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Spotlights on VocLinks

VocLinks is the supported employment and day program of spurwink/ri and was established in 2000 as a program without walls (meaning community based vs. center based). This program was designed with a three-fold mission.

1. To assist and support each individual with obtaining individualized, integrated employment at or above minimum wage who sought this as their goal.

2. To provide integrated community based recreational and cultural activities to enhance social skills.

3. To further develop daily living skills leading to greater independence and self-esteem. This three pronged model, all provided under one umbrella utilizing consistent staffing across all three areas has resulted in great success with job placements, job retention and overall improved quality of life.

Mike G. working at Gregg's
Mike G. working at Gregg's

Presently, VocLinks is supporting 29 individuals within 27 different businesses throughout all of RI and nearby MA. Supports range from 1-1 on-site job coaching to monthly check-ins, based upon each individual’s unique needs and level of independence, but in all cases, an on-going relationship with the business is maintained. Some of our business partners include, Blount Fine Foods, Beautiful Beginnings Childcare, Marshall’s, A Piece of Paradise Landscaping, Tri-Mack Plastics Mfg. Corp., Home Depot, Gregg’s Restaurants, etc., etc. In all cases, jobsites are developed based upon a person’s unique interests, skills and abilities using a person-centered approach. In many cases, jobs are “customized” or carved out based on aligning the business needs with the skillset of the individual. The VocLinks model of servicing each person in a variety of settings and situations with the same staff, lends itself to truly getting to know the uniqueness of each individual, and is commonly referred to as “Discovery”. The results of this integrated service model, speak for themselves, as VocLinks ranks 1st in the state, as a vendor of ORS, in successful closures. This means that for every individual that requests employment services from VocLinks, the vast majority will obtain a community based job and will retain that job for at least 90 days at which point ORS (Office of Rehabilitation Services) closes the case as a success. Since VocLinks is a vendor of services for both ORS and BHDDH, job retention supports then continue with BHDDH funding.

VocLinks services extend beyond employment and include many opportunities for people to enhance their quality of life and integrate into the community by partaking in a variety of meaningful ways. Many “Service Learning Projects” have taken place over the years, whereby VocLinks partners with non-profits and other community based organizations to learn about their mission while providing a “day of service”. Such places as the Ronald McDonald House, Tomorrow Fund, RI Community Food Bank, Audubon Society, Recycling for RI Education, local food pantries, etc. has enabled us to give back while simultaneously learning about each organization and their contribution to the community.

More recently in an effort to enhance meaningful day activities, VocLinks has embraced a “Be Inspired” theme, whereby individuals are empowered to plan their own day of community involvement.. With the assistance of staff, an individual is encouraged to plan out a day in the community, researching costs, hours, transportation, who they would like to invite, and other logistics, and then embark on their day of inspiration. Some “Be Inspired” days have included; spa days, a trip to Battleship Cove and the Newport Car Museum. It will be interesting to see what other ideas our people discover and create.

Goeff C. at the Newport Car Museum

While VocLinks is currently maintaining high quality services, the budget crisis is looming large over the State of RI, and is at a crisis point in terms of funding for DD/ID services. To complicate matters, federal funding to ORS has been greatly reduced this year with a waiting list for employment services of over three hundred people. Funding for DD/ID services is woefully inadequate with additional cuts being proposed in the governor’s budget.

( is a source of more in-depth overview of the current funding crisis, and provides up to date status of the consent decree with the Department of Justice.) Recently, many people gathered at the State House for a “Day of Action” on March 30th and parents, guardians, staff and individuals with DD/ID have written letters and are meeting with state legislators to advocate for increased funding. Collectively, our efforts must continue in order to sustain the services that our people deserve, as the entire system for people with DD/ID is significantly underfunded and without increased funding the quality of services will undoubtedly suffer.

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