August 21, 2017  

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House Bill 836 to Provide New Direction for Employment of People with Disabilities in Mississippi Communities

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Mississippians have always liked living and working in their home communities. Mississippians with disabilities are no exception.

Most workers with intellectual, developmental, or other disabilities are loyal and dedicated employees who want to do a good job and be a part of their communities. People with disabilities are, according to employment data sources, a largely untapped resource for Mississippi employers.

House Bill 836, adopted by the Mississippi House of Representatives and Senate on March 31, will provide new opportunities for people with disabilities to use their skills and strengths as part of the state’s workforce. The bill, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Crawford, requires state agencies that provide employment services and supports to people with disabilities to consider competitive employment in an integrated community setting as their first option for employment.

Competitive employment means at or above minimum wage; integrated employment is in settings that include and/or serve people with and without disabilities. These state agencies will also collaborate and coordinate their efforts to better serve people with disabilities. An appointed group of self-advocates, agency representatives, and community members will review and recommend system change each year.

“I’m very proud that Mississippi is recognizing the abilities of its citizens with disabilities to contribute to this great state,” said Cindy Singletary, a self-advocate and leader from Biloxi, Miss. “Putting inclusive employment as a goal for state agencies means more opportunities for me and others with disabilities to be active members of society.”

H.B. 836 was built on fours year of work by the Mississippi Partnerships for Employment for Youth and Young Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (MSPE) project, a consortium established in 2011 by the Mississippi Council on Developmental Disabilities, Disability Rights Mississippi and The University of Southern Mississippi Institute for Disability Studies. The bill awaits a signature by Gov. Phil Bryant before it becomes a state law.

Funded by the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the MSPE project has directed a state-level collaborative approach to improving employment outcomes for Mississippi youth and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.