Oregon has agreed to contract its number of individuals enrolled in sheltered workshops by 20 percent over the next two years, to a maximum of 1,530 by 2018. Nearly 4,000 individuals have received services in sheltered workshop facilities since 2013, with the average individual remaining in a sheltered workshop setting for 11 years.
The move comes amid a number of similar class-action lawsuit rulings in several states in response to the promises of the enacted Americans with Disabilities Act. These DOJ rulings uniformly advocate minimum wages and integrated work environments for individuals choosing to work in the community. Presently, just 16 percent of Oregonians receiving state-funded employment assistance work in their community in an integrated work environment.
This will undoubtedly be a hurdle for the state and providers to meet the guidelines and adjust the service model as new participants are, for the most part, no longer entering workshop settings. Operational cost increases and consolidation are a couple more challenges our field face, and while the program isn’t disappearing anytime soon, providers will still need to adjust through contracted services. The exceptional community outreach in recent years and inclusion programs by Oregon providers, along with some of the lowest unemployment rates in a decade put many agencies on a path to navigate this.
Considering the national trend and direction of the state, the ruling isn’t unexpected. Therap has shifted its employment focus to tools tracking community employment, and away from piece rates and commensurate sub-minimum wages. Last year we launched a more robust community-based Employment and Volunteer record to help providers track integrated employment opportunities, which, when coupled with ISP Programs and linked-billable data collection, give providers a tool to track and note milestones, career development plans, interview and application results, employer contact info, and job skill and outcome development.
For more information about the Employment module, we have a recent webinar review available, but would be happy to discuss the transition directly with providers. For any questions, our Pacific Regional Director, Kevin Dierks is available to help!