On Friday, October 25 from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., State and industry leaders gathered at the State House to celebrate the work that is being done across State departments and private industry to increase employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The event, hosted by the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), was held as part of National Disability Employment Awareness Month.
The BHDDH Employment First Initiative and Opening Doors Rhode Island are key State initiatives which focus on individuals with developmental disabilities and behavioral health issues.
Critical needs have been identified to continue to build capacity and infrastructure for Employment First to be a success in Rhode Island. BHDDH will lead efforts to address capacity and access to job developers, job coaches, integrated day services and employment transportation.
"As our Department implements our Employment First Initiative we, along with our State and industry partners, are working hard to create innovative and genuine integrated employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities," said BHDDH Director Craig Stenning. "Employment increases an individual's self-worth and is part of an individual's full integration into society."
Governor Chafee has issued a proclamation, declaring October, 2013 Disability Awareness Month in Rhode Island. "National Disability Employment Awareness Month draws attention to and acknowledges the contributions of Americans with disabilities who are an important part of the nation's workforce, as well as Rhode Island government's efforts to create vital public, private and nonprofit partnerships that ensure equal opportunities for all Rhode Islanders," Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. "Our State's forward-thinking employment initiatives for individuals with disabilities are sending a message to the rest of the country that Rhode Island is a great place to live and work and that we treat all citizens fairly."
Speakers at the event included Richard Licht, Director of the Department of Administration Craig Stenning, Director, BHDDH, Steven Kitchin, Vice President for Corporate Education and Training, New England Institute of Technology and Board Chair of the Workforce Partnership of Greater Rhode Island, Department of Labor and Training Assistant Director, Susan Chomka, Maureen Martin, Secretary Treasurer of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO and Sandra Powell, Director of the Department of Human Services.
About National Disability Employment Awareness Month: Held each October, National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) is a national campaign that raises awareness about disability employment issues and celebrates the many and varied contributions of America's workers with disabilities. The theme for 2013 is "Because We Are EQUAL to the Task." NDEAM's roots go back to 1945, when Congress enacted a law declaring the first week in October each year "National Employ the Physically Handicapped Week." In 1962, the word "physically" was removed to acknowledge the employment needs and contributions of individuals with all types of disabilities. In 1988, Congress expanded the week to a month and changed the name to "National Disability Employment Awareness Month."
About the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals: BHDDH is committed to assuring access to quality services and supports for Rhode Islanders with developmental disabilities, mental health and substance abuse issues and chronic, long-term medical and psychiatric conditions. In addition to planning for the development of new services and prevention activities, the department's mission includes addressing the stigma attached to these disabilities.