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Centerstone Launches Competitive Integrated Employment Program

Centerstone, a nonprofit health system specializing in mental health and substance use disorder treatments, has received funding that will allow it to help individuals with disabilities in Franklin and Williamson counties to gain fair and equitable employment and to succeed in those jobs.

Centerstone was recently awarded a grant from the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Developmental Disabilities to create a competitive integrated employment (CIE) program for adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD).

Competitive integrated employment is work that is performed on a full-time or part-time basis for which an individual is compensated at or above minimum wage and comparable to the customary rate paid by the employer to employees without disabilities.

“Employers are struggling to maintain employees and individuals with I/DD in our communities are not engaged in competitive employment. This grant and the CIEC program will build capacity to address both of those challenges and will not only help people find employment, but also develop inclusion in our communities that do not currently have these supportive employment services in place,” said Helen Blackburn, Centerstone’s Executive Director of Vocational and Residential Services.

Beginning July 1, with the grant, Centerstone’s CIEC program will provide individuals, over the age of 18, with I/DD in Franklin and Williamson counties the following services:

  • Dedicated team of staff who will help clients prior to and throughout their employment.
  • Assessment – staff will assess each client’s:
    • Readiness to begin work.
    • Skill sets.
    • Social traits.
    • Personality.
    • Career and vocational interests.
    • Retention abilities.
    • Self-management capacities.
  • Personalized job match profile development.
  • Identification of jobs offered in the community.
  • Job application and resume writing assistance.
  • Interview preparation.
  • Employment training, observation and coaching.
  • Engagement of family and community support.

“Competitive integrated employment is the chance for individuals with disabilities to be paid the same, treated the same and given the same opportunities as everyone else,” Blackburn said.

Nationwide, the rates of employment for individuals with I/DD remains significantly lower than rates of employment for those without disabilities. It is estimated that about 44% of those with I/DD, ages 21-64, are in the workforce as opposed to 83% of the same age adults without disabilities.

“Centerstone wants to be part of the system that opens doors for individuals and supports building blocks to competitive employment,” said Blackburn. “Employment gives individuals the opportunity to make their own choices, including where they want to work and what they want to do, where they want to live, and who they want to spend time with.

“Those employed in the community become participating members of their cities and towns. In addition to choice, employment gives individuals fulfillment, decreases behavioral and medical issues, and allows individuals to be less reliant on public funding systems,” she said.

The CIEC grant is a three-year grant totaling more than $480,000. It is anticipated that Centerstone’s CIEC program will serve 20 individuals in the first year – July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023 – and 25 additional individuals in the second year.

“With this grant, we aim to meet Centerstone’s objective to be a provider of choice by using evidence-based employment practices, providing individuals the opportunity to explore and meet their goals, find employment, and have support throughout the process,” Blackburn said.

Centerstone is in the process of becoming a Community Rehabilitation Provider through the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Division of Rehabilitation Services.

“It is estimated that approximately 1,200 individuals residing in Franklin and Williamson counties are of working age and have an I/DD, and less than 10% of them are working in competitive integrated jobs. This indicates a lack of employment support options for individuals with I/DD in our community,” Blackburn said. “Centerstone understands this need and is here to help.”

Employers in Franklin and Williamson counties that are interested in learning more about Centerstone’s CIEC program or helping those with I/DD achieve better employment outcomes should contact Brad Friend, assistant director, at Brad.Friend@Centerstone.org or (618) 922-2990 or James Harris, coordinator, at James.Harris@Centerstone.org.

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