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Rhodes to Independence (RTI) was created through the award in 2000 of a federal Medicaid Infrastructure Grant (MIG). The MIG goal is to support people with disabilities in securing and sustaining competitive employment in an integrated setting.

Since its inception, RTI - which operates under the aegis of the University of Rhode Island's College of Pharmacy - has worked toward systems' change in support of this goal. Though the initial scope of the federal MIG has been to successfully modify states' health care delivery systems to meet the needs of people with disabilities who want to work (primarily focused on Medicaid eligibility), Rhodes to Independence's scope is much broader as it was clear that barriers to employment, self-sufficiency and independence crossed beyond health care to transportation, housing, lack of information regarding benefits and supports, and deep-seated attitudes (employers, providers, the general public, as well as individuals with disabilities themselves). In fact, the RTI project has expanded its role far beyond the scope of the original grant to become involved in initiatives and special projects as they arise or as issues need to be addressed in a real-time fashion.

In the past eight years, RTI has built partnerships that previously did not exist in the state and has measurably improved employment and health care supports for Rhode Islanders with disabilities. The success of Rhodes to Independence is the result of an established process in which consumers and other stakeholder input is used by the RTI Steering Committee and the Advisory Board (since 2007) to structure activities to help address the employment needs of and maximize supports for people with disabilities. The myriad partnerships which include state agencies, advocacy organizations, employers and others have resulted in a strategic collaboration which leverages resources and community involvement to produce positive employment and enhanced quality of life outcomes.

Man and woman in wheelchair

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