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Colorado Office of Employment First

What is Employment First?
Employment First is a philosophy that individuals with significant disabilities have the right to engage in employment at or above minimum wage in an integrated environment, which allows for meaningful interaction with co-workers without disabilities. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) definies Competitive Integrated Employment (CIE), which is the foundation of the Employment First movement. CIE is the first and preferred employment option for people with disabilities, including those with significant intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Office of Employment First (OEF) is the lead organization in Colorado to provide training, technical assistance, communication, coordination and evaluation/monitoring on Employment First initiatives in Colorado. The OEF is excited to begin this important, cross-disability and person-centered work in Colorado under Colorado’s  UCEDD, JFK Partners, CU School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, and in collaboration with Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Employment First Advisory Partnership. 
The OEF is the primary training entity on Employment First philosophy, programs, policy and practices for community partners, employers, educators, state agencies, people with disabilities and their families. Training curricula is being developed in specialty areas that include, but not limited to, Benefits Planning, Individual Placement and Support Supported Employment Service Delivery Model, Discovery Services, Customized Employment, and Employer Supports. These evidenced based and evidenced informed practices will assist advancing opportunities for CIE to be the first and preferred option for persons with disabilities in Colorado. OEF is committed to monitoring and evaluation of implemented service delivery models and rate structures to ensure the growth of Employment First as a philosophy and policy in Colorado. With its establishment, the state is now receiving technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy and no-cost consultation from a network of national experts.

What’s Next for the Office of Employment First?

The OEF is team is focused on the following areas through June 2020:
1) Curriculum Development and Training
2) Development of the OEF Branding and Website
3) Development of initial Program Evaluation Plan and development of Baseline Data Measures.
4) Development of Benefits Calculator Software

Who is the OEF Team?

The OEF has hired a team with vast experience who are passionate about Employment First Practices and Principles.
OEF still has an opening a Program Developer/Trainer specializing in Customized Employment. Further details about the position and how to apply can be found at CU Careers​.   
Patricia Henke, MS, CRC
Patricia has worked in the field of vocational rehabilitation for over 25 years and has held positions as Job Coach, Vocational Evaluator, Work Adjustment Instructor, Supervisor, Director of Community and Employment Services at various private nonprofits. Patricia also has worked for the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation for 14 year's where she developed programs at state and local levels to create opportunities for individuals with significant disabilities in Supported Employment. Patricia has taught an Internship/Practicum course in Rehabilitation Counselor Education Master's Program at Utah State University. Patricia is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor, has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and Master’s Degree is in Rehabilitation Counseling Education.
Aryn Taylor, MA, CRC
Grant Writer/Analyst/Evaluator
Aryn has over 10 years experience working in rehabilitation counseling in a variety of service settings, including in higher education and vocational rehabilitation. She is a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor (CRC) and a PhD Candidate in Counselor Education and Supervision with a Public Health minor at the University of Arizona.
Melanie Honsbruch, CPWIC
Curriculum Developer/Trainer with a specialty in Benefits Counseling 
Melanie received her certification as a Community Partner Work Incentive Counselor in 2003. For 16 years, she has provided information to community members, service professionals, and Coloradans with disabilities and their families about how work and various life choices interact with benefits.
Deirdre Sage, MSW
Curriculum Developer/Trainer with a speciality in IPS
Deirdre comes to OEF with 14 years of experience in behavioral health supported employment. Deirdre was an Individual Placement and Support (IPS) practitioner and supervisor for a successful IPS team. Deirdre has a Master of Social Work from Simmons University.
Teresa Nguyen, MPH
Curriculum Developer/Trainer with a specialty in Transitioning Youth, Families & Healthcare
With lived experience as a woman with a disability navigating the complex systems that exist for Colorado's families and adolescents, Teresa has dedicated the last 10 years of her career to improving these systems to achieve better outcomes for transitioning youth and adults with disabilities.
Business Services Senior Professional
Layla Mauldin is the Business Services Senior Professional supporting the Office of Employment First. She is responsible for project management, purchasing and contract administration, and day-to-day Office administration. For the last 2 1/2 years, she was the Program Assistant for the Behavioral Health Supported Employment program with DVR, helping to manage contracts with Supported Employment service providers throughout Colorado. She has an extensive purchasing background which includes 15 years as a Purchasing Agent and Contracts Manager supporting two large mutual fund companies in Denver. Layla has a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice Administration and is also a Paralegal. 

Sandra L. Friedman, MD, MPH, MS 
MS Speech Pathology, University of Michigan. MD Northwestern University School of Medicine. MPH Harvard School of Public Health.
Co-Principle Investigator, Colorado Office of Employment First
Dr. Friedman is Director of JFK Partners at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. She serves as PI on the federally funded University Center for Excellence in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (UCEDD) and Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Programs. She is Section Head of Developmental Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and Children's Hospital Colorado. She also directs the federally funded Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP) Training Program and is program director of the ACGME-accredited DBP fellowship. She is site PI for the national multisite, DBP Research Network. She is Professor of Pediatrics and the William K. Frankenburg Professor in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics. She has been on the faculty in Colorado since September 2009, coming from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. She is board certified in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics and has been involved in developmental assessments and management of children with a wide range of developmental problems and special health care needs. She has presented at multiple local, regional and national conferences, and provided technical assistance to national and international organizations. She has served on multiple local and national boards of directors, advisory and executive committees. Her major areas of scientific interest are children with special health care needs, intellectual disability end-of-life care, and autism spectrum disorder.