High Praise & a Win for RI
Here’s Why Rhode Island Was Selected as One of 10 States for National Supported Employment Initiative
Ray Conca, Vocational Services Supervisor at Community Care Alliance, is a hero to the people he helps to find employment. In fact, Tony says, “Ray is the best vocational worker in the state of Rhode Island!” Adding, “He is very supportive, professional, and hardworking and he always gets the job done. Whatever I need, Ray is on top of it.”
It is clear to anyone who meets Ray that he is passionate about this work. He clearly sees people—their strengths, passions, interests, potential—and then he helps find a suitable path for them.
When we think of persons with disabilities, we often have a physical or developmental impairments in mind. But Ray works with individuals with behavioral health challenges. He guides them on a path of their choice, building confidence and skills to be able to enter the workforce safely.
Last summer, Ray was given the honor to introduce Tony at an IPS event with the RI Dept. of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH) and Office of Rehabilitation Services (ORS). In front of officials and other service providers, Tony sang the praises of Ray and credited him for helping him advance his career.
IPS stands for Individual Placement and Support and is a national program that focuses on employment for people with serious mental illnesses. The program offers training and consultation services based on research studies conducted by a multidisciplinary team of researchers and trainers in the supported employment field. Using evidence-based practices, people with behavioral health problems work at regular jobs that they have chosen. The IPS model in many cases reveals that work is a positive that improves mental wellbeing.
Tony had a lot to say about this... “Ray has been one of the best vocational workers I have worked with. When I first started meeting with Ray, I had been out of the work force for many years. I went from being unemployed to obtaining a job. I built up to my current work schedule of 32 hours a week as a Health and Wellness Coach at the Woonsocket YMCA.” Tony has since moved on to another job, but while working at the YMCA he obtained 7 certifications, like CPR, First Aid, Personal Trainer, AED...
In February 2023, Rhode Island was chosen as one of only 10 states in the country by the Department of Labor to participate as a “core” state in the effort to expand employment opportunities and outcomes for people with disabilities through the National Expansion of Employment Network (NEON). By expanding participation to core states, NEON seeks to focus on promoting positive changes in state-level policies and systems.
But any systems improvements are based on the outcomes resulting from the service worker’s efforts to connect with and meet the needs of individuals.
Tony shared, “I have gone from living in a group home to living in my own apartment in a supervised apartment program. When I first met Ray, I had been out of work for 10 years. I was nervous to start working. Ray made me feel better about things and gave me the self-esteem I needed to start working again.”
“Ray has been working with me for 3 years now and he always returns my phone calls and emails. He is funny and he enjoys making me laugh. Ray has worked with me every step of the way. He helped me explore job opportunities, apply for positions, prepare for interviews, and he even drove me to my interviews to support me.”
Who better to sing the praises of our unsung heroes than those whose lives are changed. Thank you, Ray and the Community Support Program Vocational Services Team for making Rhode Island stand out. With this kind of praise, how could we not?
Tony is not the real name of our client who allowed us to use his photograph but preferred not to have his actual name in this article.