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Cutler, Population Health and Health Policy


Federal and state policies have emphasized a shift in focus for adults with cognitive disabilities from sheltered employment programs to employment in integrated community settings. Maine’s Public Law, Chapter 101 “Resolve, An Act to Create Improved Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities,” mandated the creation of a new MaineCare program, Section 29, Home and Community Based Waiver (“Support Waiver”), which promotes increased supported employment opportunities for adults with cognitive disabilities. State funding for sheltered workshops was reduced and by the summer of 2009, those services are no longer funded through state dollars.

In April 2008, the Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine partnered with Maine Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adults with Cognitive and Physical Disabilities to provide training, outreach, and support to sheltered workshop participants effected through these changes. This innovative program partnered with adults with cognitive disabilities who were competitively employed in their communities to design and deliver training to their peers who were also interested in working. This program, called It’s Your Life: Building Connections Through Work, was an exciting initiative and opportunity for the Muskie School of Public Service, University of Southern Maine to design, implement, and evaluate learning opportunities for sheltered workshop participants who want competitive work.

This report gives a detailed description of It’s Your Life: Building Connections Through Work project from design, to implementation and evaluation of the workshop sessions. It is our hope that you enjoy learning about this project and that professionals working in the rehabilitation field continue to seek out opportunities to provide co-training models, partnering with adults with disabilities to train their peers.