Canton Repository

May 8, 2003

Stark men make pitch for rehab funding

Copley Washington correspondent

WASHINGTON — Kidney failure put an end to Lloyd Hinson’s ability to work in restaurants when he found that he no longer had the endurance to spend long hours on his feet.

Two kidney transplants later, the Plain Township man said he is more than happy in a completely different job, made possible by a federally supported vocational rehabilitation program.

Hinson, 38, came to Washington on Wednesday to push Congress for more federal support for the program. He testified before Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township, who chairs a congressional appropriations panel that funds health-care initiatives.

“Vocational rehabilitation did everything for me,” Hinson said. In October 2000, he landed a job at the Canton-based Incept Corp., a direct-marketing consulting firm. Now manager of the firm’s telecommunications systems, Hinson won the job after earning a degree in computers at Stark State College of Technology. As part of the benefit, the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission paid for his education.

Hinson paid tribute to his boss, Incept CEO Jeff White, who has hired two other people in addition to Hinson who have completed vocational rehabilitation.

White told Regula that federal support for vocational rehabilitation is an investment that helps “physically handicapped people generate a tax base instead of just consume it.”

Incept has benefited not just from these employees with newfound skills, but also from the 25 computers the state provided the company in return for its commitment to hire from the ranks of the rehabilitated. In the next two weeks, White expects to have another disabled person on board who will be allowed to work from home in an expansion of the program.

John M. Connelly, executive director of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, joined White and Hinson before the panel. The state agency administers vocational-rehabilitation programs, which draw 79 percent of their funding from the federal government and 21 percent from the state.

Connelly, who also is president of the National Organization of Rehabilitation Partners, urged Congress to spend an additional $200 million on the nationwide program next year. Last year, Congress increased spending by $52.3 million to $2.7 billion this year.

In remarks at the start of the hearing, Regula told the dozen or so witnesses who had come to testify not to get their hopes up.

“This is the love-your-neighbor committee,” he said of the appropriations panel he chairs. Formally known as the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Subcommittee, the panel plays a major role in determining how the federal government spends money on health, education and job training programs and research.

“It’s very difficult to sort out priorities because all of you have good proposals, good issues,” Regula said.