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Pathlight, VVM Seek Innovations to Benefit People with Disabilities

SPRINGFIELD — Applications are now open for the second year of the Pathlight Challenge, Pathlight’s partnership with Valley Venture Mentors (VVM). The two organizations have put out a national call to entrepreneurs to develop solutions aimed at increasing independence for people with intellectual disabilities and those with autism. Pathlight, headquartered in Springfield, has served people with developmental and intellectual disabilities throughout Western Mass. since 1952, while VVM offers support to business startups. The Pathlight Challenge is supported by a grant from the Westfield Bank Future Fund. Startups from anywhere in the world are invited to apply for two spots in VVM’s prestigious, intensive, four-month Accelerator program, which kicks off in January. Pathlight Executive Director Ruth Banta said that the partnership with Valley Venture Mentors highlights the organization’s long-standing history of innovation. Pathlight has been a pioneer in partnering with people with developmental disabilities and autism to live full and engaged lives. She said it seems a natural next step to consider how technology or other innovative solutions can help a new generation of people with disabilities live as independently as possible. The Accelerator program is held over one long weekend a month, offering startups connections to subject-matter experts, investors, and engaged and collaborative peers. Those competing in the program can win up to $50,000 in grants to develop their business or product. Applications for the Accelerator are open through Wednesday, Oct. 18. The Pathlight fellows will graduate from the Accelerator program in May, when they will also unveil their new products or services. For more information or to apply for the Pathlight Challenge, visit pathlightgroup.org/our-community/pathlight-challenge.

Massachusetts Adds 10,800 Jobs in August

BOSTON — The state’s total unemployment rate dropped to 4.2% in  August, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development announced. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) preliminary job estimates indicate that Massachusetts added 10,800 jobs in August. Over the month, the private sector added 9,900 jobs as gains occurred in professional, scientific, and business services; other services; information; construction; and manufacturing. The July estimate was revised to a gain of 2,500 jobs. From August 2016 to August 2017, BLS estimates Massachusetts has added 57,400 jobs. The August unemployment rate was two-tenths of a percentage point lower than the national rate of 4.4% reported by the bureau. “Massachusetts has gained 57,400 jobs in the last year, with much of that growth concentrated in key economic sectors like health, education, professional, business, and scientific services,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Rosalin Acosta. “While these job gains, alongside a low unemployment rate, are signs of a strong economy in the Commonwealth, skills gaps and labor-market pressures persist. That is why our workforce-development agencies and partners continue to focus on matching available workers with the training and resources they need to connect to high-demand jobs.” The labor force decreased by 17,200 from 3,697,700 in July, as 10,700 fewer residents were employed and 6,500 fewer residents were unemployed over the month. Over the year, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased eight-tenths of a percentage point from 3.4% in August 2016. There were 31,300 more unemployed residents over the year compared to August 2016. The state’s labor-force participation rate — the total number of residents 16 or older who worked or were unemployed and actively sought work in the last four weeks — decreased three-tenths of a percentage point to 66.1% over the month. The labor-force participation rate over the year has increased 1.3% compared to August 2016. The largest private sector percentage job gains over the year were in other services; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and financial activities.

State Campaign to Help Parents Protect Kids from Opioid Misuse

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) recently launched a new, statewide public-information campaign to raise awareness among parents about what they can do to protect their middle- and high-school-aged kids from prescription-drug misuse and addiction. “Parents play an important role in protecting their kids from opioid and substance misuse, and our administration is supporting another tool to begin that conversation and to keep talking — because kids will listen,” said Gov. Charlie Baker. “This public-information campaign adds to our strong foundation of prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery in ending the opioid crisis that has impacted too many families throughout the Commonwealth.” The prevention campaign, launched with funding from the DPH Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, is titled “Stop Addiction Before It Starts,” and encourages parents to talk early and often with their children about the dangers of misusing prescription pain medications. Four out of five people who use heroin began by misusing prescription pain medications, and one in four teens report they’ve misused or abused a prescription drug at least once. According to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, kids whose parents talked with them about prescription pain medications were 42% less likely to misuse these drugs than those whose parents didn’t. The campaign will appear across the state on TV and on digital and paid social-media platforms. Viewers will be directed to mass.gov/stopaddiction for additional information about the importance of talking with teens about opioid misuse, tips on how to start the conversation, further information about opioids including the safe disposal of unused prescription pain pills, and resources for treatment and recovery.

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