Developmental disability agencies and employers discuss new regulations

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COLUMBIA- The Arc of Missouri held a conference Wednesday to educate advocates, agencies, families and the public on employment for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

"Employment: The Landscape has Changed" was held at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center and focused on how Missouri employment programs for individuals with IDD are affected by changes in federal regulations and guidelines. Some of the laws and regulations mentioned included Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) and the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Final Rule.

Chuck Reade, manager of the Nixa Sheltered Workshop, said he learned he's not alone in the challenge to find jobs for his developmentally disabled clients.

"There's other facilities in the state of Missouri that have the same challenges that I do, and that is to find employment opportunities, different employment opportunities," Reade said.

The Arc of Missouri is the only statewide organization to advocate for those with mental and developmental disabilities.

President Ed Thomas said the conference is a chance for people to learn about the regulations that benefit, rather than stop, the progress of IDD employment.

"It's about the quality of choice and the ability to chose," Thomas said. "Once we've eliminated those burdens, it actually opens up doors people never thought they could go through."

The HCBS Final Rule is a piece of legislation that greatly impacts Missouri agencies that provide IDD employment because it "provides 60 percent of the funding in the state of Missouri for those individuals are receiving support systems," Thomas said.

According to a national survey of state IDD agency day and employment services in 2014, Missouri had a 12 percent participation rate in integrated employment. The national average was 19 percent.

Despite those numbers, Thomas said there's a "great deal of effort on the local level."

"Even the local shelter workshops are very progressive and they're taking the appropriate steps to make sure that people's choices are recognized," he said.