Home > Uncategorized > DDS numbers show pre-COVID drop in mainstream employment of DDS clients

DDS numbers show pre-COVID drop in mainstream employment of DDS clients

Despite continuing clams by the state that people with developmental disabilities are finding jobs and thriving in the mainstream workforce, newly provided state data show a steep drop in “supported” or “integrated employment” for those persons as of early 2020.

A comparison of the new data from the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) with data previously available from the Department reveals a 53% drop-off in “group and individual supported employment” between October 2019 and February 2020. (See graph below)

As the graph shows, the employment numbers actually rebounded a little bit as of November 2020, which was during the COVID period, but then dropped again as of February 2021.

DDS Individual and Group employment totals

Source: DDS

The employment numbers starting from November 2019 were provided by DDS to COFAR on March 9 in response to a Public Records Request. The previous numbers from June 2014 through October 2019 are from an online DDS December 2019 “Employment First Progress Report.” 

The drop in the number of DDS clients in “individual and group supported employment” positions is prior to the COVID crisis, so COVID-19 and its impact could not be the cause.

The DDS data raise further questions about the state’s claims in closing all sheltered workshops as of 2016 that DDS clients would find better and more fulfilling work opportunities in the mainstream workforce.

Baker administration officials since 2016 have attempted to put a positive spin on the situation, with then DDS Commissioner Elin Howe maintaining that year that “there are now more people working in individual jobs in the community than ever before.” But even then, it appeared the administration was gaming the numbers.

The DDS 2019 “Employment First Progress Report” continued to try to cast mainstream employment prospects for developmentally disabled persons in the most positive light. While recognizing a “difficulty in obtaining job opportunities for individuals with more significant disabilities,” the progress report nevertheless touted:

An increase in the total number of individuals now employed, earning minimum wage or higher, and receiving the same benefits as other employees;

An increase in the number of individuals earning minimum wage or higher in small Group-Supported employment services to 71%; and

Continued evolution of Community-Based Day Support programs that support individuals on their pathway to future employment via skill-building and other meaningful activities.

But COFAR and a number of family members have pointed out that what actually occurred in the wake of the closures of the sheltered workshops was the transfer of thousands of clients to day programs where there was little or nothing for them to do.  It appeared early on that the numbers of available job opportunities in “integrated” or or mainstream settings was extremely limited.

DDS does not yet appear to have published a further progress report on integrated employment since the December 2019 report.

DDS day programs continue to draw clients, but more than a third began attending remotely

As we have previously noted, the numbers of Massachusetts DDS clients placed in Community-Based Day and Work (CBDW) programs since the closures of the sheltered workshops has outpaced the number of clients who have been given integrated employment opportunities.

The newly provided data from DDS show a 22% drop in overall CBDW participation during the initial months of the COVID crisis — from February 2020 through November 2020. But the numbers began to rise after that; and as of February of this year, the number of day program participants hit an all-time high of 7,569 clients.

DDS CBDW program totals

Source: DDS

Nevertheless, the COVID crisis resulted in a major shift to remote attendance in the day programs via platforms such as Zoom. As of November 2020, 36% of day program clients were attending remotely only, according to the March 9 DDS data. DDS did not provide figures after November 2020 on the number attending remotely.

Due to that remote attendance rate, CBDW programs are now being subjected to proposed funding cuts by Governor Baker in his Fiscal Year 2022 budget.

That is apparently further bad news for integrated employment prospects because the CBDW line item in the DDS budget is used, in part, to fund job skills training and other activities to help DDS clients make the transition to the mainstream workforce.

No response from Commissioner Ryder

On March 16, I sent an email query to DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder, asking for a comment on the apparent drop in client participation in integrated employment, and for her assessment of possible reasons for it. Ryder so far has not responded to my request.

DDS said it does not possess records relating to the future of CBDW programs

In its March 9 response to our Public Records Request, DDS stated that the Department does not possess any records concerning projections of the number of clients who will be enrolled in CBDW programs in FY22 and beyond, or concerning the number of such programs that will exist, the financial viability of such programs, or the number of clients who will attend remotely.

One question the DDS response leaves us with is whether it implies that DDS does not engage in planning regarding CBDW programming.

Need is greater than ever for work opportunities in day programs

It seems clear that the administration’s integrated employment promises for persons with developmental disabilities were not being realized even prior to the COVID crisis.

Recognizing that problem, we had supported a bill in 2019 (H.88), which would have required that meaningful work activities be provided in CBDW programs themselves. Unfortunately, the language in the bill was subsequently replaced by the Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee with language establishing yet another Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

What the latest DDS data confirms, in our view, is that the administration and Legislature need to rethink the ideology that led to the closures of the sheltered workshops, and take substantive action to provide work opportunities to people with developmental disabilities.

  1. tom rickels
    March 25, 2021 at 11:54 am

    Great work Dave. At least in Ohio, the administration has finally admitted that not everyone is going to get employed and they are not looking at eliminating any current options (including 14c) until there are other options and/or funding available.

    Like

  2. Nancy Crockett
    March 25, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    Sheltered workshops should be of a continuum of opportunity for our people. Thanks for all your attention to these issues, Dave. It is much appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Medeiros
    March 25, 2021 at 2:25 pm

    It would be such an injustice to have the Day Programs & Sheltered Workshops unavailable for those developmentally disabled and who have benefitted so much in their socialization and learning skills in the past years. And also those that will need it in the future. I am so grateful and appreciate so much what you and others are doing to help our children.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Phaneuf
    March 25, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    Thank you for shining light on this alarming issue that will adversely affect our loved ones quality of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sara
    March 26, 2021 at 10:45 am

    One of my fears is the closure of the Adult Day Programs that my sister attends daily and benefits so much from. Should they decide to shut-down she’ll be so lost. For these young adults possibly having to adapt to a different daily routine is overwhelming to them. When DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder doesn’t advocate for these kids it signals to me that something is afoot.

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