Mark Hassemer

Mark Hassemer

Dear Friends of ACT:

Nearly two years ago in March, Medicaid Waiver definitions changed. That changed ACT, too.

Under the new definitions, ACT Works could no longer be a work destination. Now an individual can receive job preparation services for no longer than 24 months.

First, there was confusion. And upset, too. The same State agency that helped create the program now imposed restrictions. We wondered what we were going to do. Almost 60 workers in ACT Works would need to find something new.

As I’ve said here before, the breakthroughs came when we focused on the vision and mission of ACT. We looked at them with fresh eyes and let the words direct our actions.

Our vision and mission say all of our efforts should lead to greater community involvement. As hard as it seemed, that includes work: jobs in the community with competitive wages.

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way

Johnny Nash wrote those lyrics to “I Can See Clearly Now,” his hit song released in 1972 (the year I graduated from high school). (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FscIgtDJFXg) They’ve been ringing in my ear this week as I’ve considered what has come about.

As we come to the end of the first 24-month period, like Johnny sings, we have a better focus. While much work remains to be done, we know what it is that needs to be done. We see the obstacles in our way.

We are finishing the commitments we made to others in the recycling business as we look for someone to take over the business. We are ambitiously working to find jobs for those who stayed in the program, who expressed a desire to work in the community.

Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind

We’ve seen some wonderful successes.

When service definitions changed, one third of those working in ACT Works moved to Community Integration. Half moved to Job Prep, where they develop their skills at volunteer sites around Columbia.

Our partners at volunteer sites in the community where individuals are preparing for jobs are grateful for the work individuals are doing and the commitment they show. They give feedback to the volunteers regularly and involve them in the culture of their workplaces. Relationships are being built.

People in the community are saying their perception of the capabilities of people with disabilities is changing now that they’ve been able to see their skills in action.

Job Prep participants are learning about themselves, like what they like, what they don’t like, what they are good at, and where they need to improve. Several are now able to see themselves in a working environment outside of ACT. Before, this was not something many saw as a possibility. Some have a renewed commitment to being their best as they pursue this goal that is so important to them. They are taking more responsibility and being accountable as they learn not only employment skills, but life skills.

Of the 29 who went on to participate in Job Prep, 8 are now in jobs they competed for in the community, 7 chose not to pursue employment, and 9 are actively seeking employment.

It’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright
Sun-shiny day

When we started down this path, we didn’t know what to expect. Now we do. I can see clearly now that it’s good.

Until next month,

Mark