Collaborative IDD Employment Partnership

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and a great time to talk about disability inclusion especially as it relates to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). This month we’re highlighting a partnership that exemplifies the value of hiring individuals with IDD.

One Community (OC) is a collaboration between Trillium Health Resources and Easterseals UCP (ESUCP) aimed at raising awareness and health literacy among marginalized populations in Trillium’s coverage area. In the last three years, the OC team has participated in hundreds of festivals, fairs and community events to share health-related information, resources and branded giveaways with targeted audiences. As a result, they have earned quite a reputation for giving away the best t-shirts and “swag” wherever they go without compromising their goal for sharing life-changing health education along the way.

However, Patte, One Community’s Program Director, dreamed of becoming even more impactful. As a mom of a young adult with IDD, she envisioned a work environment where her son and his peers could contribute to the OC mission, while enjoying meaningful employment. Patte partnered with ESUCP’s Transition to Employment (TTE) program to thoughtfully create an ideal and accessible workspace within OC’s office where individuals with disabilities could be hired to pack the giveaways and health literacy collateral that OC distributes.

ESUCP’s Transition to Employment program helps train participants, who are 16 years and older, with the skills needed to acquire a job, succeed at work and ultimately gain more independence. When Patte reached out, the TTE team was excited to collaborate. “It’s such a misconception that individuals with IDD can’t do meaningful work. In fact, they generally work harder than most,” says Rachel, a TTE Supervisor. “The key is to provide great training and then allow them to do the work and thrive just like any other employee wants to do.” Today, OC employs five TTE participants, who pick and pack t-shirts, branded giveaways and the print material that’s shared at community events.

In December 2023, One Community launched the first phase of its COVID mitigation campaign and once again, connected with TTE to help staff the project. TTE participants stuffed 500 oversized backpacks with soap, hand sanitizers, N95 masks, COVID tests and information about the health values of handwashing and COVID precautions that are specific to individuals who are housing insecure. Once stuffed, the backpacks were distributed to shelters and other community partners to help deliver the bags to the targeted population.

This March, the second phase of the COVID mitigation campaign will kick off and the One Community will hire at least five more TTE participants from Ahoskie and Morehead City, NC. The TTE participants will be called “Community Partners” and join the OC team in demonstrating the value of handwashing in person at several IDD adult wellness and recreation centers, group homes and rehab facilities located throughout Trillium’s coverage area.

What’s most exciting about Phase Two is that the handwashing demonstrations will be led by the TTE Community Partners who have learned public speaking skills and the ability to train others. Now the TTE Community Partners are set to demonstrate proper handwashing techniques to their peers so they can become Community Partners too! Attendees will also receive a “goodie” bag packed by TTE that includes hand sanitizer, hand soap, N95 masks, COVID tests and their own Community Partner t-shirt.

Working together, One Community and Transition to Employment have increased the number of rewarding job opportunities available to TTE participants in New Bern, NC. The ability to offer more and different job opportunities better addresses the participant’s diverse goals and fulfills their desire for consistent employment and a reliable paycheck. All these are critical success factors to TTE’s ultimate objective of helping participants gain more independence.

“This partnership continues to exceed my expectations and I’m already looking ahead. Next, I’d like to expand this great workforce TTE has helped us build by directly employing TTE participants to work alongside the OC staff every day,” says Patte. “TTE participants are part of our success in helping share health-related information with our neighbors who need it. My team and I are dreaming of the day our two groups come together as a single One Community team!”

Easterseals UCP and PORT Health are trustworthy, compassionate partners providing exceptional disability, behavioral health and addiction treatment services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our in-person and telehealth service delivery. Our diverse and inclusive 2,600 member team provides more than 10.2 million hours of meaningful support to 40,200 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home, facility and community locations across North Carolina and Virginia. Learn more at