Project SEARCH - Asheville

Project SEARCH was developed at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a research environment that fosters visionary thinking and innovation. It all 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, 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, which involved complex and systematic tasks such as stocking supply cabinets. As a starting point, Erin presented her ideas to Susie Rutkowski, then the special education director at Great Oaks Career Campuses. Erin and Susie formed a partnership that was instantaneous, and together they launched Project SEARCH.

Since its inception, Project SEARCH has grown from a single program site at Cincinnati Children's to nearly sites across the United States and Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and the Netherlands. Project SEARCH's primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities.

Project SEARCH in the news: 

Click HERE to view an interactive PDF that gives background to our project and offers several videos specific to our Asheville area efforts. 

Mission Health blog post + video:

WLOS Health Alert:

Story from Spring 2017 Our Mission magazine:



Asheville Mission Project SEARCH

Asheville Project Search is a collaboration between Mission Health, The Arc of North Carolina, Asheville- Buncombe Technical Community College, Vocational Rehabilitation, Vaya Health, and North Carolina Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Asheville Mission Project SEARCH began in 2016. 80% of graduates from the first year’s program have secured competitive employment upon graduation which is a reflection of the of the Asheville Mission Project SEARCH program success. Individuals that have gone through the program have not only experienced professional growth, but personal growth and confidence in their abilities. The program at Mission Health is for young adults with an intellectual or developmental disability between the ages of 18-30 years old.

The program is yearlong, during which time the young adults intern in three different departments throughout the hospital. Some of the departments that interns work in are Sterile Processing, Quality and Safety, Food and Nutrition, Child Care, Environmental Services, and Laundry. Having the opportunity to intern in three different departments allows the interns to build a variety of technical skills and explore for themselves a career about which they are passionate. The program also incorporates two hours or classroom time. Time in the classroom helps the interns to work on soft skills, generate resumes, discuss money management, and independence. Asheville Mission Project SEARCH also promotes networking through getting the interns involved in service work in the community and networking opportunities, like attending a luncheon at the Chamber of Commerce. Throughout the year, Project SEARCH is engaging with local businesses to secure opportunity for job placement after the program. Annually, the interns participate in a reverse job fair.

The intensive one year program allows the intern to mature and become confident in their abilities and job readiness. The program also provides support and coaching by dedicated and trained Project SEARCH staff.

Eligible Candidates for the Program:

• A strong desire to work
• Not enrolled in a High School
• A person with a diagnosis of developmental or intellectual disability
• Reliable transportation to Mission Hospital for the duration of the program
• Eligible for VR services
• Ability to be left without coach supervision for up to 4 hours
• 18-35 years old will be given priority placement


project search app


Find out more by calling The Arc of North Carolina in Asheville at 828.254.4771 or email at