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October 10, 2008    DOL Home > ODEP > New Freedom Initiative > Circle of Champions - 2007   

Information Exchange - April 17, 2007

Welcome - Shirley Davis, Ph. D., Director of Diversity, SHRM

  • SHRM is partnering with ODEP through an Alliance signed on October 26, 2006.
  • Initiatives include co-sponsoring a job shadowing day; celebrating National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM) with various activities including web casts; development of a tool kit; embarking on a national dialogue
  • There will be a lunch and learn session for summer interns

Opening Remarks - W. Roy Grizzard, Ed. D., former Assistant Secretary, ODEP

  • As the country mourns the death of the students on the Virginia Tech campus, we are here to provide opportunities for those young people who survived and will experience disability and for all those around the country who despite tragedies and injuries will go on.
  • From a business model standpoint we have a responsibility to ignite the flame of that spirit.
  • What we do impacts the lives of Americans with disabilities in a real way.

Report - Loretta Herrington, Special Assistant, ODEP

  • The National Dialogue suggested during the October meeting is being planned with SHRM under the Alliance agreement.
  • A list of presenters is currently under development for the Speakers Bureau; several members have provided names and topics and all are encouraged to contribute.
  • The on line tool kit is under development, and Julie Clark, Supervisory Policy Advisor, Employer Policy Team, presented the basic framework. The content includes information on recruiting, hiring, on-the-job issues, retention and return to work. Clark presented the Hiring Process chapter.
  • The Bureau of Labor and Statistics will in 2008 include people with disabilities in their monthly labor numbers.
  • The arts community, informed by ODEP's policy staff's work with the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian and NEA, is now expanding its focus from the customers with disabilities to employees with disabilities.
  • Preparing our returning wounded and injured veterans so as to ease their transition back to work, ODEP's policy staff, in collaboration with VETS, have helped establish a demonstration project with Cisco Systems and DoD to train veterans with disabilities at the Balboa Medical center so that they may receive IT certification and real hope for employment.


"Leveraging the Talents of Employees with Significant Disabilities in the Health Care Industry" by Susan Franer, Clinical Program Manager, Project SEARCH, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (Note: This model was developed by the employer, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, to address the pervasive problem of job turnover)

  • Project SEARCH is an innovative, business driven model built on collaboration among business, education and rehabilitation services that meets the employment needs of the business/employer as well as individuals with cognitive and/or physical disabilities.
  • The Project SEARCH model of high school transition immerses students 18 years and older in an actual business setting where the students rotate through 3 - 4 unpaid internships, learning essential employability skills that prepare them for competitive employment.
  • The Project SEARCH support staff remains stable and is fully integrated into the hospital environment. Stable on-the-job support staff is critical to program success allowing for solid relationships to form between hospital and support staff.
  • The 2006 employment rate for students in the Project SEARCH High School Transition Program attained an 84% hire rate.
  • Project SEARCH at Cincinnati Children's has a 3% target goal of representation of employees with disabilities.
  • Senior Management at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, including Chairman of the Board, Lee Carter, and Senior Vice President for Patient Services, Cheryl Hoying, Ph.D., RN, is totally supportive of the program. In preparation for program expansion, they will be conducting focus groups with other senior management.
  • The success of the model has built momentum for program replication nationally and internationally with a total of 77 replication sites currently under development.

"Connecting Behavioral Health, Disabilities and Return to Work" by Caren Kittredge, Head of Disability Products, Aetna, Inc

  • Aetna's clinical return to work program model is embedded in the Disability Insurance Business Claim Management process.
  • Employees who go out on disability leave generally not only want to return to functionality and get back to work but need to get back to work.
  • Aetna's integrated health and disability program connects disability and return to work with medical coverage and works mental health into the entire spectrum of services.
  • Aetna's research showed that for certain diagnoses, when there is a mental health co-morbidity, there is longer time away from work due to disability.
  • Employees with depression and a physical illness have higher healthcare costs than those with a physical illness alone.
  • 26% of the population has a mental health disorder.
  • Employer cost of depression is $44 billion per year in lost productive time, based on 5.6 hours per week.
  • All programs, including Disability, Health, EAP, Disease Management and Case Management, can have impact across the continuum of care.
  • Disability industry research shows the longer a person is out on leave, the harder it is to return.
  • Some Aetna Focus group interviews showed that after 35 days, an employee can start to become disassociated from the workplace.
  • An issue facing employers is the comfort level of what interactions are allowable under the law when an employee is on disability and the corporate culture fostering interactions with the employee who is out.
  • It is important that the person returns to work when it is safe and appropriate, sometimes an early return can lead to additional time away from work.
  • There are direct and indirect health care and disability costs associated with mental disorders.
  • A successful return to work program results in a significant financial benefit for both the employer and the employee.
  • Resources available to employers include EAP/Behavioral Health Programs, Wellness Programs, Disease Management Programs, On-line tools (e.g., financial calculators, child care locators, Medicare interactive tools), On-site and on-line seminars (e.g. child and elder care, stress and debt management), 24-hour Health Information Line, Health Risk Assessments & Depression Screening, and Articles on company websites targeting education on depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

"Mentoring: It's Not Just One Day" by Karen Quammen, Senior Policy Analyst, Pathways to Employment, Minnesota Governor's Workforce Development Council

  • Medtronic first participated in Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) in January 2004. They hosted 80 students for a career exploration day during which Dr. Grizzard keynoted, tours were given, presentations were shared and one-on-one matches were made
  • In the fall of 2004, 100 students and 100 mentors participated, and 10 Minnesota companies and government agencies joined with Medtronic to host a second career fair
  • In 2005, Medtronic formed a partnership with the University of Minnesota to match 8 university students with 8 Medtronic employees in a pilot mentoring program
  • A luncheon with the founder of Medtronic was arranged for the 8 students and their mentors during which the founder asked the students to tell him their dreams for their futures, a question that no one had ever asked them
  • A Career Fair was held in 2005 with 300 students participating and 20 employers and government agencies exhibiting
  • In 2006, a formal Medtronic mentoring program was established and 15 University students participated; the mentoring program resulted in successful internships and hires
  • Medtronic appreciates long-term mentoring as a pipeline for recruitment
  • In 2006, the USBLN Annual Conference was held in Minneapolis with Medtronic as the lead corporate sponsor
  • During the 2006 Conference, the USBLN assumed leadership for the Career Fair, where 600 students participated and 42 employers and government agencies exhibited
  • Using DMD as a launch event for companies is a comfortable way for new companies to become involved; it builds champions

Policy Discussion


  • Research & Metrics enhance the business case
  • Demographic data on disability is important in planning workplace benefits
  • It is important that diversity departments provide their corporate leadership with costs and benefits for programs that target specific populations, e.g. how many hires from participating in a job fair that targets job seekers with disabilities

Aging Workforce

  • Resources are needed to address issues around the aging workforce
  • ODEP has been involved in the ETA Task Force on the aging workforce
  • Highmark sees this as a major issue for them and has implemented strategies such as job accommodations, reduced hours, job sharing, part time work and temporary positions for specific tasks
  • Comprehensive workplace planning is important
  • Best Buy has developed the ROWE program that focuses on flexibility and home life balance that is a benefit for both the aging workforce and the new workforce
  • At issue is a program that is embraced at the corporate headquarters level may be more of a challenge to implement at the branch or retail level
  • To retain aging and disabled employees, analyze the reasons that cause them to retire early, and then integrate strategies that mitigate the causes into the benefits program
  • Employees who develop conditions that result in difficulty using their equipment often leave the job pre-maturely. These are employees who may either not self-identify or do not meet the definition of a person with a disability
  • The whole aspect of universal design is critical
  • Manpower conducted an international study and published a White Paper on the aging workforce

Overlaying Race & Cultural Issues

  • Julie Clark will provide references for additional resources.
  • Joyce Bender volunteered to share a paper she has on minorities with disabilities
  • Susan Mazrui provided the website address for the World Institute on Disabilities Proyecto Vision's project
  • Disability needs to be a formal part of diversity within the same training programs at all levels

Veterans Outreach

  • Susan Parker provided an update on DOL's Recovery and Employment Assistance Lifelines (REALifelines) program
  • Secretary Elaine Chao officially launched REALifelines on October 4, 2004 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center
  • The program provides wounded and injured service members and their families with personal assistance to successfully transition to civilian life and to prepare for rewarding careers
  • REALifelines personnel are now located at 7 military medical facilities
  • There is a high incidence of PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) among returning service members
  • Approximately 40% of America's Chronically Homeless are veterans
  • ODEP has partnered with Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Labor's Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and Labor's Veterans' and Employment Services (VETS) on the Chronic Homeless employment initiative with a goal to eradicate chronic homelessness by 2012
  • Work is essential in the recovery process for the injured and wounded returning service members
  • ODEP is providing guidance on mental health issues for several government-wide initiatives
  • On May 10, a new pilot project will be launched, the Transition Training Academy, at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, CA
  • The Academy is a pilot project designed for replication at medical hold centers; it is a joint effort of Cisco Foundation, the Naval Medical Center San Diego, the US Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment & Training Service, and the DOL's Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP), and ODEP's Job Accommodation Network
  • Flexible and individually tailored training for network, computer and software support positions will be provided utilizing class-room instruction, on-line training, e-mails and chat rooms

Areas of Interest

  • Julie Clark reported that NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) is very eager for information on recruiting
  • The Medicaid Infrastructure Grant provides an opportunity for people with disabilities and employers to meet to brainstorm on benefits that would facilitate return to work
  • There is interest in involvement in both the youth mentoring ODEP/SHRM initiative and the Guideposts (Aetna, Project SEARCH, Best Buy)
  • There is interest in the CISCO/Balboa Initiative (Highmark, TecAccess)
  • There is interest in resources and opportunities offered by national provider organizations
  • There is a need for definitions of the terms used to reference new national disability initiatives (e.g. MIG grants)
  • There is interest in corporate outreach efforts to minority and aging populations

Wrap-Up Remarks - Loretta Herrington

  • ODEP focuses on three policy areas: Workforce Systems; Employers and the Workplace; Employment Related Supports
  • Today's discussion meshes with ODEP's policy agenda & the highlights were:
    • Minorities with disabilities
    • Research and Metrics
    • Best Buy's ROWE program
    • Manpower's White Paper on the Aging Workforce
    • Importance of training at all levels
    • Public Private Partnerships & the MIG Grants
    • Mental Health Issues & the Federal Task Force

Closing Remarks - Dr. Grizzard

  • We want a workplace that looks like America.
  • We want a well rounded workplace.
  • We want a job that gives us dignity.
  • It is important that we become part of the workplace environment; that we are not isolated.
  • A fully welcoming and inclusive workplace in all aspects of the work environment will enable you to retain your employees with disabilities.
  • I urge you to honor your community businesses that hire and retain their employees with disabilities by patronizing them with your dollars.
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