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Ohio’s Employment First Initiative

Community employment for adults with developmental disabilities has been on the forefront of public policy for several years now. In 2012, the well known Executive Order 2012-05K was signed by Ohio’s governor John Kasich. The order placed community employment for working age adults with disabilities  and outcomes as a priority. Many viewed this order as a timely response to the growing need for employment options.

In 2013 the governor funded a partnership between Employment First and OOD (Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities). The goal of the partnership continues to be

 to expand community employment services for people with developmental disabilities (DD)

Through this partnership 17 Employment First Counselors and 4 Benefit Planners were established across the state of Ohio and the state was divided into regions. The Counselors and Benefit Planners initially worked with local county boards of DD to determine individuals who desired to move away from segregated settings into community employment with a competitive wage. For Providers, a dual certification and online training curriculum was provided. As of the end of fiscal year 2014 there were 125 providers that had completed the dual certification process with over 1,200 staff completing the online training course and post test.

2014 Annual Employment First Report

At the end of the 2014 fiscal year, the partnership reported the following:


  • Roughly 1,200 applications were processed
  • More than 1,000 individuals were determined eligible for VR services
  • 600 Person-Centered Career Plans were written
  • There were more than 85 integrated community placements
  • Decrease in the average for: days to determine eligibility, months to closure,  and cost per closure.
  • 89 individuals placed into community employment
  • Overall higher satisfaction with the VR process

2015 Goals

  • Increase number of Employment First Counselors to 25 to combat the growing caseload
  • With the increased number of Counselors, a revised regional map was created with smaller coverage areas
  • County Board allocations were reset based on need and feedback from the Capacity Survey
  • Provide further training in multiple areas

2016-2017 Executive Budget

According to the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities the 2016-2017 Executive Budget, $300 million dollars was allocated toward the DODD budget

to increase opportunities for individuals to participate in their communities, and live fuller lives

Thus the Department has committed to creating quarterly update reports regarding progress of budgetary initiatives.

First Quarter Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Update

On November 16, 2015 the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) released the first quarter progress report tracking strides made regarding initiatives presented in the state budget. The partnership between Employment First and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) reported the following data:

  • 25 Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors with an average caseload of 50-60 individuals
  • 2,623 individuals served through the partnership since 2013
  • 488 Competitive Employment Placements
  • 465 Competitive Employment Closures
  • With an average work week of 20 hours and $8.46 average hourly pay

To date, there is not an “End of Fiscal Year 2015 Report” from the partnership. The one produced for 2014 was available on the Employment First website.  Regardless, I believe the following conclusions can be drawn from the 2015 data when compared with the 2014 data.

It does appear that the partnership between the two agencies is making an impact in employment opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities?

Overall the partnership has remained committed to the individuals and their needs. The 2014 Report indicated specific goals for the coming year regarding the partnership, and those goals were either met or initiated in 2015, including the increase of Counselors and revision of regional map.

488 Competitive Employment Placements and 465 Competitive Employment Closures.

For the end of 2014 fiscal year the partnership had reported 85 Competitive Placements (see above). If we realize that there have been 488 Placements since the start of the partnership in 2013 and only 85 were reported at the end of its first year, then 403 placements occurred during the second year! A 78% increase from year to year would be called a success in my opinion. This result is indicative of a “golden ticket” being issues for people with disabilities becoming a member of their community. I am hopeful that more specific data on this partnership will surface as 2015 comes to a close, but for now I would state that this partnership is a win-win for OOD and DODD with the rewards being presented to people with developmental disabilities.

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