Thanks to a ground-breaking Missouri program, the Partnership for Hope, thousands of men and women with developmental disabilities and their families are getting the tools they need to participate in the workforce and lead more independent lives.
Launched in 2010, Partnership for Hope has provided life skills, job training, transportation and other vital services to more than 2,700 people with developmental disabilities in 99 counties and the City of St. Louis. It has had a profound impact on keeping families together and providing opportunities for individuals with disabilities to become full participants in their communities.
Full participation includes the chance to have a real job and meaningful work in a place where all individuals are accepted and valued for their unique strengths and abilities.
Missouri businesses that have expanded their hiring policies to recruit and retain people with disabilities often report that the training and accommodations needed are far less extensive than they had expected.
Experience also has shown that workers with developmental disabilities are extremely loyal, dependable, have a strong work ethic and low job turnover. What’s more, their enthusiasm has a positive impact on other employees, as well as customers. That’s good for the bottom line.
Dakota, a Partnership for Hope participant in Kirksville, is a good example. Because of his developmental disability, Dakota struggled with academics and social interactions at his school in Macon. But a good support system and team of advocates helped him gain leadership skills, self-esteem, and improve his social skills with his peers. Dakota’s support team linked him up with Vocational Rehabilitation Services to help him pursue his goal of working, and he now has a steady job at a local grocery store.
Despite the gains we have made here in Missouri, more than two-thirds of all disabled people in the U.S. between the ages of 16 and 64 are still unemployed, preventing them from living up to their full potential.
It’s great time for Missouri businesses to learn more about hiring people with developmental disabilities. These individuals are part of an engaged, dedicated pool of talent ready and eager to put their unique skills to work. Resources are available through our Department of Mental Health Working to help match more potential workers with rewarding jobs. For more information, go to www.mo.gov and search for the Division of Developmental Disabilities.
It’s not just “the right thing” to do; it’s good for business.
Jay Nixon is Governor of Missouri.
This article is a re-post of a recent Springfield New-Leader op-ed piece. To visit the Newsleader’s site, click here.)