5/1/2009

Legislative Update

There are several legislative proposals that DRS is tracking. These include the following: Family members/spouses providing care to customers in the Home Services Program; changes in Medicaid eligibility requirements; increases in wages/health insurance for workers in the Home Services Program; prescreenings of individuals with disabilities in nursing facilities; Rapid Reintegration Pilot; hiring incentives for individuals with disabilities in state government; and the priority of blind vendors for vending facilities/cafeterias on state property.

Bureau of Field Services:

The Downers Grove office received the Advocacy Award at the Annual Ability Links Conference and Employment Expo on April 9th. The conference focused on issues the employer, job seeker and the service provider face in the ever changing world of work. Sessions on Disability Awareness, preparing for successful job search, dressing for success, best practices and strategies for becoming a disability inclusive employer and several other were presented by nationally known experts in their field.

The Kankakee DRS office has recently moved to a new location at 285 North Schuyler Avenue. Work continues on the building, but staff are there and serving customers. 

Louis Hamer has been named the Acting Assistant Bureau Chief for DHS/DRS Region 2. Mr. Hamer has many years of management experience and continues to be the manager of our Community Resources section, in addition to his new responsibilities.

Independent Living

The 2009 Disability Rights/Independent Living Conference and Expo was held April 27th thru 29th at the Prairie Convention Center in downtown Springfield. Its primary sponsors were DHS/DRS, INCIL, CCDI, IATP and SILC. The conference organizers indicated that over 230 people who attended the Conference.

The Conference featured a variety of workshops tracts that covered topics such as IL services to consumers with mental illness, systems advocacy, community organizing, CIL board recruitment and development, and ADA and personal development, to name a few. There was even a Salsa Dance workshop this year which was well received.

In addition, there was the Disabilities Expo which featured a variety of disability related products such as: accessible trucks, vans, and bikes; accessible video games; accessible rock climbing wall; product demonstrations; and an assistive technology workshop geared for VR and HSP staff. More than 55 vendors participated in the Expo.

Representative Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) won CCDI's Penny Severns Legislator of the Year Award; Mike Egbert of Opportunities for Access won the Justin Dart Distinguished Citizen Award; Cathy Contarino won the Ed Roberts Award issued by the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

Budget Update

DRS has received the following amounts from the federal stimulus package: $10,039,645.00 - VR; $570,697.00 - Independent Living; and $1,411,724.00 - Older Blind. This federal money must be spent by September 30, 2011. DRS is working with a number of stakeholders to develop a plan to invest these dollars in services and programs that will benefit the state-federal program and its customers for years to come, without encumbering the agency to continue these programs when the stimulus dollars are gone.

ISD and ISVI

The fourth annual legislative breakfast sponsored by the Illinois State Advisory Council for the Education of Children with Disabilities was held April 3rd at the State Capitol Rotunda. Students from ISVI and ISD were invited to meet with their legislators. Students were lucky enough to meet the Governor, be part of a bill signing, and have their photos taken with Governor Quinn.

Debit Cards for Personal Assistants

Personal Assistants will soon be able to choose to receive their pay via debit card, available through a Request for Proposal process which was won by ACS State and Local Solutions, Inc. PAs currently have a choice of being paid via either direct deposit or paper check.

Community Reintegration/Money Follows the Person

To date, 143 individuals have moved into the community through the Community Reintegration Program through the 23 Centers for Independent Living. The Money Follows the Person program officially began on March 1. Many of the activities of the CIL staff have been meeting with potential MFP consumers in the Nursing Facility to discuss MFP. Additional requirements have been set in place as part of this new program.

Rapid Reintegration

DRS Staff have met with Rapid Reintegration program liaisons within the Home Services Program and Centers for Independent Living. A formal training has been conducted on the prescreening process, roles and responsibilities, etc. with the program starting on April 1. A letter was also sent to the participating hospitals of the start date and process for contacting the DRS office regarding the need for prescreening.

The goal of the program is to serve 100 individuals between the ages of 18 59 who are hospitalized at select locations (Springfield and Rockford). DRS will study and analyze the discharge process, the ability to prevent prolonged NF placements, and to increase customer choice.

Senate, House Appropriations Hearing Held

The Senate Appropriations Committee met on April 28, the House Human Services Appropriations Committee met on April 30. Much of the questioning was expected to be about the Home Services Program and how the division intended to live within its $26.3 million increase ($524 million total in budget proposal). Rob Kilbury shared the Division's plan to involve stakeholders in the process of incorporating service parameters in the areas of housekeeping, food preparation, outside the home, money management, and laundry. The House Committee will meet again at 10:30 a.m. on May 5: Happy Cinco de Mayo.

2009 VR Performance Statistics

The performance of the DRS VR program for the first three quarters of fiscal year 2009 is overall slightly better than for the same period in the previous year. A total of 3,606 individuals with disabilities were closed as successful competitive outcomes through March 31, a 1.9 percent improvement over data for FY2008. Given the increase in the state's unemployment rate in the last year, this represents a significant achievement.

Results were very positive for the Bureau of Blind Services, which overall showed a 17.5 percent increase over FY2008. Particularly notable was the performance of BBS Area 5, with a 91.3 percent increase compared to last year. Congratulations BBS!

Employment outcomes for the Bureau of Field Services increased by 1.1 percent over last year, with significant performance increases posted by BFS Region 4 (25.1%) and BFS Region 3 (13.7%).

Another notable result was an increase in customer earnings. The average hourly wage earned by customers successfully employed rose by 3.4 percent in the last year, from $9.73 in FY2008 to $10.06 in FY2009. While this represents an increase of only $8.25 per week, it is a positive result in a very difficult labor market.

The rehabilitation rate, the percentage of closed cases who are successfully employed, was basically unchanged at 58.3% for FY2009 compared to 58.5% last year. This figure remains above the RSA standard of 55.8% for general VR programs.