Community Partner Update: February 2006

2/8/2006

Stakeholder Meeting Convened

Rob Kilbury and his Central Support Leadership Team met with various stakeholders, including representation from the Illinois Association of Rehab Facilities, the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in IL, the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, the Statewide Independent Living Council, Health and Disability Advocates, the Illinois Assistive Technology Project, the State of Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission, and the State Rehabilitation Council. The meeting was convened at the newly renovated Illinois Network of CIL's Office, and included 20-25 people.

Topics of discussion included the Cross Disability Data Base; Communication Strategies; state and federal Budget Updates; DRS Hiring Report; 2006 Goals and Measurement Update, the Future of VR Meeting, legislation, including WIA Reauthorization; and much more. There was also some discussion of the Disability Hiring Liaison position that DRS is working with DHS Human Resources in establishing.

The group agreed that such meetings were helpful, and that DRS would plan to convene these meetings at least twice per year.

Electronic News

DRS has been struggling with providing stakeholders with timely, relevant news from the division. Partly as a result of the feedback we received at the Stakeholder Meeting described above, we promised to develop a news flash periodically which we will distribute to interested parties electronically via listserve. By the time we have gotten a formal, hard copy newsletter written, printed, and mailed, it is obsolete. So this is our first attempt to create something that we can send out on a monthly basis to let folks know what is up with the Division.

Standerfer to Attend Future of VR Conference

Jeff Standerfer, Bureau Chief of the Bureau of Field Services, will be leaving for Washington, DC next week to attend a Future of VR Meeting hosted by the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation. Jeff is a wonderful representative of VR, having served as a counselor for many years before becoming an administrator. There is nobody more consistent in their support of the VR Program in Illinois than Jeff.

Governor Blagojevich to Announce Budget 2/15

Next Wednesday, February 15, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich will announce his Fiscal Year 2007 Budget to an audience at the State Capitol, including all of the members of the Illinois General Assembly. DHS will hold its debriefing immediately following the governor's address at the Illinois State Museum Auditorium (approximately 1:30 p.m.).

FY 2006 Federal VR Budget

DRS will fare ok in the budget recently passed in Washington and signed by the President. While some of our programs such as supported employment will receive a significant reduction in funding, the VR-110 allocation will receive a cost of living increase.

Reauthorization of WIA 

Despite a plethora of phone calls and faxes to members of Congress, the Workforce Investment Act has not yet received a vote on the floor of the U.S. Senate. S. 1021, which is supported by the Council of State Administrators of VR and the National Rehabilitation Association, will have to be modified in conference committee should the Senate pass it in the coming weeks. It includes the Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

DRS Quality Indicators Show Significant Progress 

In the last three years, DRS has concentrated on improving the quality of jobs obtained by customers in the VR program. Key measures of job quality are average hourly earnings, average hours worked per week, and the percentage of customers who receive employer-paid health insurance. It is important to note that DRS staff have been making substantial progress in assisting customers in obtaining jobs that show improvement on these measures. The highlights of our most recent data show:

  • The average hourly wage has increased from $8.36 in FY2003 to $9.30 in the first half of FY2006. This is an increase of 11.2 percent.
  • The average number of hours worked per week has increased from 29.2 in FY2003 to 29.9 in FY2006. This is a 2.4 percent increase.
  • The percentage of outcomes where the customer receives employer-paid health insurance has increased from 27 percent in FY2003 to 31 percent in FY2006. This is an increase of 14.8 percent.
  • The percentage of outcomes that were direct placements by DRS staff has increased from 19 percent in FY2003 to 32 percent in FY2006. This is an increase of 68.4 percent.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly for our financial situation, the percentage of Ticket-to-Work customers who have assigned their Tickets to DRS has increased from 18 percent in FY2003 to 57 percent in FY2006. This is an increase of more than 200 percent.

Home Services Redetermination Initiative

Since May 1, 2005, HSP has placed a major emphasis on a redetermination initiative in which every customer was reassessed as if they were a brand new  HSP customer. This has been a major undertaking on the part of the HSP field staff and supervisors with the project now coming to completion. In addition, HSP will be well within the boundaries of the FY 06 budget as a direct result of this redetermination exercise. HSP serves approximately 30,000 plus clients annually

DRS Request for Proposal Process for Job Placement Contracts

DRS is conducting a request-for-proposal (RFP) process to restructure and expand its job placement performance based on contracts. About 45 community rehabilitation agencies currently have performance-based job placement contracts to assist people with disabilities in becoming employed. The RFP will result in converting the contracts from a lump sum payment to a "milestone" payment method, in which the agency is paid for each step on the road to a successful job placement. In addition, three new contracts totaling $150,000 will be awarded to agencies that do not currently provide job placement services. DRS believes this process will result in more people with disabilities receiving job placement services in the coming fiscal year.

Nex Talk 

I have had a TTY on my desk for the three years I have worked at the Harris Building. This device allows me to hear from deaf customers, staff members, and supervisors. Recently, all of our offices have had a system installed that allows us to talk with customers using the TTY via our personal computer. This system, called Nex Talk, will eventually make the TTY obsolete. You can reach me toll-free via Nex Talk at 1-888-440-8994. Our division has also recently arranged for a demonstration of the Video Relay Service, which will allow for interpreters to be available via video for customers who need this accommodation.

DRS Reprints Employer Guide

People with disabilities, employment, and the workplace has been reprinted with the help of the Illinois Assistive Technology Project and the DCEO Disability Navigator Project. This helpful guide includes information important to businesses, including tax credits and deductions, reasonable accommodations, interviewing and language tips, and much more.

If you are interested in receiving a number of these well-received publications, contact Vicki Kamhi at DHSVRAX@illinois.gov. Alternative formats can be obtained through the SILC at 217-744-7777 (Voice/TTY).