Community Partner Update: March 2007

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

3/1/2007

Governor to Introduce Budget on Wednesday, March 7

Next week Governor Rod R. Blagojevich will introduce the FY '08 Budget for the State of Illinois before a joint session of the General Assembly at the capitol. Immediately after the Budget Address Secretary Adams will hold a debriefing on what this will mean for the DHS Budget effective July 1, 2007. The debriefing will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Dirksen Parkway in Springfield, probably starting around 2:00 p.m.

March 2 Appropriations Hearing

At 8:00 a.m. on Friday, March 2, Representative Sara Feigenholtz will convene the Human Services Appropriations Committee for a hearing on the DHS FY '08 Budget. This subject matter hearing will be an opportunity for advocates and other stakeholders to address their issues and concerns. It will be held in Room 122B of the State House.

President Announces FY08 Federal Budget

President Bush introduced his federal budget for fiscal year '08. This budget failed to include funding for supported employment, projects with industry, and migrant funds. It also left out the Consumer Price Index increase that is mandated by Congress. If this is not reversed in the coming months by Congress, this will cost the State of Illinois between $3-5 million effective October 1, 2007. Effectively, this means that we will either have to cut contracts to our Community Partners or serve a much smaller number of VR Customers this fiscal year.

DRS Hosts Employment Workshop for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing

DRS' Services for Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing (SDHH) Unit will host "The Way to Employment Opportunities for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing" from 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. on March 7, 2007 at the Michael J Bilandic Building in Chicago. The free workshop will feature a panel of employees who are deaf and their supervisors (10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.) as well as mock interviews to assist participants in enhancing their interviewing skills (1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.). Sign language interpreters will be available throughout the day with CART available for the morning session. For more information about this workshop, please contact Jean Baker at Jean.Baker@illinois gov; 217/785-9304 (Voice), 866-264-2149 (TTY); or Ingrid Halvorsen at Ingrid.Halvorsen@illinois.gov, 217/785-9304 (Voice), 866-264-2149 (TTY).

OSERS' Hager Visits Illinois

There was a meeting on February 22 by John Hager, Assistant Secretary in the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. This is the office within the U.S. Department of Education which oversees the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, and other federal programs. Hager was talking about the importance of transition services for people with disabilities and how OSERS saw that as a priority for kids exiting the special education system. We shared our calendar, our ready reference guide, and various other materials. We also talked about our emphasis on serving individuals with the most significant disabilities and quality employment.

This meeting was convened at the DisabilityWorks Office on Randolph Street and included representatives from the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, Access Living, the Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Great Lakes DBTAC, and various other partners. Representing DRS included Marva Campbell-Pruitt, Lou Hamer, Francisco Alvarado, Doug Morton, and Jeff Standerfer. The meeting was convened by Karen McColluch of DisabilityWorks and included the famed Dr. Henry Betts who founded the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

SILC Holds Public Forums

The Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois (SILC) held 15 public forums throughout the State of Illinois from September to January. These forums presented an opportunity for individuals with disabilities, their family members and care providers to tell the federal government what they need to increase opportunities for independent living in Illinois.

Issues that were prevalent at all 15 forums included:

  • Need more services for people with vision impairments.
  • Enforce the parking fines for illegally parking in an accessible space.
  • Need more services for people with mental illness.
  • Increase income levels for program so that people can earn some income without losing benefits.
  • Concerns about the proposed change in sign language interpreter qualifications because interpreters are hard enough to find already.
  • Other issues included concerns about transportation; health care; employment;
  • Funding for Centers for Independent Living; PA services; education; and housing.

If you are interested in additional information concerning the results of these forums, please contact SILC of Illinois at 217-744-7777 (Voice/TTY).

DRS Implements Customer Financial Participation Rule Change

DRS recently adopted a Standard Budget Allowance VR rule change that requires VR customers who are not exempt from financial participation (i.e., those not receiving SSI or SSDI benefits) to pay a greater share of the cost of services. This rule change will primarily impact college students who receive DRS support for their education, as well as some individuals who receive equipment through DRS. Adoption of the new rules means that many students will begin paying at least some of the cost of their college training, giving them a greater investment in the process and a better understanding of the value of their education. This change will increase the amount of VR funding available to provide services to individuals with the most significant disabilities, particularly those who receive Social Security disability benefits.

CCDI Hosts Annual Disability Rights Conference

The upcoming Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities in Illinois (CCDI) Annual Disability Rights Conference is scheduled for May 14-16, 2007. This year's conference, "A New Vision," will mark CCDI's 23rd annual conference. CCDI is pleased to welcome Washington pundit and political humorist Patrick Haggerty as the keynote speaker. Mr. Haggerty will help kickoff events on May 14 at the opening luncheon and will lead a workshop session later that day.

Held at the Springfield Crowne Plaza Hotel, the conference is anticipated to be one of the largest events CCDI has hosted in years. CCDI has partnered with the Illinois Assistive Technology Program to bring over 50 vendors to "Expo Independence," the largest display of assistive technology and services for people with disabilities in downstate Illinois. For more information, visit www.ccdionline.org and click on the conference link or call the CCDI state office at (800) 433-8848 (V/TTY).

VR Program Statistics Show Progress

DRS' vocational rehabilitation (VR) program statistics for FY2007 (through January 2007) show an improvement compared to the same point in FY2006 with a 3.9 percent increase in competitive employment outcomes. According to these statistics, the FY2007 rehabilitation rate as of January 31, 2007 was 62.5 percent compared to 57.0 percent a year ago. The outlook for DRS' main productivity indicators is also generally positive. While applications are up less than one percent from the same point last year, certifications are up 5.9 percent and new IPEs are up 7.2 percent. These figures show that DRS field staff are continuing their efforts to bring in more cases that will result in an increased number of outcomes at a later date. We thank all DRS staff and our many community partners for their hard work!

ISD Hosts Legislative Breakfast

Twenty-five Illinois State Senators and Representatives met with 46 Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) students from their home districts at a legislative breakfast on February 8. The breakfast, which was held in the Hall of Flags at the Howlett Building, was sponsored by Senator Deanna Demuzio, Representative Jim Watson, and ISD. After the breakfast concluded, Representative Watson escorted the students to the Illinois House of Representatives where they were allowed to go on the House Floor. The students were also guests in the Senate Gallery prior to the Senator going to caucus. Senator Demuzio took the students to the Governor's office where they sat in the Governor's chair. She also gave tickets to the students for the Barack Obama Announcement held on February 10.