ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Community Calendar

RI Blood Drive
3 p.m. - 6 p.m. Westerly

RI Blood Drive
3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. Wyoming

Outdoor Summer Concert
4 p.m. - 5 p.m. Westerly

Brain Preserver Workshop
4:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. Westerly

Sunset Concert Series
6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Watch Hill

Chess Club
6 p.m. - 7:45 p.m. Westerly

Watch Hill Sunset Concert
6 p.m. - 8 p.m. Watch Hill

Almost a Full Moon Paddle
7:30 p.m. - 9 p.m. Hope Valley

RI Blood Drive
9 a.m. - Noon Westerly

... View all of today's events


Stay Connected


ADVERTISEMENT


Rhode Island to improve jobs for mentally disabled


PROVIDENCE — Residents with mental disabilities would no longer be forced to work long hours doing manual labor for little money and instead would be given the chance at regular employment that pays at least the minimum wage under a settlement announced today.

The U.S. Department of Justice and Rhode Island entered into a court-ordered consent decree that will require a gradual but dramatic overhaul of employment services to the mentally disabled, officials said. The agreement, which the Justice Department says is the first statewide settlement of its kind, covers about 3,250 people.

The settlement resolves allegations that the state has violated the American with Disabilities Act for years by placing residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities in segregated centers, called “sheltered workshops.” In the workshops, disabled Rhode Islanders who rely on state services had minimal contact with the broader community and were assigned tasks such as unwrapping bars of soap or putting tops on lotion bottles, the Justice Department said. The average pay was $2.21 an hour, according to state data obtained by the Justice Department.

Nationwide, about 450,000 people with disabilities spend their days in segregated sheltered workshops.

“It’s a serious problem across the country, and Rhode Island is hardly unique,” acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels, the Justice Department’s top civil rights lawyer, said at a news conference announcing the settlement. She said the Justice Department would be working with other states on similar issues.

Segregated programs were once seen as the model for people with disabilities, but that has changed over time, particularly since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the 1990s that people with disabilities be served in the most integrated setting possible, Justice Department officials said.

“We know better now. That is not the model,” said Eve Hill, a deputy assistant attorney general.

Gov. Lincoln Chafee called today’s agreement “a historic step forward” for the state and individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Under the terms of the agreement, the state will provide job opportunities over the next 10 years to about 2,000 people, including 700 in sheltered workshops and about 300 who are leaving high school, that pay at least the minimum wage. The state has also agreed to provide transition services, including trial work experience and job site visits, to about 1,250 people between the ages of 14 and 21.

No damages are being imposed as part of the settlement, but the Justice Department said there will be reviews to ensure the state complies with its terms.

Samuels said the settlement would not shut down all the sheltered workshops in the state. Individuals can choose to remain working in one after being exposed to other jobs in the community, she said.

Chafee said he does not yet know the settlement’s cost to taxpayers, but he said the state will set aside $800,000 in the next annual budget to form a trust fund for initial funding. Some of that can be redirected from what the state already spends on sheltered workshops, Samuels said.

The settlement is an outgrowth of an interim 2013 agreement among the Justice Department, Rhode Island and the city of Providence over practices at the Harold A. Birch Vocational School.



Back to State
Top Stories of the Week

O’Loughlin suit set to go to trial in September …
PROVIDENCE — A federal jury will decide whether three Westerly police officers are responsible for the 2011 death of a Mystic man who died about … more ...

Driver charged in accident that injured 2 on Route 78 …
WESTERLY — The driver involved in a car crash that injured two people on Route 78 Friday night has been charged by Westerly police with … more ...

Helicopters called to accident …
WESTERLY — Emergency personnel and police were at the scene of a motor vehicle accident in the vicinity of Routes 1 and 78 Friday night … more ...

Social media campaign seeks home for ‘Hopkinton Trio’ dogs …
HOPKINTON — Things are looking up for three stray dogs dubbed the “Hopkinton Trio.” The three young, pit bull-type dogs, believed to have been abandoned, … more ...

School offers counseling after student death …
STONINGTON — Pawcatuck Middle School opened its doors until 7 p.m. on Thursday to offer support services to students and families after the death of … more ...

Comments