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Part 7 Series: 6 ways to help people with disabilities reach their employment goals

“On paper, North Carolina appears to offer a robust system of employment services. In reality, parents, advocates, and people with disabilities struggle to make informed choices because they are either not aware of the full array of services available to them or are misinformed about the services,” according to a report for an overview of Employment Services for people in North Carolina.

The report adds, “As a result, individuals with disabilities frequently end up without services or with services that do not effectively assist them in reaching their employment goals.”

This report attempts to help close the information gap by providing an overview of the employment services available in North Carolina and offer suggestions on how to improve existing employment services by proposing how they should evolve.

Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Division of Services for the Blind (DSB)

The VR and DSB programs provide goods and services to help people with disabilities get jobs and support themselves. The programs are housed within the State Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and have local and regional offices throughout the State. The agencies provide a broad array of services that may include college and professional training, job-development, rehabilitation, job coaching services, and other services needed to eliminate barriers to employment. VR and DSB often contract with providers of work training that are known as Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRPs). Any job pursued with the help of VR or DSB must pay at least a minimum wage and be in a workplace that includes coworkers without disabilities. North Carolina has no waitlist for the VR program at this time.

Student Employment Services

Students with disabilities receiving special education services under an Individual Education Plan (IEP) are entitled to transition services from the school beginning at the age of 14 until graduation from high school. All students with disabilities are also entitled to pre-employment transition services (administered by VR) between and including the ages of 14-21, whether they are in high school or higher education at the time. These services include paid work experiences, internships, apprenticeships, self-advocacy training, and other activities that prepare young adults to successfully transition to life after high school.

Local Management Entities/Managed Care Organizations (MCOs)

These organizations (currently Trillium Health Resources, Cardinal Innovations, Alliance Behavioral Healthcare, Vaya Health, Partners Behavioral Health, Sandhills Center, and Eastpointe) manage both state-funded and Medicaid-funded behavioral health services under contracts with DHHS. Included in the services they manage are employment training services such as Adult Developmental Vocational Program (ADVP), Supported Employment (SE), Long-Term Vocational Supports (LTVS), and Individual Placement and Support (IPS). SE, LTVS, and IPS are community-based services and have varying eligibility requirements.

NC Works Career Centers (Workforce Development Centers)

NC Works Career Centers are part of the Department of Commerce. They help job seekers (not only individuals with disabilities) learn about available jobs, look for work, participate in training and education programs, and access the internet and NCWorks job database. Additionally, targeted services are available to individuals with disabilities ages 14-24.

Employment Networks (EN)

Employment Networks receive funding from the Social Security Administration to provide employment services to people who receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). ENs may be non-profits, for-profits, or state agencies. An employment provider could be a CRP and an EN – meaning they offer employment services under a contract with VR and under a contract with Social Security Administration – at the same time.

The North Carolina Work Incentives Planning and Assistance (WIPA) Program

The goal of the WIPA program is to enable beneficiaries to receive accurate information about the advantages and effects of work on their Social Security benefits. In North Carolina, ServiceSource assists beneficiaries in the eastern part of the State, and VR assists in the western part of the State.

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