For Immediate Release - March 10, 2017

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission Awarded a Federal Grant to Increase Employment Opportunities for 400 Students with Disabilities

LOWELL, MA – The Executive Office of Health and Human Services announced today that the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) was awarded a $5 million federal grant to increase employment opportunities for 400 students with disabilities in Lawrence, Roxbury and Springfield.

Launching this spring, the initiative called Transition Pathway Services, will help students with significant disabilities ages 16-22 prepare for employment post high school.

“This grant will enable hundreds of students to meet their goal of employment and to have the support of a team focused on their success,” said Health and Human Services Secretary, Marylou Sudders. “The students will gain skills, experience and confidence to pursue meaningful employment.”

MRC is partnering with the Northeast Independent Living Program (NILP), an organization providing services to people with all disabilities who wish to live independently in the community. Students chosen for the initiative will have access to two paid work experiences, vocational counseling and career discovery, access to a pre-employment transition, training through a community vendor, benefits counseling, travel training, assistive technology, industry-based job matching, peer mentoring, family support transition planning, with an end goal of customized job placement.

“The Transition Pathways Grant is an innovative approach to linking all the community partners to identify and break down barriers for youth and their families to transition to adulthood, living fulfilling lives and contributing in a diverse workforce,” said Executive Director of NILP, June Sauvageau. “We are proud of our over 30-year history of working with youth with disabilities in the Merrimack Valley. Our partnership with MRC, the Lowell Schools and others in the community has translated into success for youth in achieving independence. We are excited to be a major partner in this grant and hope that the lessons learned will translate into more a more collaborative service delivery system for students and youth in the Merrimack Valley and across the Commonwealth.”

The Rehabilitative Services Administration awarded MRC with the five-year, $5 million grant. The grant will support five new positions within MRC to facilitate the program coordination, develop three new contracts with Independent Living Centers, and partner with the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston as an evaluation and research partner as well as a technical support resource. While many students and youth receive similar services through MRC currently, the interagency teams that will support each student will ensure a stronger transition plan for students that include school, community and state services.

“MRC is deeply appreciative of this grant that will provide funds to prepare youth with disabilities for the transition to adulthood and all of the responsibility that comes with being independent,” said MRC Acting Commissioner, Kasper Goshgarian.

Sudders noted that the opportunity to receive the Rehabilitative Services Administration grant supports the trend in Massachusetts to improve transition related services for all students with disabilities. Although the Commonwealth is experiencing record low unemployment, individuals with disabilities have a high rate of unemployment. The Transition Pathway Services demonstration grant is an opportunity to utilize interagency resources to provide a path towards employment.