In early 2012, the 21 and Able campaign kicked off. It’s an effort to help children with disabilities more easily transition into adulthood. As of now, when a person with disabilities gets cut off from many needed supportive services when they turn 21. While some services are available for adults, they’re hard to secure.
“The ID waiver service, which is intellectual disabilities, there are over 15,000 people waiting for services in Pennsylvania. In addition to that across the state there are only 300 waiver slots for autism, so there’s a huge waiting list and a lot of people who need services just to go to work and live independently,” said Mary Hartley, project manager for 21 and Able at United Way.
In its first year, the effort has worked on public policy, particularly advocating with local, state, and national partners on system changes; a public awareness campaign, and has developed six pilot programs, including one focused on increasing employment for people with disabilities.
“One of them is potentially working with a local company that would embed a job coach into the company’s culture. So you’d have a culture shift where you have a liaison for people with disabilities in that company,” said Hartley.
The job coach would help with resources, needed modifications, community relations – ensuring the person can work with their team, and look for different opportunities for people with disabilities throughout a company.
Another project is compiling a check list for parents and caretakers that will help guide them through their child’s life. It will break down needed services between certain ages and be integrated into the 211 line. Hartley said it’s essential to make sure kids have seamless care when transitioning out of childhood.
“A lot of times there’s a lot of great work that happens between 14 and 21, people are directed to employment opportunities, they’re given travel training, they’re supported, then when they turn 21, and they’re out of school and there are no longer those resources, people lose skills, the end up on the couch,” she said.
In January, the 21 and Able program enters its second year.
“We’re going to continue to work on the six pilot projects,” said Hartley, “we’re going to create a very specific policy determination about where we’re going and we’re going to engage a lot more stakeholders from the county and from the state in our projects, we’d really like to get more people with disabilities and their families engaged in the project.”