Just before the holidays, President Obama signed into law the Achieving Better Life Expectancy (ABLE) Act. This new Act allows for people with disabilities and their families to set up tax exempt savings accounts which can be used for educational endeavors, health costs, employment related expenses, and other items leading to improved quality of life. One of the things that is so wonderful about these accounts is that they are not bound by the $2,000 resource limit normally placed on beneficiaries of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Below are some resources to help you learn more about the ABLE Act. If you have additional information you would like to share please add it in the comments.
ABLE Act Resources
National Law Review:
National Disability Institute:
I recently met a person who shared their recovery narrative at a State Psychiatric Hospital. This individual had spent several years at a forensic facility and just as many years at another State Psychiatric hospital. In spite of seven years of state level psychiatric services the person appeared to transcend institutionalization through self-discovery and a sense of inner peace. This person has a vision to work as a Peer Provider (Specialist). They credit their vocational pursuit to learning to manage past victimization (trauma experiences) and own behaviors of anger and blaming others. This person expressed wanting to be a contributing member of society. Knowing the state hospital is not a home they graciously acknowledged the support from administration, direct service staff, clinicians, and peers who continue to aid his/her recovery.
I was so encouraged by this individual’s steadfast resilience I eagerly approached offering my peer support. The person was delighted to inform me about their pending discharge. We then discussed employment opportunities, consumer (peer) training, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (DVRS), Supported Employment Services (SES) and Supported Education (SEd). These state level treatment services of respect, dignity, and hope helped preserve this individual’s belief in employment as a major tool for discharge planning and community integration.
George H. Brice, Jr.
This post focuses on how oral healthcare impacts vocational pursuits the last of a three-part series on ORAL HEALTH that began with discussing, the importance of partnering, collaborating and identifying strategies, interventions, and resources to better engage people living with psychiatric disorders about their oral hygiene and Part II how oral healthcare impacts socialization. Based on attending a university colloquium presented by Associate Professor, Dr. Vaishali Singhal called, “Oral Implications of Psychiatric Disorders” I wanted to research more about the vocational implications regarding a lack of oral healthcare not limited to people living with mental illness and/or addiction concerns. While researching I was reminded about a presentation with a colleague on “Wellness and Recovery.”
During the presentation we were informed about a program participant who was receiving pre-vocational services at a partial care program. This person was very active in employment related activities on site, such as identifying work goals, developing a résumé, and practicing interviewing skills. After many months, staff learned that the person was not applying for jobs because he was ashamed and reluctant to mention his missing two front teeth were an emotional, physical, and financial barrier. This article called, “Do missing teeth affect job seekers?” was informative and resourceful. The author Lori Herbert had thoughtfully and empathetically described people’s plight to improve their teeth in a society that seems to usually value physical appearance. Furthermore, she offered potentially reduced dental cost resources to explore in one’s own state. These types of dental circumstances can cause perceived and real challenges of:
- Low self esteem
- Feeling ashamed
- Isolation and loneliness
According to a report from February 29, 2012 called, “Dental Crisis in America/The Need to Expand Access,” the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, “Oral Health in America,” was cited as stating: students missed 51 million hours of school and employed adults lose more than 164 million hours of work each year due to dental disease or dental visits. I believe you will find the report an insightful read addressing the complexities of accessing oral healthcare for all people and strategies and interventions to help lessen the problem. The U.S. Surgeon General (2000) referred to dental disease as a “silent epidemic.”
What areas of the three-part series on Oral Hygiene did you find most important? Share how you will use these strategies and interventions personally and professionally?
George H. Brice, Jr.
Governor Christie announced that New Jersey is an Employment First State. You may wonder exactly what that means. So did I and what I found out is pretty exciting. The Employment First initiative comes from the National Governors Association (NGA) under the chairmanship of Governor Jack Markell (Delaware). His publication “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities” provides a blueprint for States to improve employment for citizens with disabilities (http://www.nga.org/files/live/sites/NGA/files/pdf/CI1213BETTERBOTTOMLINE.PDF).
Here are some of the recommendations made in the report:
- Make employment of people with disabilities part of the state workforce and economic development strategies
- Measure service outcomes and return on investment (the report states that supported employment returns $1.21 for every $1 spent)
- Engage the business community in a long-term partnership
- Communicate to the business community that people with disabilities make good employees and are valuable members of the workforce
- Improve access to State government jobs
- Access federal funds to expand career services
- Increase VR and other funding to enhance quality services and outcomes
- Promote self-employment options
- Prepare youth with disabilities for careers that use their full potential
Here are some of the interesting facts from the report:
- “…in 2011, when unemployment was above 9%…one-third of US companies had positions open for more than six months that they could not fill.”
- “Walgreens … has experienced a 120 percent productivity increase at a distribution center made universally accessible and more than 50% of whose employees are disabled [sic].”
- “…more than 600,000 scientists and engineers currently employed in the United States have disabilities.”
- “Some of the top innovators in the United States have disabilities, including the chief executive officers of Ford Motor Company, Apple, Xerox, and Turner Television”
- Although the majority of people with disabilities express the desire to work, only about 20% are working and in 2008 (for example) the federal government spent $300 billion to support working-age people with disabilities.
So what is happening in NJ?
This week I had the first of what will be ongoing meetings with the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD), the Assistant Commissioner for Workforce Development and the Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services in the LWD. As I learn more about their efforts I will share that information on our blog. Here’s the first:
The Department of LWD is piloting a program called “Talent Networks” in industries that are expected to experience steady growth (e.g., Financial Services, Health Care, etc) and pay good wages and benefits. The Talent Networks are “strategic partnerships of industry employers, government agencies, educational institutions, and professional and nonprofit community organizations”. The work of these Talent Networks is to identify the hiring needs of the industry, identify and/or develop training or academic programs to prepare a skilled workforce, and to connect this workforce to employers/jobs.
If this pilot project is successful the LWD hopes to replicate it throughout the State.
More to come. In the meantime I would encourage you to read the full report – great information.
During the first week of June I had the pleasure of attending an Annual Meeting regarding supported employment (SE) in Madison, Wisconsin. During the meeting I attended a workshop mostly of peer providers. Like any other social movement the burden of systematic change is on the people themselves who are facing social, economic, and political injustice. As service recipients we are collectively and individually capable of pursuing work and careers. Competitive work to prevent premature social security and to timely exit premature social security. Policing ourselves and collaborating with others could be an empowering cultural shift.
We can overtime strengthen our voice and respect from others. This can be achieved by [us] working gainfully as often as possible. By promoting employment it chips away at people often characterized as one of our most “vulnerable citizens.” For example, I was provided at the age of 26 to fill out a social security application by a well-intentioned provider. I was living with my parents and I did not need the “cash” benefit. Below are some action step guidelines not limited to people living with mental illness and addiction concerns:
1. Strengthen family support, i.e. housing shortage
2. Build diverse healthy relationships
3. Maintain natural supports
4. Work First Mindset- rather than premature social security
5. Social security applications as a last resort
6. Social Security- create individualized benefit plans
7. Social Security- criteria on spending premature social security
George H. Brice, Jr.
George shares his story of recovery and the important role that work has played in his life. He discusses his struggles to complete college and the feelings of envy as he compared his accomplishments to those around him. As George continued his career journey, these feelings of envy gave way to those of pride and success as he continued to achieve the goals he set for himself. George recalls a time when he was receiving services and a peer came to speak about his own recovery and the valued roles he held in his life. This moving story provided George with the informative nudge needed to return to school and embark on a life of career success. He refers to this moment as the “light bulb going off.” This is a good reminder of the influence we can have on one another.
Is the current job market keeping you from looking for work? If so, here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Don’t postpone a job search. Postponing a job search does not give you an advantage in your hunt for that perfect job. In fact, it just creates longer gaps in employment. According to a 2009 focus group study I conducted along with Francine M. Bates, Human Resource professionals in NJ describe gaps in employment as negatively affecting a job candidate’s application. In other words, continue to keep abreast of your field’s job openings and apply for positions that interest you. You may not get something immediately, but you have a better chance of finding a job if you are continuing to look for one!
- Use your creativity. Be creative in your job search. For example, think of new ways to identify job leads. Ones that don’t involve just looking online or in the newspapers. Network with people in your field. Are there professional associations or other business related groups that you can link up with to meet people who might have job leads? Does your local library have any job related support groups or other opportunities to meet new people? How about job related groups held at the local One Stop Center? Find your local center by following this link: http://lwd.dol.state.nj.us/labor/wnjpin/findjob/onestop/services.html. Explore as many options as possible. This will not only increase your job related network, but may also be a fun way to meet new and interesting people!
- Remain calm, cool, and collected. Easier said than done, right? Well, as much as possible, try to maintain a sense of confidence and positivity. When the right job lead comes along, you want the employer to see you as a confident and composed individual. A person who is not easily shaken by the negative things in life, but one who looks forward to the future with optimism and confidence! How do we stay cool under pressure? Consider taking up yoga, art, or other relaxing activity. Find something that interests and de-stresses you. Look into the adult classes held at your local community college and/or vocational technical school. In addition to the emotional and physical benefits, these classes are great ways to network with people—who knows, they may know of a job opening!
These are just a few tips to enhance your job search during a period of high unemployment. Yes, these tips are common and not terribly complicated. However, we all need reminders at times and encouragement to keep moving forward. If you have any tips you have used that have been helpful in your job search, please let our blog community know. We would love to hear what has worked for you!
In my work as a service provider in the Psychiatric Rehabilitation field in a number of areas, I’ve been fortunate to see the positive impact of PsyR services on the recovery process. Services that help a person in recovery return to living in the community after sometimes spending years in a hospital is both a rewarding and inspiring experience for a service provider. However, in my experience, of all the rehabilitation services, facilitating the return to work has always appeared to have the greatest impact on the recovery process. In a matter of a few months, I’ve seen individuals literally blossom before my eyes! While providing supported employment services, one gentleman comes to mind that was particularly inspirational. I recalled meeting this job seeker for the first time and remember that he appeared a bit disheveled and unsure of himself. Nonetheless, there was a positive energy and determination to get back to work from day one. He worked tirelessly to improve his interviewing skills and update his résumé. He also starting going on job interviews although at first he was really nervous. After about four months he landed his first job in more than five years, and I will never forget the new bounce in his step and the new confidence he exuded. Within a year, he won employee of the month at his job! Returning to work really does wonders for the recovery process