November Update on Employment and Community First CHOICES

By Janet Shouse

About the Author

Shannon Nehus has more than 25 years of experience working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In September, she became the IDD program director for the Division of TennCare in Long Term Services and Supports.   Prior to that, she was the executive director of Waves Inc. in Franklin, TN, providing supports to children and adults with IDD through a vision of an inclusive community where everyone works, learns and plays together.  She has a Master of Science degree in educational psychology from Tennessee Tech University and lives in Lebanon with her husband of 30 years.  She and Tim have three children, twin 14-year-olds, a 23-year-old son and a daughter-in-law.

Our hope is that this blog will offer information you want to know, so if you have a question you want answered about employment for people with disabilities or other mysteries of the world of work, please email me at janet.shouse@vanderbilt.edu.

One of the things that I get to do in my role with the TennesseeWorks Partnership is to attend the meetings of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Employment First Task Force. These meetings are an opportunity for key members of various state departments and organizations that are focused on improving the employment landscape for people with disabilities to learn what’s going on around Tennessee. These meetings help break down the “silos” that have often existed among various agencies and departments, and they offer an opportunity to network and share information.

The Task Force met recently, and Shannon Nehus, (pronounced Neigh-Hoos) the new IDD long term care program director in TennCare’s division of Long Term Services and Supports, provided an update on the Employment and Community First CHOICES program. As always, my ears pricked up, and I asked if I could share this information. Shannon was kind enough to say yes. These numbers were compiled on Nov. 13, 2017.

As many of you know, ECF CHOICES began on July 1, 2016, with 1,700 slots available. The Tennessee General Assembly provided funding for an additional 1,000 slots, starting July 1, 2017. The numbers below show that word is getting out about this waiver program, and they demonstrate the great need for these supports and services.

“The ECF CHOICES program provides people with IDD the supports they need to live a full life in their local community,” Shannon said. “While employment is considered an anchor in a full and meaningful life, the ECF program includes many other services that support community living, community involvement and valued community participation.”

Participation in Employment and Community First CHOICES has increased to a total of 2,092 individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities enrolled as of Nov. 13, 2017.

  • This number represents 77% of program capacity available during the first two years of program operation (July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018)
  • Enrollment increased 36% during the first quarter of fiscal year 2017-2018 (July to September)
  • 91% of new enrollees come into the program through one of the seven employment-related priority groups (these groups include individuals who have a job but need supports to keep the job, students transitioning out of high school who want to work, individuals who have lost a job and need supports to find a new one)
  • At the end of September, 276 slots were being held for individuals who were in the in-take process who were expected to enroll
  • Total of 360 slots (13% of total program slots) still available through June 30, 2018:
    • Group 4 – Essential Family Supports – has 28 slots. (This group is primarily for children under 21, but can include adults who are still living with family.)
    • Group 5 – Essential Supports for Employment and Independent Living – has 274 slots. (This group is for those over 18, including young adults aging out of school to support transition into employment and independent community living.)
    • Group 6 – Comprehensive Supports for Employment and Community Living – has 58 slots. (This group is mainly those over 21 who have more intense needs and need more support to help them achieve employment and community living goals.)
  • Of the 2,092 individuals enrolled:
    • One-third are from the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities’ previous waiting list.
    • Two-thirds are new referrals.
    • 16 individuals are transitioning from the Department of Children’s Services.
    • 183 individuals came in through reserve capacity slots. (These slots go to individuals whose caregivers are 75 years old or older; those in “emergent” situations, such as when a caregiver has died or become incapacitated or when an individual’s behavior becomes a threat to himself or others; and those with multiple, complex health conditions and significant needs for support.)
    • As of July 1, 2017, reserve capacity slots were increased from 200 to 350.
  • More than 20% of working-age enrollees are working in competitive integrated employment. (This number represents 5.1% growth in the number of individuals working in competitive integrated employment from July to September. Most states never achieve this amount of growth on annual basis, let alone a quarterly basis.)
    • 1,120 working-age members (ages 22-62)
    • Average wages are $8.44 an hour
    • Average hours worked are 16.5 per week
    • More than 150 individuals who did not think they wanted to work completed an Exploration process to make an informed choice about working, and 93% have chosen to pursue employment after completing Exploration
  • Ninety individuals are receiving residential supports
    • 27% of these individuals receiving the highest intensity of service for exceptional medical or behavioral needs
  • The three managed care organizations implementing Employment and Community First CHOICES:
    • Have an average of 69 service providers participating in the program
    • 96.5% of program enrollees have services initiated in a timely manner after the initial post-enrollment assessment and person-centered support planning process

As you can see, ECF CHOICES has experienced a great deal of growth in just 16 months of existence. As you can also see, there are very few slots remaining for folks to enroll. I would encourage you, if you or someone you care about needs the kinds of long-term supports and services that the ECF CHOICES program offers, to go ahead apply as soon as possible.

“I am excited about the success of the ECF program, the number of people that we have been able to serve in less than a year and a half, and the opportunities that are available through the program,” Shannon said. “If a person or a family thinks the program might be helpful, it is important to complete an online self-referral form.”

Here’s where to apply:

https://tcreq.tn.gov/tmtrack/ecf/index.htm

For more information about the program: www.tn.gov/tenncare/topic/employment-and-community-first-choices

If you have questions about ECF CHOICES or the numbers above, please email me at janet.shouse@vanderbilt.edu. I’m happy to look for answers.

And by way of introduction, Shannon Nehus has more than 25 years of experience working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  In September, she became the IDD program director for the Division of TennCare in Long Term Services and Supports.   Prior to that, she was the executive director of Waves Inc. in Franklin, TN, providing supports to children and adults with IDD through a vision of an inclusive community where everyone works, learns and plays together.  She has a Master of Science degree in educational psychology from Tennessee Tech University and lives in Lebanon with her husband of 30 years.  She and Tim have three children, twin 14-year-olds, a 23-year-old son and a daughter-in-law.

My thanks to Shannon for sharing this information!

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