Health First continues to open new doors for individuals with disabilities

By Jaimee Preston

Hosting the very first Project SEARCH site in the state of Florida, Health First has reaped the benefits of their trailblazing foresight. By recognizing a need in our community, they’ve demonstrated that providing these unique opportunities not only enriches individual lives, but also enriches their entire company and community as a whole.

Through partnership with Brevard Public Schools, Vocational Rehabilitation, the Agency for Persons with Disabilities and the Brevard Workforce Development Board, Health First has been able to play host to the vocational and education-training program in both Holmes Regional Medical Center and Cape Canaveral Hospital. With absolutely no cost to individuals with disabilities or employers, this esteemed community program is open to willing participants.

Maria Trieste, job placement supervisor of Health First’s Project SEARCH, wants other businesses to benefit from this successful program like Health First is doing now. “We help local businesses match successful candidates to their employment needs,” she explains. “Our program provides coaches who will go with our students to a place of employment and mentor them through the entire training process.”

In her role, Trieste coordinates job development and agency referrals with the specific human resources needs of local businesses. The goal of the program is to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities. As a result, these individuals lead empowered, self-sufficient lives as active participants in the further enrichment of our community.

Students who participate in Project SEARCH can expect classroom-training sessions that foster employability skills, like interviewing techniques and professional resumé creation.

They will also participate in a rotation of three-to-four internships that are selected to match their individual skills and interests. Throughout these internships, students work closely with coaches who mentor and ensure their success through the entire internship process. Over 25 possible intern rotations exist between the two hospital campuses.

In just nine months, well-trained Project SEARCH “recruits” are ready for graduation and job placement. Graduates leave the program well groomed and ready for the professional business culture.


For example, only two months into his Project SEARCH experience, Kevin Price was offered a job in the Food Services Department of Holmes Regional Medical Center. Maureen Durney, a job coach for Project SEARCH, beams when speaking about Price. “He has such an amazing work ethic and an eye for detail,” she says. “He is a natural support to the dietary team.”

After Price’s first day in the Food Services Department, the kitchen manager explained to Durney that no new employee had ever accomplished what Price was able to accomplish on his first day — disability or no disability.

Price’s dedication brings the high-quality, and patient-centered care that is the vision and mission of Health First. Like Price, Mark Flagg and Akeem Slaughter represent the achieved success of the Project SEARCH program.

Flagg has been hailed as a poster child for the program. His ready smile and patient prioritization have greatly increased the customer-service satisfaction in the orthopedic unit.

Meanwhile, in a completely different department, Slaughter maintains the busy influx of medical record files. He is thankful to Project SEARCH for affording him the opportunity to meet so many new people.

Current students, such as Kayla Taulbee, are now passing the program’s halfway point. Located in the heart of Holmes Regional Medical Center, she has the important task of sterilizing intravenous pumps that are sent all over the hospital. Her supervisor and coach are impressed by how much she is able to accomplish in her workday.

“The other day she sterilized 45 pumps,” her supervisor recalls. With one of the two technicians out on maternity leave, Taulbee’s hard work, as she strengthens her job skills, is an essential function of the department.

Soon these dedicated students of Project SEARCH will graduate skilled and employable. Armed with confidence and the support of Project SEARCH, these individuals will be ready to enter the Space Coast workforce.

So, are you ready to take your business to a new standard? If so, Project SEARCH is ready to partner with you 

in the further enrichment of lives and our community. For more information, call toll free at (855) 347-7117 or e-mail