For Immediate Release - June 25, 2009

Governor Patrick Announces Plan to Make Massachusetts "Model Employer" of People with Disabilities

$2.5 million will fund regional employment collaboratives

BOSTON - Thursday, June 25, 2009 - Governor Deval Patrick today unveiled the state's " Strategic Plan to Make Massachusetts a Model Employer for People with Disabilities." Based on a framework laid out by the federal Equal Opportunity and Employment Commission, the plan sets out a roadmap for improving the recruitment and retention of state workers with disabilities, including workers who age into disability.

Focused on the 45,000-person workforce in the Executive Branch, the plan provides an implementation strategy for the disability portion of the Governor's Executive Order on diversity and affirmative action issued two years ago.

"As someone who oversaw the implementation of the Americans with Disabilities Act at the federal level, I know how challenging it has been to realize the promise of anti-discrimination in employment of people with disabilities," said Governor Patrick. "With this plan, our state government - and my office - will move Massachusetts one step forward in achieving that goal."

Governor Patrick also announced that the Commonwealth, in collaboration with the University of Massachusetts Medical School, will make available $2.5 million in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid funding for five regional employment collaboratives intended to support more private sector employment of people with disabilities. The regional collaboratives will allow the state to work with private industry to become model employers as well.

"Addressing the economic security of people with disabilities is an important part of our Community First Olmstead Plan," said Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. JudyAnn Bigby. "These initiatives hold out real hope for changing opportunities even in a difficult fiscal time."

"Innovation in the practices of public and private employers is critical to changing both the recruitment and retention of workers with disabilities in our workforce," said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Suzanne M. Bump. "Through new strategies around hiring practices, mentoring, and accommodation, the Commonwealth will continue to benefit from its diverse and dynamic employees, while meeting the ever-changing needs of a modern workforce."

Under development for a year, the plan envisions changes in the practices of the Commonwealth's Human Resource Division (HRD) regarding the outreach, recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of people with disabilities. It also puts in place a centralized process and fund for supporting reasonable accommodations people may need.

"Senior staff across the Secretariats and from HRD and the Massachusetts Office of Disability guided the development of this plan," said Administration and Finance Assistant Secretary Ron Marlow. "Having the commitment of leadership is important to making sure that we can realize the change in both environment and practice that we seek."

A number of innovations are already underway, including a new internship program this summer focused on youth with disabilities. Eighteen college and high school students have been placed in state agencies, including the Governor's Office, and will be receiving training and support to assure their success. Additionally, focus groups with employees with disabilities across the Commonwealth are informing the new outreach and other practice changes.

"As one of the largest employers in the Commonwealth, we can play a significant role in changing the work status of people with disabilities," said Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commissioner Charles Carr. "And the development of our regional employment collaboratives with UMass through our Massachusetts Disability Employment Initiative offers real hope of supporting expanded private sector opportunities at the same time."

"We are excited to be working with the state in building a new future for people with disabilities," noted Dr. Jay Himmelstein, co-lead on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid-funded Initiative. "Massachusetts is leading the way in these innovations."

Community-based groups have been endorsing a Model Employer strategy for some time. "We look forward to supporting the state in making this a successful initiative," said Bill Henning, Director of the Boston Center for Independent Living.

The announcement comes during the 10 th anniversary week of the Supreme Court's decision assuring the right of people with disabilities to live in the community.

"We are proud to be honoring the anniversary of this landmark decision by taking a step forward in securing the economic security people with disabilities need in order to make the community living promise of that Supreme Court decision a reality," said Dr. Jean McGuire, Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy and Programs.

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