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DSHS unit eliminates vocational rehabilitation waiting list

For Immediate Release: March 3, 2008

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today thanked employees of a division of the state Department of Social and Health Services for steps they took to eliminate a lengthy waiting list of disabled people needing employment or vocational training in our state.

The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation used cost-cutting measures, new service-delivery approaches and partnerships with other community service programs to slash the waiting list from a peak of 12,250 individuals to zero since January 2007.

“This is an innovative approach to problem solving that gets things done,” Gregoire said during a ceremony honoring the DSHS workers or those with disabilities. “It’s government delivering services efficiently and effectively.”

The news accompanies today’s announcement that Washington state earned a prestigious A- ranking by The Pew Center on the States for its performance in managing public resources. Washington tied with two other states, Utah and Virginia, for first place. The three were the only to earn A- grades in the “Grading the States 2008” 50-state report card published by Pew in partnership with Governing Magazine.

Gregoire said for many people with disabilities, enrollment in job training programs can be an entry to life-changing opportunities and greater independence. The demand for these challenging programs has been so great that, in the past, the wait for placement has spanned months or even years, depending on the person’s location and level of disability.

In 2007, 1,831 individuals with disabilities were placed in productive jobs where they moved toward self-sufficiency, paid taxes and contributed to the productivity and resilience of the economy.

It is estimated that these individuals, on average, will:

  • Increase their earnings by 80 percent;

  • Pay back the cost of their rehabilitation services through taxes paid in just two to four years; and

  • Save the public $5 in reduced social service spending for every vocational rehabilitation dollar spent.

“We have a team who are dedicated to empowering our clients,” said DVR Director Lynnae Ruttledge. “Regardless of the severity of your disability, when you are determined eligible, you’ll be able to benefit from counseling and guidance, assessments, career exploration and services to help you become employed.”

Whether it is an adult rebuilding a life and career after a devastating accident or illness or a young person embarking on the job market for the first time, individuals with disabilities often face significant employment barriers.