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SU's Burton Blatt Institute selected to co-lead implementation of new $12 million New York State Medicaid infrastructure grant

October 26, 2009

Me'Shae Brooks-Rolling
(315) 443-8455

The New York State Office for Mental Health has selected the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University to co-lead an unprecedented comprehensive research, demonstration and capacity-building initiative to advance the employment and economic self-sufficiency of individuals with disabilities statewide.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded funding to New York State to build a sustainable and responsive system of services and supports–with the cooperation of multiple public systems, the business community and community-based groups–that increases opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities to earn a livable wage and become a part of the economic mainstream.

This statewide initiative will build a shared vision across state agencies and employment stakeholders to enhance the skills and capture the talents and contributions of youth and adults with disabilities to be part of an inclusive workforce in response to industry needs. Program capacity will be expanded to help people with disabilities obtain jobs, become small business entrepreneurs, take advantage of work incentives and the Medicaid Buy-In program, and plan for a better economic future. The project will offer statewide and regional learning communities an annual employment summit and create new curricula and materials for broad-based dissemination and adoption of promising practices.

Over the two-year period of the project, a new level of relationship is anticipated to be developed between employers and the disability community, as well as a new set of expectations about work and economic stability and growth for thousands of individuals with disabilities who want to reduce dependence on government benefits and increase choices in their level and scope of community participation.

“New York State has a tremendous and historic opportunity to improve the almost 70 percent unemployment rate of New Yorkers with disabilities,” says BBI Chairman Peter Blanck. “BBI is pleased to provide its expertise and leadership under a two-year, $2.5 million per year contract to help shape attitudes, knowledge, policy and practice that demonstrate that having a disability does not mean you cannot have a job, a career, own a business or escape poverty. This project helps fulfill Dr. Blatt’s vision of a life in the community for everyone and Syracuse University’s commitment to an inclusive society.”

The project will be led by BBI Chief Executive Officer Michael Morris and Managing Director for Program Development Gary Shaheen as co-principal investigators, and it will involve BBI staff from both its Syracuse and Washington, D.C., offices as well as a broad array of partners, including the Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell University, the Governor’s Most Integrated Settings Council Employment Subcommittee, leaders of seven New York State agencies, the Whitman School of Management, and other state and community partners.

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