Legislation To Be Introduced Transferring Division of Vocational Rehabilitation To State Labor Department

Move would align reemployment services to special populations.

(DENVER) -- Ellen Golombek, Executive Director of the Department of Labor and Employment, and Reggie Bicha, Executive Director of the Department of Human Services, announced they will work closely with the Joint Budget Committee on a bill that will be introduced to move the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) from the Department of Human Services to the Department of Labor and Employment.Yesterday, the JBC voted 6-0 to move the proposal forward. 

The move will strengthen Governor Hickenlooper’s economic development strategy that calls for a coordinated package of support for special populations such as youth, recently discharged veterans, the long-term unemployed and others facing employment challenges. 

Among those with the greatest challenges to employment are individuals with disabilities.  This special population has the highest rate of unemployment of any group, and more than two-thirds do not participate in the workforce at all.

“Aligning DVR with the Department of Labor and Employment is a natural fit with our mission to help people succeed in the job market, whatever their barrier to employment may be,” says Ellen Golombek. “We will work closely with the JBC to ensure that any change is appropriate to our missions and are done efficiently and effectively.”

“It’s good policy in the long run and will likely lessen the load on public services and taxpayer dollars,” she says, “but its greatest outcomes will be measured in something less quantifiable.  When dependable, appreciative and talented workers are connected with good employers, they are also connected with dignity and hope.”

New federal legislation called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) specifically identifies Vocational Rehabilitation as a required workforce partner and mandates that workers with disabilities be provided access to high-quality workforce services so they are better prepared for employment.  This action affords Colorado an opportunity to better respond to the new federal mandates.

“The Department of Human Services is proud of the progress we have made in getting people with disabilities into individualized, integrated employment,” says Reggie Bicha, “but there is an opportunity here to do even more when positioning Voc Rehab with the government agency with the primary responsibility for delivering employment services.”

Restructuring the two agencies isn’t a new idea, Golombek adds.  “Nationally, many states house Voc Rehab within their workforce and employment departments.  And because the federal legislation specifically identifies Vocational Rehabilitation as a required workforce partner, this won’t just be a hand-off.  Our two state departments will be working closer together than ever before.”

Since reorganization is considered a substantive change that affects the provision of vocational rehabilitation services, public hearings must be conducted throughout the state to allow the public, including individuals with disabilities, sufficient opportunity to provide input.

“Much work lies ahead,” Governor Hickenlooper says, “but we are about to take some important first steps.  Housing the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation within the Department of Labor and Employment is a strategy that will strengthen Colorado’s level of service to people with barriers to employment.  The move will position us well, making Colorado better prepared for the future and poised to perform the core mission of helping people with disabilities succeed.”

For Immediate Release

Date:    March 18, 2015
Contact:    Office of Government, Policy and Public Relations
Phone:    Bill Thoennes at (303) 318-8004 or Cher Haavind at (303) 318-8003
Web:    www.colorado.gov/cdle