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Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board Customized Employment Grant:


Project Overview

Grant number, name, and location: Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board, Fairfax, VA #E-9-4-1-0074

Grant recipient: Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board

Project lead: ServiceSource

Subcontractors and partners: The Department of Rehabilitative Services; the Department of Family Services (the One-Stop Career Center operator in the relevant areas); multiple community providers, such as ServiceSource, the Laurie Mitchell Employment Center, AccessVA (online housing registry for individuals with disabilities in Virginia); and the Department of Mental Health.

Key Lessons/Accomplishments

The challenge of sustaining the efforts of the Customized Employment grant is somewhat mitigated by a number of factors, the most important being the ongoing relationship between ServiceSource and the One-Stop Career Center (One Stop) system which is certified by the Northern Virginia Workforce Investment Board (NVWIB). This partnership, upon which the grant was largely based, existed long before the inception of the grant and is anticipated to outlast it. Based on this partnership, this grant provided Fairfax the opportunity to integrate customized employment strategies into their activities.

For this project, sustaining key staff primarily involved transitioning individuals into new roles, including other, similar grants, Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) fee-for-service projects, and other Workforce Investment Act standard roles (most staff were shared between ServiceSource and the One-Stop).

Also key to the sustainability efforts of this project is the continued search for grant and special-project dollars. By allowing a unique and potent partnership to form between ServiceSource and the One Stop and providing an opportunity for the two to jointly establish numerous other collaborations (with DRS, Department of Mental Health (DMH), and various other Community Rehabilitation Providers), the Customized Employment grant has enabled the creation of a unique partnership entity. While continued funding will always be a goal for them, especially in such a high-volume system with an ever-decreasing base of federal funding, this partnership will continue to uphold the priority of customized service and the inclusion of people with disabilities in the One-Stop service system.

Mental Health and the Department of Rehabilitative Services

One of the project's key goals for sustainability rests with the development of a contract between project partners, the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services and the Fairfax County Community Services Mental Health Services. The contract would make provisions for OneSource (the One-Stop operated by the Department of Family Services) to be a vendor of services. Current partnerships would remain in place to provide a level of service necessary to maintain service quality standards.

Staff Training and Competency

In addition to systemic collaboration between the One-Stop and its partners, the workforce development area in which this project takes place employs a unique tool and policy for staff development. Using a detailed list of expected competencies based primarily on the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals (NAWDP) list, further broken down into numerous discreet skills, the NVWIB certifies each One-Stop staff person's competencies and knowledge as part of the overall One Stop certification process (click here for more information). This attempt to guarantee a basic skill level for all One-Stop staff persons, as well as specific knowledge for specialists of various types, is a significant best practice.

Building on this practice, the Customized Employment Project has reviewed the competencies to ensure that they are supportive of the priorities of customized service and service to individuals with significant barriers to employment. In addition, the National Center on Workforce and Disability (NCWD) has also suggested alterations and additions to the competencies based on documented universal strategies.

Lastly, the project and its partners are studying individual and systemic motivation. They are asking what drives the system and its representatives to serve people with disabilities and other individuals with significant barriers to employment, as well as what motivates various systems to collaborate with these services? Specifically formulated interactions and referrals between DRS and the One-Stop have been created to begin to answer these questions and to create incentives for cross-agency services.

Blended and Braided Funding

The project has spearheaded an effort by multiple agencies to create a mechanism for blended and braided funding. While that effort continues, and will continue beyond the life of the grant, the findings of interest thus far reported are:

Barriers to Blend and Braided Self-Directed Accounts

  1. Audit controls do not permit commingling of funds intended for specific categorical programs.
  2. Service definitions and cost limits prevent more flexible funding options.
  3. Eligibility requirements are different for Medicaid, Mental Health services, and MR/DD programs.
  4. Funding cycles and reporting periods are different among public authorities and that would require different reporting periods.
  5. Eligibility criteria for service providers differ by public authority.
  6. Individual budget cost calculations will differ by public authority.
  7. A person-centered planning process used by each agency is not always geared toward employment.
  8. There are concerns about ensuring that individual have informed decision-making and protection from the potential for abuse of consumers by unlicensed providers.

Facilitators to Blended and Braided Self-Directed Accounts

  1. Resources are limited and being reduced. Improved coordination among public authorities could improve efficiency and effectiveness.
  2. There are gaps in the ability to meet the support needs of the target audience. Partners could combine or coordinate needed resources to fill the gaps.
  3. Consumer satisfaction might improve as a result of one plan and one budget for each individual.
  4. There is no prohibition in the rules or guidelines that would prevent a braided account as long as we could still identify an audit trail for dollars related to a specific expense.
  5. There might be cost savings from such an approach through the elimination of duplicate administrative processes.
  6. There is a growing expectation on the part of consumers and their families of being more involved in the decision-making process. A self-directed account with appropriate safeguards and controls could fulfill that expectation.

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