Christian Opportunity Center (COC) is increasing its supported employment efforts in the wake of new State rules eliminating sheltered employment.
COC has been providing supported employment services since 1987 and has many success stories of people who have become long-tenured, dependable employees in community businesses. COC provides on-the-job training and support to help people with disabilities learn the necessary job duties to be successful in employment.
Through its supported employment, COC helps people with disabilities find and maintain employment, with an emphasis on finding the right job match for each person. COC has helped people find employment in a variety of settings, including: retail, grocery stores, restaurants, meal delivery, cleaning services, and production work in factories.
Kim Koellner, COC Regional Director for Vocational Services, oversees both supported employment and sheltered employment.
“Job coaches serve a dual role as they strive to support individuals by assisting them in exploring their interests and strengths and with the process of becoming employed,” Koellner said. “Once hired, they provide support to learn the job, develop natural supports, and periodic support on the job. At the same time, job coaches support employers by learning about their business needs and work culture so that they can support the individual to be a successful employee.”
COC is currently operating supported employment in Indianola, Knoxville, Oskaloosa and Pella.
If your business is interested in employing a person with disabilities through COC’s supported employment, contact Vocational Program Manager Cathy Wilson (E: firstname.lastname@example.org; P: (641) 673-9467, ext. 17).
“Supported employment has experienced growth in several ways during the past year, primarily due to referrals from Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation (IVR) and as a result of Career Exploration classes,” said Koellner. “The services are working in a complimentary manner by providing exposure, practice, and support to the process of obtaining and maintaining employment in the community. In addition to serving individuals from COC, growth is also occurring due to IVRS referrals from the community who choose COC as their provider for job development and other services.”
The reason for an increased focus on COC’s supported employment is the elimination of sheltered employment. For decades, advocacy groups have fought to eliminate sheltered employment, believing that every person with a disability should be working in a community business.
COC currently employs people with disabilities in its sheltered employment in Pella and Oskaloosa. COC contracts for production work with more than 30 companies to provide production services such as small parts packaging, general assembly, mail processing, digital document recording, shredding, delivery, and woodworking.
By May 2018, people will no longer have the opportunity to earn a paycheck in COC’s plants.
Despite the elimination of sheltered employment—which accounts for only two of the 38 programs offered by COC—COC will continue to offer residential and spiritual services in addition to its supported employment and non-work oriented day program.
Founded in 1969, COC provides residential, spiritual and vocational support and services to more than 300 people with disabilities in Mahaska, Marion, Polk and Warren counties. For more information visit www.christianopportunity.org.
(A message from COC Executive Director Rod Braun)
There has recently been much discussion among some members of Congress regarding a block grant of Medicaid to the states. Typically, a block grant caps the federal assistance to the states in exchange for increased flexibility given to the states as to how they use the federal Medicaid dollars. While Christian Opportunity Center (COC) supports state and federal efforts to control Medicaid costs, we don’t believe the solution is a block grant to the states. This issue is very important to COC because 83 percent of our funding comes from Medicaid.
What might we expect from a block grant of federal Title 19 funding? We need only look back at the last block grant that impacted supports and services for people with disabilities. We should learn from history because past experience is the best predictor of the future.
The year was 1981, and Congress approved a block grant of the Title 20 program that became the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). There had been talk among some in Congress that the Title 20 program was unsustainable. Now we have similar talk that the Title 19 program is unsustainable. Don’t be fooled. The Title 19 program is not unsustainable. Unsustainable really just means it is not a priority.
Prior to 1981, many of the vocational and residential supports provided to people at COC were funded via the Title 20 program. Under the SSBG, the federal government paid 50 percent of the service costs, the State paid 25 percent, and the counties paid 25 percent. But, there was a cap on the federal participation.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in 1981 estimated the cost of the Title 20 program at $3.1 billion, yet the SSBG was set at just $1.7 billion. This led to an immediate cost shift from the federal government to states and local governments to fill the gap created by the shortfall in the appropriation. In the past 36 years, the SSBG has never been adjusted for inflation and with the budget sequestration, the SSBG appropriation for 2016 was just $1.58 billion. If you adjust for inflation for the past 36 years, the 1981 appropriation would be $6.37 billion. Instead, we get just 25 percent of this amount today. This tells us what we can expect from a Title 19 Medicaid block grant.
Service providers like COC survived the SSBG only because of a new federal program known as the Home and Community Based Services Waiver (aka Medicaid Waiver). But, we are not aware of any new federal funding source available that would provide relief in the event of a block grant of Title 19. A block grant would mean more cost shifting to state and local governments. My perspective, after more than 40 years of working in disability services, is that the federal government is generally a more reliable funding source than state and local governments.
We urge you to contact U.S. Senators Grassley and Ernst, along with your U.S. House of Representatives member (likely Congressman Dave Loebsack if you work in Mahaska or Marion counties, or Congressman David Young if you work in Warren or Polk counties) to advocate against a block grant of the Title 19 funding. You may use talking points from this information in your advocacy efforts.
Thank you in advance for your advocacy on behalf of the mission of COC.