a comprehensive health and human services organization supporting more than 1,000 residents throughout the state. Seven Hills has more than 60 years of experience providing a wide range of supports for infants, children and their families, adults, and seniors with various disabilities and life challenges. Our integrated supports are individualized, person-centered, and community-based. Our holistic approach provides a range of health care, behavioral health, community supports, assisted living, day habilitation, educational, and vocational expertise.

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