Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hospitals Aim to Ease a Transition to Adult Life

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hospitals Aim to Ease a Transition to Adult Life

Article excerpt

A new program that partners Bergen County with two local hospitals aims to bridge the gap that many people with developmental disabilities face when school ends and adult life begins.

Bergen County has allocated $30,000 for the Project SEARCH pilot program in New Jersey. That money will help 24 young adults to work yearlong internships at either Hackensack University Medical Center or Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, two of the county's largest employers, officials said.

"When students turn 21 and age out of the school system we know the difficulty families face in preparing their loved ones for life after graduation," said County Executive James Tedesco. "This program will open doors and expand the range of possibilities for both students and employers."

Freeholder Tracy Zur said that applicants will apply through their schools. Those who are selected will then have learning plans individually tailored for their upcoming hospital job for a full academic year before graduation.

"The goal is to give them portable job skills," Zur said. "Ultimately our hope is to have it not only at the hospitals. There's no reason why this can't be at any business in Bergen County. This is not charity - it is good business."

Project SEARCH, which is just starting in New Jersey, was started at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in 1996 and now has more than 300 programs in 41 states, Canada, England and Scotland, according to its website.

About a year ago, discussions among members of the Disability Committee of the Bergen County Workforce Development Board centered on the transition from school to work for Bergen County residents with developmental disabilities, said Kathy Walsh, president and CEO of The Arc of Bergen and Passaic counties.

"We hear from families all the time who worry about what happens when the school bus doesn't come anymore," Walsh said. …

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