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ILR to study teens with disabilities in $32.5M effort

The ILR School’s Employment and Disability Institute is supporting the New York governor’s office and the state Office of Mental Health by leading the research and implementation of a $32.5 million federal award to improve education and career outcomes for low-income children with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income.

Funding for New York state from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services was announced Nov. 8 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The initiative, “Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income,” or PROMISE, was proposed by the Obama administration to improve services for more than 2,000 teens ages 14 through 16 and their families.

The grant is designed to help students graduate from high school, complete postsecondary education and job training, obtain employment and reduce reliance on Supplemental Security Income.

ILR Associate Dean Susanne Bruyère, director of the Employment and Disability Institute, said, “As a land-grant college, our commitment to New York state runs deep and long, and we are pleased to contribute Cornell’s significant research and disability-focused expertise in this project.”

The state’s Office of Mental Health will administer the five-year grant. It applied for the grant with the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene Inc. and ILR’s Employment and Disability Institute (EDI).

Thomas Golden, EDI associate director, is principal investigator on the ILR team. Arun Karpur of the institute will serve as co-principal investigator of research. John Allen, special assistant to the commissioner of the state Office of Mental Health, is also a co-principal investigator, overseeing the initiative’s state operations.

Golden said the grant will focus on “a very vulnerable population of youth who experience low education and economic levels, high school dropout and incarceration rates, and who often have no access to school-to-work transition services. This is further compounded by the limited resources and challenges their families often face in supporting their children’s successful transition from school to adult living, learning and earning.”

Karpur said the research to be conducted will “help test a set of service interventions that are anticipated to help moderate the complex barriers and challenges experienced by these youth and their families. This project will introduce us to the new frontiers of conducting social science research in community-based settings.”

A foundation for the PROMISE research, Karpur said, will be the EDI’s Model Transition Program. It collected statewide data on high school-to-adulthood transition outcomes from 16,000 students with disabilities and 60 school-community collaborations.

The project’s core management team includes the New York State Office of Mental Health, serving as the lead for grant management and state agency coordination; the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene, providing contract facilitation and grants administration on behalf of state government; and the EDI, conducting research and statewide project coordination.

Golden said 2,000 students who receive Supplemental Security Income and their families will be recruited to participate in the project; 1,000 will be randomly selected to receive PROMISE services, and 1,000 will receive services typically provided by school programs.

Federal grants totaling more than $211 million were awarded for the five-year initiative to Arkansas, California, Maryland, New York and Wisconsin in addition to a consortium of states comprising Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado and Arizona.

Mary Catt is assistant director of communications for the ILR School.

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John Carberry