Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Date: September 20, 2016
STATE OF DELAWARE
OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR
Stanton, DE - Fulfilling one of the initiatives mentioned in his 2015 State of the State address, Governor Jack Markell today announced significant progress in supporting young people with disabilities in getting a fair shot at competitive employment through the Department of Health and Social Services' Pathways to Employment program. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country to support young people with disabilities as they set goals for employment or higher education, find work and learn how to manage their first paycheck.
Through mid-September, 248 young people with disabilities ages 14-25 have enrolled in Pathways to Employment, with another 180 identified as potential candidates for the Medicaid program. Pathways helps to reduce the barriers to employment through such services as assistive technology, non-medical transportation, career exploration and assessment, benefits counseling, personal care and financial coaching. Beyond DHSS, Pathways also involves support from the Department of Labor's Division for Vocational Rehabilitation and the Department of Education.
"One of the greatest rewards for me as Governor is seeing people with disabilities get a fair shot at employment," Governor Markell said during an event today at the Casino at Delaware Park, where one of the young people has been hired. "Hiring people with disabilities isn't about charity; it's about maximizing everyone's gifts and talents. For the young Delawareans being supported through Pathways to Employment, we are breaking down more barriers and connecting them to the world of work."
Governor Markell has made advancing employment opportunities for people with disabilities a priority during his administration and during his yearlong role as Chair of the National Governors Association from 2012-2013. DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf, who has spent more than 30 years of her career in support of individuals with disabilities, served as a key adviser to the Governor during his NGA initiative. The initiative, "A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities," culminated with the release of a blueprint for his fellow governors specifically focused on the role that state governments and businesses can play in creating more employment opportunities for people with disabilities and on improving employment outcomes, including for young people in transition from school to the world of work.
"Pathways to Employment builds on the promise of the Governor's NGA initiative," Secretary Landgraf said. "We know too often what separates people with disabilities from the rest of the population is financial security. Pathways helps to reinforce the changing expectations for young people with disabilities that their future is not a life of benefits, but a life of work that harnesses their talents. With the appropriate supports, young people with disabilities will make a successful transition from school to the world of work."
Throughout his administration, Governor Markell has embraced legislation to advance employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Just days before he announced his NGA initiative to his fellow governors, Governor Markell signed the Employment First Act, with sponsor Rep. Debra Heffernan, in July 2012 at Bank of America. The act requires state agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities to consider, as their first option, employment in an integrated setting for persons with disabilities. The bill also establishes an Employment First Oversight Commission as part of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities to review goals and objectives.
In August 2016, with sponsor Sen. Nicole Poore, the Governor signed Senate Bill 221, which supports the hiring of people with disabilities by providing tax credits to Delaware employers who hire people through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. The tax credit will begin in 2017.
At today's event, Governor Markell was joined by Secretary Landgraf and Nancy Myshko, Senior Vice President of the Casino at Delaware Park. In addition to them, speakers included Jakai Walker, 21, of Wilmington, who was hired in August through Pathways to Employment to work in Delaware Park's food service program; Jakai's mother, Raymonda Walker; Mary Anne Payne, who enrolled her daughter, Christine, 17, who attends John G. Leach School in New Castle; Sergio Garduno, who is receiving financial coaching through Pathways at ServiceSource; and Jen Tozer, an employment navigator with Pathways to Employment who supported Jakai and dozens of other young people in preparing them for work.
Pathways to Employment was approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in January 2015. It is administered and operated by DHSS, including its Division of Services for Aging and Adults with Physical Disabilities, the Division of Developmental Disabilities Services, the Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance, and the Division for the Visually Impaired. To learn more about Pathways, including eligibility requirements, call 1-800-223-9074 or visit the DHSS website .
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.