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Supervisors eye program to hire people who are developmentally disabled to work in county departments

San Diego Union-Tribune - 5/21/2019

May 22-- May 22--San Diego County departments and offices will be staffed with people who have developmental disabilities under a new program being developed by county staff.

As proposed Tuesday by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, Jay's Program would create funding for all county departments and offices to hire people with developmental disabilities. It wasn't clear in the proposal how many people could be hired, but Fletcher said the move would be an opportunity for the county to set an example for other potential employers, such as businesses, nonprofits and schools, to follow.

The Board of Supervisors offered unanimous support for the proposal during its the meeting Tuesday and directed county staff to move forward developing a finalized version of the program. County staff is expected to work out the particulars related to partnerships and funding sources for the program in the coming months, and return to the board with a more concrete plan by July.

Fletcher said he has first-hand knowledge of the value of hiring workers with a developmental disabilities. The most-senior worker on "Team Fletcher," he said, is Raymond "Jay" Bariman, 35, who has autism.

"I just want folks to know what a positive influence on the team somebody like Jay can be," Fletcher said in an interview last week. "Jay's happy every day. Every day, he's excited about doing the work. Every day when he leaves, he goes and individually says goodbye to everybody here."

Fletcher said he first learned about the opportunity to hire people with developmental disabilities from former California first lady Maria Shriver in 2008 when he was running for state Assembly.

"Maria Shriver told me about her 'buddies,' a program where you can hire other-abled folks like Jay," he said. "She said, 'Will you commit, if you win the election, to hire one of our buddies in your legislative office?'"

Fletcher won, and Bariman was one of the first people he hired to work in his Mira Mesa district office in 2009.

Shriver's brother, Anthony Kennedy Shriver, started the program Best Buddies International to create opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and her mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started the Special Olympics.

Fletcher hired Bariman through the San Diego Regional Center, one of a few organizations that help find employment for people with developmental disabilities.

"I enjoyed it," Bariman said about working in Fletcher's district office. "I filed paperwork and forwarded mail to other districts."

Bariman worked for state Sen. Marty Block after Fletcher left the Assembly, and he was among the first volunteers Fletcher took on as in his office as a supervisor. If Jay's Program is ratified, he will become a paid employee in Fletcher's office.

Bariman now is a client with the San Diego nonprofit Partnerships With Industry, which was founded in 1985 and was one of the first organizations in the state to provide support for employees with developmental disabilities. The organization has offices in Chula Vista, Mission Valley, Oceanside and Santee, and has helped 12,500 people with job training, employment opportunities and other services.

Keith Robinson, a senior job placement specialist with Partnerships With Industry, said the organization works with 250 businesses and serves 750 people daily. He's known Bariman for about two years.

"I really enjoy working with Jay," he said. "He's an outstanding individual. Always very punctual to our appointments and always very excited to work."

In presenting the proposal to the board, Fletcher cited a University of Massachusetts study that found only 44 percent of people ages 21-64 with intellectual disabilities are in the labor force, while 62 percent who are employed have been in their jobs three or more years, indicating they are stable employees.

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(c)2019 The San Diego Union-Tribune

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