May 24, 2019

SB 16-077: Utilizing a Collaborative Multi-Agency Approach to Increase Employment Opportunities for Disabled Individuals

On January 19, 2016, Sen. John Kefalas and Reps. Joann Ginal & Dianne Primavera introduced SB 16-077Concerning a Collaborative Multi-Agency Approach to Increasing Competitive Integrated Employment Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities, and, in Connection Therewith, Developing and Implementing an Employment First Policy. The bill was introduced in the Senate Finance Committee, where it was amended and referred to Appropriations.

If enacted, this bill would require the heads of the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing (“HCPF”), the Department of Labor and Employment (“CDLE”), the Department of Education (“CDE”), and the Department of Higher Education (“CDHE”), (referred to in the bill as “Agency Partners”), to develop an employment first policy. This policy would increase competitive integrated employment, as defined in the bill, for people with disabilities.

The bill would require Agency Partners to consult with the Employment First Advisory Board (“Advisory Board”) as part of developing and implementing the employment first policy. At the very least, the employment first policy must do the following:

  • Ensure that Competitive Integrated Employment (“CPI”) is the primary objective for all working-age persons regardless of their disability;
  • Remove any barriers to CPI for persons with disabilities;
  • Rearrange existing resources, if possible, to increase provider capacity through funding incentives;
  • Include provisions relating to post-secondary education planning, career planning, transition planning, employment services, and closing gaps in service;
  • Include provisions for data collection and sharing by Agency Partners to employment and post-secondary education for persons with disabilities, consistent with state and federal data privacy laws;
  • Require professionals, who will provide employment services, to complete a nationally-certified program before being allowed to provide employment services;
  • Establish the employment first policy as part of the State’s plan to address federal case law relating to providing disability services in an integrated setting; and
  • Include a plan for a statewide outreach and training program.

Additionally, each agency is required to implement the program pursuant to its statutory authority if changes relate to Medicaid waivers. Furthermore, the bill will require the Agency Partner’s policy boards to adopt any rules necessary to implement the program. In addition to any other duties under the plan, the HCPF shall:

  • Develop a plan to expand CPI for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities that includes a gradual shift in funding from noncompetitive employment to CPI;
  • Limit pre-vocational services for persons receiving home and community based services to a maximum of two (2) years, with the possibility of an extension for up to three (3) years;
  • Provide persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities who work in segregated employment (or employment paying below minimum wage) with services related to exploring CPI prior to allowing the individual to remain in segregated or low-wage employment;
  • Establish baseline data for CPI and set goals for annual increases in the number of persons in home or community based services who obtain CPI;
  • Develop a plan and implementation timeline to expand the Medicaid buy-in program and develop a plan to raise asset limits for Medicaid eligibility categories that do not have federal limits;
  • Dedicate a full-time staff member to oversee and coordinate employment support through Medicaid waiver programs;
  • Maintain Colorado’s membership in the National Employment Leadership Network for States;
  • Actively participate in the United States Department of Labor’s Employment First State Leadership Mentoring Program (“Federal Mentoring Program”); and
  • Prepare annual reports concerning the employment first policy and its implementation by Agency Partners and present the report to the general assembly for HCPF.

Lastly, in addition to any other duties under the plan, the proposed bill would require the CDLE to:

  • Establish Colorado’s membership in the Federal Mentoring Program;
  • Promote partnerships with employers to overcome hurdles to employment for persons with disabilities;
  • Create a reimbursement code discovery process for persons with significant disabilities;
  • Require workforce centers to promote nondiscrimination and equal opportunities in employment for persons with disabilities through the use of federal reference guides and checklists; and
  • Provide information to HCPF to prepare the annual report on the employment first policy and present the report to the general assembly’s committee of reference for the CDLE.

The bill creates the advisory board in the CDLE, which encompass the State’s advisory group created for purposes of the Federal Mentoring Plan, and will include that group’s membership and duties, along with additional advisory board members and duties. The bill includes the structure of the advisory board, including the advisory board’s membership and appointing authorities. In addition, the bill requires a sunset review of the advisory board by the department of regulatory affairs before the advisory board’s repeal date in 2026.

The bill also encourages the CDE, in conjunction with the Agency Partners, to facilitate, support, and develop programs for students with disabilities relating to school-to-work transitions, early transition planning, and postsecondary education options and career paths. Furthermore, the bill requires the CDE to actively participate in the Federal Mentoring Program to coordinate employment first practices that affect public schools. Finally, the bill requires the CDE to provide information to HCPF to prepare the annual report on the employment first policy and present the report to the general assembly’s committee of reference for the CDE.

In addition to any other duties under the plan, the bill requires the CDHE to collaborate with the CDE concerning policies and programs that support early transition planning, including postsecondary education, the use of assistive technology, and the retention and graduation of students with disabilities attending higher education institutions. The bill also requires the CDHE to actively participate in the Federal Mentoring Program and to coordinate employment first practices in the higher education setting. The CDHE shall provide information to HCPF to prepare the annual report on the employment first policy and present the report to the general assembly’s committee of reference for the CDHE.

The bill would take effect July 1, 2016.

Mark Proust is a 2016 J.D. Candidate at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.

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