Preparing young people with significant disabilities for success in competitive integrated employment.

Heather D

Heather Denley 

Project SEARCH Instructor


Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. It began in 1996, when Erin Riehle was Director of Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department. Erin felt that, because the hospital served individuals with developmental disabilities as patients, it made sense that they should commit to hiring people in this group. She wondered if it would be possible to train people with developmental disabilities to fill some of the high-turnover, entry-level positions in her department. These jobs involved complex and systematic tasks, such as stocking supply cabinets. To learn more about the feasibility of her idea, she turned to Great Oaks Career Campuses and the Hamilton County Board of Developmental Disability Services. Through this outreach, Erin met Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they turned the idea of filling a handful of jobs in Cincinnati Children’s Emergency Department into a comprehensive, internationally recognized program model—Project SEARCH.  Read more about our story by clicking below!