Memphis Disability Provider Paves Way Toward Employment Integration; Closes Occupational Workshop

MEMPHIS, Tenn, June 30, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SRVS (Shelby Residential and Vocational Services, Inc.), Tennessee's largest provider of services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, today permanently closed its sheltered workshop as the agency transitions to full community-based, integrated employment for the people it supports.

While SRVS, (pronounced "serves"), has placed individuals in community-based jobs for many years, in 2013, the agency embraced Employment First, a U.S. Department of Labor initiative to help states implement the systems changes needed for the move to community-based employment. After being selected by the U.S. Office of Disability Employment Policy as one of three Employment First Core States, Tennessee's Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities received funding to implement the state's Employment First initiative. Since participating in this initiative, SRVS has placed 26 individuals with major employers in Memphis, such as AutoZone, Kroger and Medtronic.

"SRVS has really stepped up to the plate to transform the way it assists persons with disabilities in finding jobs," said Debra K. Payne, DIDD commissioner. "They have worked with families to ease concerns about jobs in the community, collaborated with employers to find jobs, and have provided education to the community as well. This is a celebration not only for what SRVS has achieved, but also what it can support people to do in the future."

For 52 years, SRVS provided employment through an occupational workshop, in addition to supported community employment. The Sheltered Occupational Shop Inc., established in 1962, provided adult Memphians a place to work, become part of the community and learn life skills. The workshop was one of four core SRVS programs including employment, residential support, children's services and a state-of-the-art learning center for skills development.

"Closing SRVS' founding program is a monumental occasion in our agency's history," said Tyler Hampton, SRVS executive director. "While it is a major shift in organizational focus, we are proud to fulfill the legacy started decades ago by moving to full, integrated community employment for the people we support."

Through a variety of fundraisers and other public support, a determined group of Memphis women, led by Dorothy Wilson, wife of Holiday Inn's founder Kemmons Wilson, raised enough money to open the workshop. When it opened on Nov. 1, 1962, the facility provided jobs for five adults with disabilities. Their first job was to package non-lethal hand grenade components for the U.S. Army. Other clients included a nail company that required the packaging of various types of nails and screws, and a firm that developed transistors for early radios and televisions.

"It was a modest start for a program that over the years not only built job and socialization skills, but also brought peace of mind to hundreds of families who finally had a safe place where their loved ones could be productive," Hampton said. "But as society progresses, so must we. That is why SRVS took the opportunity to participate in a program to help us transition from the workshop solely to community-based employment."

In 2013, SRVS joined the Employment First State Leadership Mentor Program, coordinated in Tennessee by DIDD. The program provided subject-matter experts and other support to help with the system change needed to implement the Employment First approach. Agencies like SRVS that operate sheltered workshops also recognize changes on the horizon such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rule that went into effect in March 2014. The rule requires all disability services paid for by federal dollars to be provided in the most integrated setting possible.

"ODEP's subject-matter experts in supported and customized employment were very helpful in our ability to make the necessary adjustments so that the transition to full community-based employment could be as seamless and efficient as possible," Hampton said.

SRVS has created a network of job club sites throughout the city at churches and community centers where former workshop employees already working in the community and those seeking employment can meet, maintain their relationships established at the workshop and continue job exploration in community-based settings.

About SRVS

SRVS (pronounced serves) is Tennessee's largest provider of services for people with disabilities, offering a wide range of programs including day programs, community living, community-based employment and elder care. With 900 employees, SRVS is one of the largest private employers in Memphis, providing support for 1,000 individuals. SRVS also operates the SRVS/Tipton County Enhanced Learning Center, a satellite facility in Covington, Tenn., and the SRVS/Collierville Enhanced Learning Center in Collierville, Tenn. Founded in 1962, SRVS is a United Way of the Mid-South agency. SRVS is the "Family Answer for Disabilities."

CONTACT: For more information, contact: Daniel Wade Obsidian Public Relations Phone: (901) 828-4428 Email: Additional Contacts: Anthony Hicks, SRVS director of public relations, 901-312-6800, Cara Kumari, DIDD director of communications, 615-253-2236,

Source: SRVS