Massachusetts Blueprint for Success Increases Employment Options


Almost two years ago, the Center for Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it was no longer going to support reimbursement for sheltered work services–settings such as workshops where all employees have developmental disabilities. Instead, CMS stated its support for integrated employment for people with disabilities.

To make the transition from segregated work to competitive employment as smooth as possible, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with various agencies around the state, developed the Blueprint for Success. Beginning in 2013, the plan “sets forth a path…to be a leader among other states by taking the initiative to close sheltered workshops and provide supported employment in integrated settings.”

Daniel Burke is the President and CEO of Lifeworks, Inc. of Norwood, Massachusetts, and one of the core team members who helped to draft the Blueprint.

“The intent of the Blueprint for Success is to increase the opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to have competitive integrated employment opportunities in their local communities,” Burke explains. “Part of that is to change our model of employment training that relied on facility-based employment centers, and create a model where we get people out in the community and working in jobs, and supporting them in those jobs.”

The Blueprint requires the state to increase funding to provide staffing for agencies to achieve these goals. “Agencies like ours can now hire additional staff to develop job opportunities and coach them,” Burke says.

“Many of our staff had worked before in sheltered workshop models,” Burke continues. “With the Blueprint, we can train them on how to work in integrated employment opportunities, train them to support people with different needs, supports on person-centered planning, where we really identify with the people we serve. For instance: what their choices, interests, and skills are, and how can we help draw out of their skills and life strengths.”

“Our agency has been around 60 years and it has always been about opportunity,” Burke says. “The Blueprint for Success is another step toward community-based employment, with the resources to back it up. It takes a high-quality staff to do this. It takes dedicated staff.”

The DirectCourse/College of Employment Services curriculum is a flexible, cost-effective method for training employment professionals to help the people they support find meaningful work within their community. For more information about our online courses, please visit the College of Employment Services website.

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