Frankie is a 21-year-old man who lives in Haworth, Oklahoma. His interests include rescuing animals and caring for his 11 dogs. Frankie is also active in his local church and has many friends. In 2006, right after graduating from high school, Frankie began working full-time at McCurtain Farm Supply and Ranch, a feed store where he and his family were customers. At the feed store, his work duties included stocking merchandise, caring for plants and animals, and assisting customers. Because of his positive attitude and hard work ethic, Frankie was a valued employee. For his first year at this job, Frankie received on-the-job supports directly from his employer, who was reimbursed for the supports through Oklahoma's Contracts with Industry program, an innovative funding practice that is highlighted in this article.
Unfortunately, in 2008, the feed store was to go out of business. Upon learning that his job at the feed store was ending, Frankie did not waste any time finding a new job. The City of Idabel's municipal office was across the street from the feed store and Frankie often visited to socialize during his lunchtime. Through some of his friends at the municipal office, Frankie learned of a maintenance job opening. After an interview with the Mayor of Idabel, Michael Shinn, Frankie was hired as a municipal employee for the city, where he remains an employee today.
With the help of his service coordinator at the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) Developmental Disabilities Services Division (DDSD), Frankie was able to offer the City of Idabel reimbursement for 12 months of on-the-job supports through the Contracts with Industry program. The program allows the DDSD to contract directly with businesses to provide job coaching supports that become a natural part of the workplace. His service coordinator and job developer presented the program to the City of Idabel at Frankie's job interview. Mr. Shinn, the Mayor, heard of Frankie's hard work as an employee at the feed store and was willing to employ him at the City through the Contracts program.
After Frankie's interview, his job developer worked with the city to review the details of their contract and to designate a specific employee of the City of Idabel to provide the job supports to Frankie. That designated person was then instructed on how to tailor supports to Frankie's needs and to document the number of hours of supports they provided. Under the contract, the employer was reimbursed at an hourly rate for supports provided to Frankie during his first six months on the job. During Frankie's second six months on the job, the employer is reimbursed at a lower hourly rate. With the help of Frankie's case manager, the City of Idabel files for their reimbursements through a monthly claim to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Frankie is currently finishing his second six months of supports at the reduced reimbursement rate. Though his supports through the program are to end soon, Frankie will continue in his job with the City. Use of the Contracts with Industry program has been invaluable, as Frankie would have otherwise had to rely on a job coach traveling long distances in their rural setting.
Frankie works from 6:30 in the morning to 3:30 in the afternoon every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Since he resides in a rural area, where public transportation is not an option, Frankie is dropped off and picked up from work by his foster mom, who is reimbursed for mileage by the DDSD. Frankie works in a variety of capacities for the City of Idabel, from collecting trash on residential routes and maintaining vehicles for the police department to mechanical work and landscaping city-owned properties. Frankie's range of duties is a deliberate way to enhance his skills in many different areas. Frankie reports that he is getting to know his job responsibilities and that he enjoys working with his supervisor and spends a lot of his hard-earned money on food for his dogs.
- Contracting directly with an employer for on the job supports was efficient and also helped establish supports in the natural work setting that would continue after the reimbursements end.
- Personal relationships and networks are a powerful tool for identifying employment opportunities. Frankie's experience illustrates the importance of continuing to build relationships beyond initial job acquisition.
- Although the Contracts with Industry program is a unique funding opportunity within Oklahoma, there are other innovative ways to use funds for creating employment opportunities. For example, the PASS Plan from the Social Security Administration provide funds to purchase job related equipment or start a small business. Vocational Rehabilitation can purchase skill training, capital equipment, vehicle repairs and insurance, work clothes, adaptive equipment, and computers. Many community rehabilitation programs can use general fund dollars to purchase a wide range of tools to make employment successful.
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