- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signed an executive order that aims to increase the number of people with intellectual disabilities employed in Rhode Island’s state government.

The order is part of an effort to comply with a court-ordered agreement reached with the U.S. Justice Department in April to give more Rhode Island residents with such disabilities the chance for a regular job that pays at least the minimum wage.

The action signed Oct. 22 orders executive branch agencies to adopt a goal of increasing the percentage of developmentally disabled people in the state’s workforce. It does not include specific number goals or percentages. On Monday, Chafee said he wants the state’s workforce to reflect its population.

The 10-year agreement with the Justice Department was expected to cover about 3,250 people and was the first statewide settlement of its kind. The state was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by placing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in so-called sheltered workshops, away from the general population, and for wages as low as a few dollars an hour.

Craig Stenning, director of the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, said six months after the agreement was signed, some of those sheltered workshops already have been closed and others are being phased out. Some will remain open, but with the goal of moving people into integrated programs within a few months.

Stenning said that in the past, most people with disabilities were placed in special day programs with others who had disabilities. He said more than half of the state’s population of people with developmental and intellectual disabilities is now in integrated community settings, such as doing volunteer work or working at businesses alongside people without disabilities.

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