In 1996, while working as the Director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Erin Riehle was frustrated with the high turnover rate in entry-level jobs that involved restocking supplies. While working to identify a solution to eliminating the high turnover rate, Cincinnati Children's had adopted a major diversity initiative, taking a policy statement from the American College of Healthcare executives, which reads, "Healthcare organizations must lead their communities in increasing employment opportunities for qualified persons with disabilities and advocate on behalf of their employment to other organizations." Erin wondered if people with disabilities could fill the entry level jobs she had. Not knowing anyone with a disability she turned to the Hamilton County Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities and the Great Oaks Institute of Technology and Career Development and asked if her idea was possible. Together with these organizations, Susie Rutkowski, and Jennifer Linnabary, the idea of filling a handful of jobs in Cincinnati Children's Emergency Department evolved into a comprehensive program model-Project SEARCH.
Project SEARCH has grown from one original program site at Cincinnati Children's to over 400 programs both domestic and international. Some of our business partners include but are not limited to: Mat-Su Regional Medical Center, Fifth Third Bank, Medtronic, the Department of Labor, the Miami Metro Zoo, the City of Miami, Kaiser Permanente, and the University of Rochester Medical Center. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.