State leaders to address the future of Orange Grove on-side job - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

State leaders to address the future of Orange Grove on-side job program

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Tennessee state leaders want to change the way people with developmental and intellectual disabilities are employed in the workforce. 

Tennessee's Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities now says that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities should not be segregated from the rest of the workforce. But that new policy could eliminate the on-site job program, which employees 400 people, at the Orange Grove Center

"Watching Rachel develop these independent relationships has just been terrific," Heidi Hoffecker said. 

Rachel Andry, 26, has worked inside the Recycling Center at Orange Grove for two years. She gets paid to sort and shred paper next to a group of co-workers she's grown to love. 

"She's very content with the job she's doing," Hoffecker added. 

Hoffecker says the job gives Rachel more than a paycheck but skills that can only be taught in the workplace. 

"Being able to get along with your coworkers, understanding that there are other people who are your boss and you need to listen to them," she said, "You have to be respectful to your peers, to your colleagues, to your superiors, and your supervisors."

But Rachel's job could be eliminated with the state changes how those with intellectual and developmental disabilities are employed. 

Hoffecker is also the Director of Development at Orange Grove and says the center supports the policy's intent but explains the move would take away a choice those like Rachel deserve. 

"We don't want them to lose that choice. We want those families and those individuals to be able to choose that program or those services if that's what they feel is most appropriate for their loved one," she added. 

State officials will be on hand at a meeting Tuesday night at 6:30 in the cafeteria at the main campus located on Derby Street. 

Stay with Channel 3 for updates on this story. 

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