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October 2016, Summit, NJ – Beginning this fall, Overlook Medical Center is hosting nine high school students with significant disabilities as part of an innovative and evidence-based high school transition program.
The Project SEARCH-Overlook Medical Center endeavor is the result of unprecedented collaboration between a major business, the state of New Jersey, a county Workforce Development Board, and the local public education system.
The partners involved in the project include: Overlook Medical Center, Union County Educational Services Commission (UCESC), the New Jersey Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, the Arc of New Jersey, NJTIP at Rutgers, the Union County Workforce Development Board, and the New Jersey Division of Developmental Disabilities.
The one-year program, coordinated by UCESC, provides the students with a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration and hands-on training. Students will spend a small part of their day in the on-site classroom receiving instruction, and the bulk of their day at assigned internships. The students will participate in at least two internship rotations in various departments at Overlook during the school year including Emergency Services, Materials Management, Environmental Services, Surgical Services, Infection Prevention, Nursing Education, and Food Services.
As a requirement of the program, students must spend the summer before the school year learning how to travel to and from the hospital independently. The students are not allowed to take a school bus from their home. Each student receives comprehensive travel training led by the New Jersey Travel Independence Program (NJTIP) at Rutgers.
“We are very excited about this new joint venture with the Union County Educational Services Commission,” said Mary Pat Sullivan, Chief Nursing Officer of Overlook Medical Center. “As a community-based service organization, we have the opportunity to impact everyone who comes through our doors – employees, patients, visitors and community members.”
The program places a special education teacher, paraprofessional, and job coach on-site daily to consult with department mentors and help students develop the various skills necessary to successfully perform their assigned duties.
“It is my pleasure to work with this program,” said Terri Bernaz, manager of Nursing Education at Overlook Medical Center. “Overlook Medical Center has always stressed employee and student career development, so partnering with Project SEARCH is simply another way we can show our commitment and caring for everyone in our community. The students are very enthusiastic and highly motivated to succeed.”
The primary objective is to secure competitive employment for every student at the completion of the one-year program – either at the host business or at another business in the community.
"It is imperative to develop the talents of everyone who wants to work in Union County, including workers with disabilities," Union County Freeholder and Vice Chairman Sergio Granados said. "Our goal is to strengthen our workforce so anyone who wants a job can find a job, and Project SEARCH helps us accomplish this by providing youth with disabilities the opportunity to demonstrate their unique abilities to local employers."
"Project SEARCH successfully brings together the public schools, the business community, and those major state agencies that will support young adults with disabilities after high school," said Josh Bornstein, Director of Special Projects for Union County Educational Services Commission. "Resources are used efficiently and towards a common goal of helping these young people find meaningful employment after they graduate. This program is not possible without a committed host business. We are grateful to Atlantic Health System for inviting us into Overlook Medical Center. The hospital provides an ideal environment for teaching our students transferable skills."
This year’ students were selected by the program’s advisory committee from a group of applicants recommended by school districts across Union County. Applications for next year’s student cohort will be available beginning this November. Interested students or families should visit the program’s website at www.projectsearch-unioncounty-nj.org for more information, and then speak with their home school district’s special education office.
Statistics show that state-wide, the employment rate for individuals with disabilities is less than 40 percent, while Project SEARCH boasts a 73 percent employment rate for its graduates.
Project SEARCH was first developed in 1996 by the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. It is now operating in more than 400 locations across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland and Australia.
About Project SEARCH
Project SEARCH, based at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, is a business-led, one-year work-preparation program for young people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Most participants are enrolled while transitioning from high school to work. The hallmark of Project SEARCH is total workplace immersion, which facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and hands-on training. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for every program participant. For more information, visit www.projectsearch.us or the local program site at www.projectsearch-unioncounty-nj.org.
About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System, headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey, is a leading non-profit health care delivery system in New Jersey. Our network includes Morristown Medical Center in Morristown, NJ; Overlook Medical Center in Summit, NJ; Newton Medical Center in Newton, NJ; Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, NJ; Hackettstown Medical Center in Hackettstown, NJ; and Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ, as well as Atlantic Rehabilitation, and Atlantic Home Care and Hospice. It also includes its subsidiary, Atlantic Ambulance Corporation. Atlantic Health System comprises 1,747 licensed beds, more than 14,000 employees and more than 4,000 physicians. Atlantic Health System has a medical school affiliation with the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University; is part of Atlantic Accountable Care Organization, one of the largest ACOs in the nation, and is a member of AllSpire Health Partners.