Kansas 1 of 10 “Core” States Selected to Participate in Initiative to Expand Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities

TOPEKA – Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Secretary Laura Howard announced today that Kansas is 1 of only 10 states and the District of Columbia selected by the U.S Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) to participate as a “core state” for its National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network initiative (NEON).

NEON is a technical assistance initiative that advances collaboration with national provider organizations (NPOs) to develop strategic plans for increasing competitive integrated employment (CIE) opportunities for the individuals they serve, including those with significant disabilities and those who have faced barriers to employment. Until now, NEON has focused primarily on advancing CIE by offering national provider organizations technical assistance from recognized subject matter experts and support for local provider organizations. By expanding participation to core states, NEON seeks to focus on promoting positive changes in state-level policies and systems.

“KDADS is honored to be selected as a participant in this initiative designed to make employment a reality for more people with disabilities,” KDADS Secretary Howard said. “We are committed to making competitive, integrated employment a priority and implementing a strategic plan that supports effective practices and promotes healthier workplace equality.”

Competitive integrated employment (CIE) is defined by the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) as 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 performing similar duties and with similar training and experience;
  • Receiving the same level of benefits provided to other employees without disabilities in similar positions;
  • At a location where the employee interacts with other individuals without disabilities; and
  • Presented opportunities for advancement similar to other employees without disabilities in similar positions.

Kansas’s participation in this initiative will help KDADS connect to consulting, capacity building support and ongoing mentoring as we seek to increase CIE for individuals with disabilities in the state.

Kansas has been designated to receive 100 hours of technical assistance from subject matter experts to be used by August 31, 2023, based on the state’s goals and needs with additional hours available as needed and approved by ODEP. This can include blending, braiding, and sequencing of funding, strategic planning, and data collection and analysis. KDADS will begin holding monthly stakeholder meetings to gather input.

Expectations for core states as set forth by NEON include a scope of work that includes the opportunity to work with a maximum of four subject matter experts (SMEs) who will provide virtual and onsite training, technical assistance and policy consulting to include:

  • One-on-One (1:1) Policy Consulting: Individualized support in accomplishing 1-3 policy-specific outcomes to assist the state in developing or implementing technical assistance objectives with the alignment of policies, practices, and funding to support the state’s initiative to enact Employment First principles, assist providers in transforming their business model, and advance NEON’s National Plan to Increase CIE.
  • Capacity Building Assistance/Training in Effective Practices: A combination of in-person and virtual capacity building assistance and training which will result in the accomplishment of 2-5 major outcomes that align with ODEP’s Criteria for Performance Excellence in Employment First State Systems Change and Provider Transformation.

In addition to the policy support described above, each NEON Core State will also have access to and be expected to engage in all ODEP’s National Employment First Community of Practice (CoP) activities, including but not limited to: monthly training webinars, a virtual policy platform, national inventory of resources to help providers achieve increased CIE, and timely updates from Federal officials on new policy developments and funding opportunities to support state NEON efforts.

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