TOPEKA – Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) Secretary Laura Howard announced today that Kansas is one of only 10 states and the District of Columbia selected by the Office of Human Resources Policy U.S. Department of Labor’s Disabled Employment (ODEP) to participate as a “core state” for its National Expansion of Employment Opportunities Network (NEON) initiative.
NEON is a technical assistance initiative that promotes collaboration with National Supplier Organizations (NPOs) to develop strategic plans to increase Competitive Integrated Employment Opportunities (CIEs) for the people they serve, including those with significant disabilities and those who they faced obstacles to employment. Until now, NEON has mainly focused on advancing the CIE by offering national supplier organizations technical assistance from recognized subject matter experts and support to local supplier organisations. By expanding participation to core states, NEON seeks to focus on driving positive change in policies and systems at the state level.
“KDADS is honored to be selected as a participant in this initiative designed to make employment a reality for more people with disabilities,” said KDADS Secretary Howard. “We are committed to making competitive and inclusive 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 performed on a full-time or part-time basis for which an individual is:
- Compensation equal to or greater than the minimum wage and comparable to the usual rate paid by the employer to employees without disabilities who perform similar duties and with similar training and experience;
- Receive the same level of benefits provided to other employees without disabilities in similar positions;
- In a place where the employee interacts with other people without disabilities; And
- Present similar advancement opportunities to other employees without disabilities in similar positions.
Kansas’ participation in this initiative will help KDADS connect to counseling, capacity building support, and ongoing mentorship as we seek to increase CIE for individuals with disabilities in the state.
Kansas has been designated to receive 100 hours of Technical Support from Subject Matter Experts to be used by August 31, 2023, based on state goals and needs with additional hours available as needed and approved by ODEP. This may include funding blending, braiding and sequencing, strategic planning, and data collection and analysis. KDADS will begin holding monthly stakeholder meetings to gather input.
The core state expectations set by NEON include a scope of work that includes the opportunity to work with up to four Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who will provide virtual and on-site training, technical assistance, and policy advice to include:
- Individual policy advice (1:1): Individualized support in achieving 1-3 specific policy 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 implement the principles of the jobs first, assist suppliers 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 that will result in the achievement of 2-5 major outcomes in line with the ODEP criteria for performance excellence in employment first-state systems change and in supplier transformation.
In addition to the policy support described above, each NEON Core State will also have access to and be required to engage in all ODEP National Employment First Community of Practice (CoP) activities, including but not limited to: monthly training webinars, a virtual platform, national resource inventory to help vendors achieve a CIE increase, and timely updates from federal officials on new policy developments, and funding opportunities to support state NEON efforts.