|Mary Durheim, Chair
Andrew D. Crim, Vice Chair
Beth Stalvey, MPH, Ph.D., Executive Director
|6201 E. Oltorf, Suite 600
Austin, TX 78741-7509
|Phone: (512) 437-5432
Toll-Free: (800) 262-0334
Fax: (512) 437-5434
House Intergovernmental Relations & Economic Development Committee
Public Testimony on House Bill 3916
April 23, 2019
Hello, my name is Ashley Ford and I am a Public Policy and Communications Specialist with the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD). TCDD is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 Governor-appointed board members, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.
In 2013, Government Code §531.02447 established an Employment First policy for the State of Texas. As the name suggests, Employment First promotes the expectation that individuals with disabilities who want to work can obtain competitive integrated employment at a living wage in the general workforce. Employment first also recognizes that individuals with disabilities are valued members of the workforce, able to meet the same employment standards, responsibilities, and expectations as other working-age adults (Texas Government Code, §531.02448(a)) when provided the proper education, guidance, and long-term supports.
In support of this principle, TCDD has adopted position statements on employment and service coordination, and included Employment First as one of its 2019 Public Policy Priorities. TCDD finds HB 3916 to be in alignment with these efforts, and a meaningful way to advance the state’s Employment First policy from words into action.
Employment offers an important point of entry into community life, a sense of being valued, wages and job benefits that promote independence, friends and social connections. TCDD recognizes employment as the great equalizer, in that it offers people with disabilities the opportunity to defeat the social and economic disparities that stem from historic segregation and isolation.
Regrettably, Texas has struggled to offer these opportunities. Only ten percent of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in Texas’ Medicaid programs earn a living wage through competitive employment in the general workforce,1 while 44 percent of unemployed adults with IDD in these programs want to work.2 Just five percent of Texans with IDD who receive day and employment services through Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) currently receive integrated employment services.3 This actually represents a decline from the twenty percent of this population that received integrated employment services in 2001.4 This clearly indicates that Texas can and must do better, and HB 3916 provides a roadmap to help the state move forward.
It is reasonable to suggest that inadequate monitoring and reporting has hindered past employment efforts. With this in mind, TCDD appreciates the bill’s inclusion of Section 531.02448(e), which provides that Texas decision-makers will regularly receive a written report outlining the number of people who are receiving employment services and the number of people who have obtained competitive and integrated employment. This routine documentation will provide updates on the status of Employment First initiatives, ensure that employment assessments are being implemented as intended, and better facilitate effective policy decisions.
Expectations matter, and as far as the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities is concerned, all Texans with disabilities who want to work can earn a living wage in the general workforce when offered the opportunity and individualized supports and employment services to do so. Each new step to further realize the Employment First policy of the state makes an important contribution to raising expectations, improving outcomes, and increasing the self-sufficiency of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Please feel free to contact TCDD for additional information or if we can be of additional service.
Public Policy and Communications Specialist
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
1. Department of Aging and Disability Services. (2017). Long-Term Services and Supports Quality Review Biennial Detailed Report 2017. Retrieved from: https://hhs.texas.gov/sites/default/files/documents/laws-regulations/reports-presentations/2018/ltss-quality-review-biennial-detailed-report-2017.pdf.
3. National Survey of State IDD Agency Day and Employment Services. Retrieved from: https://www.statedata.info/statepages/Texas.
4. Butterworth, J., Smith, F., A., Hall, A.C., Migliore, A., Winsor, J., Domin, D., Sulewski, J. (2013). StateData: The national report on employment services and outcomes. Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Boston, Institute for Community Inclusion.