NEWS | October 16, 2017

Medical Center recognized for employing workers with developmental disabilities

Excellence in Employment Award from California Disability Services Association


The California Disability Services Association has recognized UC Davis Medical Center with one of its annual Employer of the Year awards for its excellence (in the large employer category) in hiring persons with developmental disabilities.

Gina Harwood (center) and Elaine Nakata (holding plaque) of UC Davis Medical Center receive an Employer of the Year Award from (left to right) Andrea Croom, Michael Herr and Sandy Bishop of InAlliance. Gina Harwood (center) and Elaine Nakata (holding plaque) of UC Davis Medical Center receive an Employer of the Year Award from (left to right) Andrea Croom, Michael Herr and Sandy Bishop of InAlliance.

For 36 years, the medical center has employed individuals with developmental disabilities in partnership with Sacramento-based InAlliance, which provides employment support services. Today, UC Davis employs 39 of the organization's clients at the hospital and in other parts of the university's Sacramento campus.   

The state trade association represents more than 80 community-based, direct-care providers such as InAlliance, whose common purpose is to help Californians with developmental disabilities -- which include autism, epilepsy, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and other severe, chronic disabilities -- lead productive and fulfilling lives.

The association notes that employment helps workers to live independently and have more choices in their lives. An outstanding example was an individual who started on a work crew at the medical center. It gave him an opportunity to gain experience and develop skills, meet UC Davis managers and build relationships with people who later wrote letters of recommendation so that he could appy for a higher paying job working directly for the hospital. With steady employment, he was able to make plans to buy a car and get married.  

The long-standing UC Davis partnership with InAlliance has provided the medical center with motivated and reliable employees. Three direct-hire clients have worked at UC Davis for more than 15 years and their presence, along with their co-workers, has meant that hospital patients, visitors, clinical care teams and other employees have had positive interactions with individuals who happen to have developmental disabilities.

During the association's awards ceremony last month in the Bay Area, InAlliance program director Mike Herr had a special note of appreciation for the dedication and involvement of Elaine Nakata, UC Davis' now-retired outreach coordinator, who helped expand the work crews and assist them in obtaining the skills to become competiitve for jobs within the hospital. Also on hand representing the medical center was Gina Harwood, the Environmental Services department manager who now helps oversee the InAlliance work teams.   

Employees with develomental disabilities who work in the hospital and nearby facilities have a wide range of tasks and job responsibilies:

  • Cleaning cafeterias and restrooms; sorting recycling and disposing trash
  • Sweeping and mopping hallways and elevators; picking up trash in hallways and parking structures
  • Staffing the MIND Institute Café, operating its cash registers, mixing drinks, busing tables, preparing food
  • Cleaning patient rooms, following strict health and safety guidelines for clinical care areas
  • Handling and delivering linen supplies
  • Washing patient dishes and meal trays

As one employee noted, “I know what it’s like to not have a penny in my pocket, and I appreciate being able to work here [at UC Davis]. This is my dream job.”