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'I'm a totally new person than I was when I first came here'

When Robert Merryman first came to work at the ReStyle Designs secondhand store, he was living in foster care.

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - When Robert Merryman first came to work at the ReStyle Designs secondhand store, he was living in foster care.

He had lost his job and his apartment, and he had run-ins with the law.

Merryman's developmental disability was preventing him from leading a stable lifestyle.

"People can fall through the cracks," said Josh Hartley with Arc of Lane County, "and some of the dangers are that they end up making bad choices and end up in the court system."

Five years after starting work at ReStyle Designs, Merryman's routine looks a lot different now.

"I'm a totally new person than I was when I first came here. When I first came here, I wasn't the same as I am now," he said. "I got to meet new people and get a paycheck once a month."

Merryman got this job through the Arc of Lane County.

Hartley said that thanks to improvements in medicaid, healthcare for people with developmental disabilities has shifted from an institutionalized approach to a more inclusive community approach.

"They're getting to be around people that aren't paid to be around them," he said. "A lot of their life is around folks that are paid providers, personal support work."

Still, there's a stigma that needs to be worked on, Hartley said, to create more jobs for people like Merryman.

"There's a lack of awareness about what folks within the population can provide to a business," he said.

For Merryman, this job means more than new friendships and a higher wage.

"I'm getting back to living on my own pretty soon," he said.

"I think his story is just - when it all comes together, what can happen," Hartley said.

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