Posted in the Providence Journal (January 15, 2014)
Thousands of Rhode Islanders with disabilities are “unnecessarily segregated” in state-licensed day programs and so-called sheltered workshops — some for decades — in violation of federal civil rights laws, a U.S. Department of Justice investigation has found.
The report released earlier this month — building on a probe launched a year ago by the department’s civil rights division — is a scathing indictment of operations at the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), which is responsible for providing employment, vocational and day services to about 3,600 adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The 32-page report charges that disabled adults who are entirely capable of working in the community were steered instead into close to 40 state-licensed day programs, including seven “sheltered” workshops, where they performed rote tasks for about $2.21 per hour.
The state’s job developers and other employment specialists have no state certification, the report said, and no “effective financial incentive” to encourage disabled adults in sheltered workshops to move into integrated services.
The report also calls into question the assessments of these disabled adults’ abilities, saying the department staff who performed them have a “seeming conflict of interest” between satisfying departmental budget concerns and the needs of their clients.
The report says the problem of segregation often begins when disabled students leave school. Investigators found that only 5 percent of youth with disabilities who left secondary schools in Rhode Island between 2010 and 2012 move into jobs in integrated settings; most go into sheltered workshops of facility-based day programs.