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Vidant Medical Center launches Project SEARCH program in partnership with RHA Health Services, Pitt County Schools & the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services

December 02, 2015 by Amy Holcombe

GREENVILLE-In Aug. 2015, in partnership with RHA Health Services, Pitt County Schools and the N. C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, a Project SEARCH program was launched at Vidant Medical Center (VMC). The program is made possible with funds provided through a grant from the N. C. Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Project SEARCH was developed in 1996 at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. The program provides young people with disabilities, the opportunity to contribute to their communities and to society at-large by providing the necessary supports to gain employment following graduation from the program.

Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children's to more than 300 sites across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia. Vidant Medical Center is the only hospital east of Interstate 95 that hosts a Project SEARCH program. 

“VMC’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of eastern North Carolina. This program connects to that mission as it helps develop skills in people with disabilities, enabling them to be successful and independent in their communities,” said VMC President Brian Floyd. The program also supports diversity and creates a positive economic impact on the region.

Sara Graves, a Pitt County Schools employee and instructor for Project SEARCH at VMC, said “the program equips students with disabilities with skills to get and keep jobs.” She explained that between the training in the classroom and what they learn from working in their internships, these students are able to gain transferable skills to get a job once they graduate from the program. 

Graves said as soon as she heard about Project SEARCH, she knew she wanted to be a part of the program. “I have a desire to see people with disabilities achieve their goals of gaining competitive employment and I wanted to be a part of getting them there.”

Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. The program is a workforce development initiative with proven results, employing 65 percent of its graduates and maintaining a 90 percent retention rate in those jobs.

RHA Health Services and the N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation are proud partners of the Project SEARCH program at VMC. RHA Health Services is a leading provider of services and support for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The N.C. Division of Vocational Rehabilitation works with persons with disabilities to assist them in their goal of obtaining and maintaining competitive employment in the community. 

“Employment is one of the most important pillars of independence and community inclusion,” said Tommy Cox, director of vocational services at RHA Health Services. “We are excited to be a part of this important project that helps young people who have disabilities transition from school to gainful employment." 

Billy Ross, unit manager of NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services reiterated that sentiment, “We are pleased to be a participating partner in Pitt County’s Project Search initiative.”

The 2015-2016 class of students will complete their program in May 2016. From there, RHA Health Services and NC Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services assist in helping the students gain employment based on what they learned and experienced through Project SEARCH. 
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