State Grants Expand Opportunities for Minnesotans with Disabilities

April 13, 2017 07:23 PM

Minnesotans with disabilities and their families know finding a job can sometimes be a challenge.

But now the state is helping. 


Ten different Minnesota organizations are getting money from the state this year. The funds are meant to help them find jobs and other opportunities for those in need.  

That could benefit someone like 24-year-old Ryan Richardson, who has always had one passion.

"The only thing he's wanted to do from age 2 is work on an airplane," his mother Lori said.

But growing up with developmental disabilities, Lori Richardson said her son found himself doing odd jobs that affected his overall well-being and happiness. 

"He was really falling through the cracks," she said. 

But thanks to a bit of help from The Arc Minnesota, Ryan Richardson now has a job at Sun Country Airlines.

"It was his dream," his mother said. 

"It's really about one job seeker at a time," said Melinda Shamp of the group. 

Shamp said roughly 80 percent of Minnesotans with a disability are unemployed.

"People often have very complex situations in their lives," she said. 

The point of The Arc Minnesota's program - "A Working Life Alliance" - is to bring out a person's unique talents and interests and match them with the perfect job. 

"People's lives change, so for me it's miraculous. I get to witness this amazing transformation," Shamp said. 

Under the first round of state legislation this year, Claire Wilson said the Department of Human Services is giving out $1.8 million in grant money.

The Arc Minnesota is receiving a portion of that to expand their services. 

"The legislature recognized that there weren't as many opportunities for people with disabilities to achieve competitive employment," Wilson said. 

Ryan Richardson found his perfect match. He's now in his second year working for Sun Country Airlines. 

"He's providing that pathway of success," Lori Richardson said. 

Lori Richardson is hoping more opportunities like this can pave the way for others. 

"It's given him life, it's given him purpose," she said. 

The Arc Minnesota will host a workshop for people with disabilities and their families at 5:30 p.m. on April 24.

The Department of Human Services provided a list of the other nine Minnesota organizations getting money from the state this year. The funds are meant to help them find jobs and other opportunities for those in need:  

* Centers for Independent Living in the Twin Cities metro, Central Minnesota and Southeastern Minnesota will receive $149,962 to launch a civic engagement training and mentoring program to help 120 people with disabilities be effective self-advocates. 

* Altair Accountable Care Organization, based in St. Paul, will receive $150,000 to develop a LifePlan for up to 50 people identifying the wants and needs of each person and a plan for achievement. The goal is to increase the number of people with disabilities working in competitive jobs, living in the most integrated setting and having valued social roles in the community. 

* Community Involvement Programs, based in Minneapolis, will receive $129,576 to provide training, technical assistance and support to people directing their own supports and services. The project will use a self-discovery tool with 36 people as they direct their own services to gain competitive employment.  

* Kaposia, based in Little Canada, will receive $174,000 to use as funding to secure integrated, competitive employment for up to 30 people. Kaposia will work with two school districts in the Twin Cities area on a discovery process so 20 students with disabilities will begin competitive jobs before leaving high school. This funding will also help establish a leadership group of current day treatment and habilitation providers focused on moving toward competitive, integrated employment of people with disabilities. 

* Lifetrack Resources, based in St. Paul, will receive $185,900, to develop a competitive, integrated employment program for up to 30 refugees and immigrants with disabilities, particularly those with mental illness. 

* Midwest Special Services (MSS), based in St. Paul, will receive$131,170, will convert its East Side St. Paul day training and habilitation facility to a community hub where employment training, art training and other resources are provided to the whole community, including people with disabilities. Up to 50 people also will receive training and skills building in the area of their choice, including the visual and culinary arts. 

* RISE of St. Paul and Minneapolis will receive $150,000 to fund the Work is for Everyone program to place up to 32 people with complex and significant disabilities in competitive, integrated employment. The program will focus on people who have not had the opportunity to try competitive employment. 

* STAR Services, based in St. Paul will receive $139,731 to provide six agencies with person-centered planning services, including organization-wide trainings and mentoring on person-centered practices. STAR will also provide training on community inclusion to organizations and communities.

* Touchstone Mental Health, based in Minneapolis, will receive $219,373 to provide support and services for up to 44 people so they can maintain their housing while experiencing a mental health crisis or psychiatric hospitalization. Strategies will include landlord incentives, pre-housing access services and flexible funding to assist with applications, deposit, rent, moving expenses and supplies. 


Brett Hoffland

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