5/2/2006

Community Partner Update: May 1, 2006

Kilbury Attendance at CSAVR Conference in Bethesda, MD

Rob Kilbury attended the Spring Conference of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation from April 23 26. He had the opportunity to visit the Washington Offices of Senators Durbin and Obama as well as Speaker Hastert, Congressman Davis, and Congresswomen Biggert and Schakowsky. All six of these members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation will be instrumental in the passage of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) one day in the future.

In these appointments Kilbury attempted to relay the importance of the reauthorization of WIA, especially to customers with disabilities served by the state federal Vocational Rehabilitation program. He also tried to highlight the importance of issues related to the transition of youth from school to adult life, and how the expectations set up in IDEA made additional financial investments in VR for this purpose a necessity. CSAVR is advocating for an additional $206 million for transition nationally, which would mean something like $10 million more for this purpose for transition for Illinois. Such a substantial investment in youth would go a long way toward our being able to afford to serve each student who has an Individualized Education Plan.

Members of CSAVR visited the hill on Tuesday afternoon, in addition to the transition funding issue the focus of the visits was to relay the importance of reauthorization in general; highlighting the parts of the Senate bill (S. 1021) we would like to see in the eventual law; talking about limiting the VR contribution via Memoranda of Understanding or a finite infrastructure cap; maintaining the RSA Commissioner as a presidential appointee; and restoring the $52 million for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Grants, Projects with Industry, and Supported Employment that the Bush Administration eliminated in '06.

Workforce Investment Act Update

The two bills deliberated on by the respective chambers may not be reconciled in conference committee prior to the November 7 elections. While S. 1021 is far preferable to the House alternative, it has not yet received a vote by the full Senate and is unlikely to receive such a vote before the fall elections. Due to the fact that Congress will be out for much of the rest of the year while they campaign, we will likely see this legislation taken up again next Spring with a new cast of characters. That is not necessarily bad for the VR program in Illinois since we have an effective MOU process for one stop cost-sharing.

General Assembly Goes into OT

The Illinois General Assembly did not make the scheduled April 7 deadline for adjourning. At the time of this writing, the House of Representatives is meeting and the Senate is not scheduled to convene again until the first week of May. What this means for the programs and services administered by the Division of Rehabilitation Services remains to be seen. We continue to believe the investments in programs affecting people with disabilities in the budget introduced by Governor Blagojevich will turn up in the final legislation, we are particularly hopeful the governor's increased investment in Home Services will survive the budget process.... Stay tuned.

Electronic Dissemination of Community Service Agreement

In keeping with the common goal, "DHS On-Line, Not In-Line," DHS will be electronically mailing FY07 Community Service Agreements to DRS providers, as well as providers within other areas of DHS. A test message has been sent to providers from the DHS Office of Clinical, Administrative and Program Support (OCAPS) to ensure we have accurate addresses and there will be follow up emails from OCAPS for further verification. Providers will be asked to fax the first and last pages of the Community Service Agreement back to DHS Office of Contract Administration for processing. Attachments and program manuals referenced in the contract can be downloaded and printed out by providers from the DHS website at http://www.dhs.state.il.us/serviceProviders/grantsContracts/.

Also for FY07, providers under contract to DRS and other DHS divisions will be able to access payment data from the DHS internet at http://www.dhs.state.il.us/mhdd/ocaps/. If you should have any questions about these news items or about contracts in general, please contact Leesa Mays at Leesa.Mays@dhs.state.il.us or Leesa.Mays@illinois.gov.

Funding through the Illinois Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Governor Blagojevich has promised $2 million from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund to be used for Community Reintegration in FY07. The division is working with the Governor's Office and the IL Housing Development Corporation to disseminate these funds to CILS throughout the state to help people with disabilities transition from nursing homes back into the community. The proposed project must first be approved by the IL Affordable Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board.

Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach Grant Update

As many of you are aware, DRS has operated a Benefits Planning Assistance and Outreach (BPAO) grant for the past six years. The Benefits Specialists provide information to people receiving SSI and SSDI about how returning to work will impact their state and federal benefits. The analysis of these benefits provided by our Benefits Specialists, as well as those from DMH and MOPD, have helped many people with disabilities make an informed choice about returning to work. These grants are currently funded until Sept. 29, 2006. We are planning to apply for funding for another four years when the new application is released, which we hope will be in May. Thank you to those in the community who have been so enthusiastic about the program - we hope to keep providing this service for many years to come!

DRS has had the luxury of working with Laura Gallagher-Watkin, who spearheaded the development of the BPAO program and has been responsible for the program's operations since its inception. Laura, who is extremely talented and dedicated, administered what had universally been acclaimed to be one of the best BPA&O's in the country. The good news is that Laura is not leaving the state, having accepted a position with Health and Disability Advocates in Chicago. Laura will be leaving BPA&O in mid-May. We wish her the best!

704 Workgroup and New 704 Reporting Guide

The federal Office Of Management and Budget (OMB) is requiring outcome based reporting from all federal agencies including RSA. The impact of this requirement is that all future funding will be tied to outcome results. This impacts RSA and, therefore, CILS nationwide. Consequently, a new 704 Annual Report document that is outcome based has been developed. DRS' Independent Living Unit established the 704 Workgroup, composed of CIL representatives, to address this challenging reporting change. To ensure greater understanding and address the crucial need for more consistency in reporting, the 704 Workgroup developed a new 704 Reporting Guide and a corresponding training. This training, which was presented to CIL Executive Directors and program directors in Springfield on April 18, 2006, was very well received. The quality of reporting not only in Illinois but nationwide could have a significant impact on the level of federal funding CILs receive in future years.

Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability Training

As part of DRS' ongoing focus on providing World Class Customer Service to DRS local office staff and our customers, DRS is offering Medical and Psychosocial Aspects of Disability training. Dr. Scott Forbes of Region V RRCEP is conducting this training for DRS throughout the state.

Participants review and refresh their knowledge of systems of the body and disabilities related to body systems. This training focuses on problem-based learning with emphasis on possible functional limitations of disabilities and the impact of the psychological and sociological factors of these disabilities. Participants use reference materials available in their local offices which gives them practice in gathering pertinent information important to case documentation and provision of services. This training will enable DRS staff to better assist customers in making informed choices to achieve their employment, education, and independent living goals.

Regional Meetings Focus on the "Three C's"

During the recent DRS regional meetings, staff were challenged to focus on the "Three C's: Commitment, Communication and Consistency." Staff were asked to commit to coach and mentor customers and colleagues to support them in making decisions that utilize their best judgment. Enhanced communication was encouraged among all levels of staff. Last - but certainly not least - all staff were encouraged to consistently apply policy to meet our customers' employment and independent living needs.

Smith Assumes New Position at DRS

Kris Smith assumed a new position with the division effective April 17. She became the Manager of Vocational Rehabilitation Support. As such, Smith will oversee fiscal operations of VR, grants and contracts, and various other tasks essential to the division. We wish Smith the best in her new job!

Successful Job Fair in Jacksonville

The Jacksonville DRS office played a key role in the very successful Career and Employment Expo held at Illinois College on April 6. More than 550 participants attended the event which featured 97 employers who were available to discuss full-time and part-time employment opportunities. Our Jacksonville office staff report that over 200 people will be offered employment as a direct result of this expo!! Congratulations go out to our Jacksonville Supervisor Paula Ferguson, Tim Preston, and all of the Jacksonville DRS staff who helped make this expo a huge success!

Email Address Conversion

Effective May 6, all DHS email addresses will be converted to the illinois.gov address. When you email a DHS employee on or after this date, please use: firstname.lastname@illinois.gov (e.g., Robert.Kilbury@illinois.gov).