October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October 12, 2005

ATLANTA – People who were once thought to be unemployable are now earning competitive wages and even purchasing their own homes thanks to innovative public/private partnerships supported by the Georgia Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases (MHDDA D). National Observance of Disability Employment Awareness month allows MHDDAD to highlight Georgia’s efforts.

"Many people believe that to be disabled means to be unable, " states Gwen Skinner, Director for MHDDAD. "What we believe is that every individual has the ability to contribute and the right to shape the course of his or her life. When you apply this belief, everyone wins - including families and the business community."

MHDDAD is working with public/private partnerships across the state which integrates persons with developmental disabilities into Georgia’s workforce and also help local companies respond to workforce shortages. An example of this partnership is Project Search which works with two Atlanta area hospitals, North Fulton and Crawford Long. Routine work generally a part of a nursing job description is now handed to Project Search participants where they work side by side with doctors and other medical personnel – leaving nurses to attend to more demanding tasks. " Through Project Search, we are working with dedicated and skilled employees," states Albert K. Blackwelder, CEO of Crawford Long Hospital whose leadership is instrumental to the success of this program.

"This is not only about doing what’s right, it’s also about maximizing human resources to achieve our company’s bottom line objectives."

Another program, located in Savannah Georgia, is generating interest as far away as Jamaica. The private non-for profit company, whose labor force is 85% disabled, bottles Georgia Islands Water and Olde Savannah Smokehouse Barbecue Sauce for customers including Walmart and players of the National Football League. "Our goal is to educate the business community on the value of employing diverse people and to reinvest profits into effective services for people with disabilities," states Frank Bonati, CEO of the bottling company.

"These real life job experiences allow people with disabilities to earn competitive salaries, establish independence and become contributing members of society – just like the rest of us," states Skinner.

For information, contact:
Kenya Bello; 404.657.1389

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