Community Partner Update: December 2006

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.


Tammy Duckworth joins Blagojevich Administration

Tammy Duckworth, a highly decorated war veteran from the ongoing debacle in Iraq, is coming to work for the Blagojevich Administration as the Director of the Department of Veteran's Affairs. Her first day with the agency will be December 15. Ms. Duckworth, who is a double amputee, recently ran for Congress as a Democrat in the 6th Congressional District. This is the district which was formerly represented by Henry Hyde for the past two or three decades, before he decided to retire. She was narrowly defeated by Senator Peter Roskam in this heavily Republican-leaning district. DRS wants to take this opportunity to welcome Tammy to state employment. We at DRS wish her the best in her new capacity. We look forward to working together to help more veterans gain meaningful employment through the Vocational Rehabilitation program!

IATP Recognizes Legislative Champions

On November 29 the Illinois Assistive Technology Project (IATP) held a reception and tour of their facility at Fifth and Washington in Springfield. The following state legislators were honored for their leadership in providing assistive technology devices and services to Illinoisans with disabilities: State Representatives Sara Feigenholz, Beth Coulson, and Jim Watson, as well as Senators Deanna Demuzio and Miguel del Valle received awards. Many more important legislative stakeholders were present, as this reception was held in conjunction with the Fall Veto Session, which was directly across the street from IATP at the Old State Capitol since the State House is currently under construction.

Kilbury returns from San Francisco

Director Rob Kilbury returned from the fall Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Conference in San Francisco, California. This semi-annual meeting included presentations from the Rehabilitation Services Administration, the Social Security Administration, and many other Vocational Rehabilitation Partners. Of particular interest was a presentation made by J. Randolph Lewis, VP for Human Resources at Walgreens, Incorporated. Mr. Lewis spoke eloquently about the inroads into hiring people with disabilities that his corporation has made over the past several years and the progress they intend to make in that regard in the future. From a purely business perspective, Mr. Lewis made the argument that hiring people with disabilities was the right thing to do for both moral and economic reasons. He encouraged the broader business community to utilize the state-federal program and the CSAVR Business Network as a staffing resource.

DRS 2007 Calendars

Our 2007 Calendar/2006 Annual Report will be mailed to you by mid-December. This year's calendar highlights the many outstanding collaborative relationships between DRS and its many community partners which strengthen the service delivery system and enhance services to Illinoisans with disabilities. Please contact Lori Zenner ( if you would like additional copies or need a braille or large print copy.

Vida Independiente Latino Services Initiative

DHS/DRS has spearheaded a collaborative initiative designed to improve Illinois' capacity to address the needs of the growing population of Latinos with disabilities. Partners in this unprecedented collaboration include DRS Hispanic Services, DHS Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs, University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research, La Voz Latina, Progress Center for Independent Living's South Radio Program and Home Services Program, CALOR, El Valor, and Northeastern Illinois University Master's Program.

Each partner in this Vida Independiente Latino Services initiative shares a common vision: to achieve independent living and full participation of Latinos with disabilities in their communities. Through this initiative, DHS/DRS and its many partners will create a comprehensive, holistic service delivery system that enables Latinos with disabilities and their families to full access services to meet all of their needs. For more information about this initiative, contact Francisco Alvarado, Manager of DRS Hispanic/Latino Services, at 312-793-4306 (Voice) or 1-888-440-8995 (TTY).

Smart Path Integrator Awards

We congratulate Francisco Alvarado, Manager of DRS Hispanic/Latino Services, for winning one of three DHS Smart Path Integrator Awards. These awards are given to DHS staff who "surpassed expectations in the area of integrating DHS since last October and provided remarkable impacts for both DHS and the people we serve." The following announcement was recently included in the Smart Path Signpost:

"Francisco Alvarado: Mireya Hurtado, Director of the Office of Hispanic/Latino Affairs, nominated Francisco, Hispanic Services Manager for DRS. Although Francisco is an employee of DRS, Mireya tells of his cross-divisional outreach work to bring DHS services to the Latino community, develop the Customer Services Plan for Limited English Proficient customers for local offices, cultural competence training, bilingual pay policy, and language proficiency assessments. She tells us 'Francisco has consistently approached agency-wide projects and his own duties with a vision of holistic services leading to independent living for our customers and their families. He is always willing and seeking to assist others with development of their strategic plans, goals, and objectives. He strives to find connections among our divisions, sister agencies and community partners in order to provide a strong and helpful presence in the Latino community. I have often relied on Francisco's experience and expertise on anything related to DHS and have found his insight to be accurate, visionary and inspiring.' What a great recommendation from a partner and collaborator! Good to have you working for DHS, Francisco!"

Business Panel

As part of DRS' ongoing efforts to provide opportunities for quality employment for individuals with disabilities, the Champaign DRS office, in cooperation with the Illinois Employment and Training Center and Parkland College, held its bi-annual "Business Panel: Connecting the Job Seeker and the Employer" on November 16, 2006. Area employers shared information about their businesses and the hiring process, as well as responded to questions from DRS customers and other interested individuals. Panel members included representatives from the Champaign County Nursing Home, Steak N Snake Corporate Office, and WCFF 92.5 FM Radio. John Spears, Outreach Coordinator for Health Benefits for Workers with Disabilities, also shared information related to the ways in which employed individuals with disabilities can access medical care and prescription medications.

DRS Regional Meetings

DRS' semi-annual regional meetings were recently held throughout the state. Director Kilbury and members of the DRS Central Support Leadership Team joined with local office staff to share information and discuss issues and concerns related to vocational rehabilitation (VR). Director Kilbury introduced each meeting with an update on the state of DRS and responded to questions from staff. Bureau Chiefs Bettye Odem-Davis and Jeff Standerfer also addressed the staff, noting staff accomplishments and discussing expectations related to the ongoing improvement of casework quality. The highlight of the meetings were presentations by DRS customers who shared their experience of working with DRS and the difference that DRS has made in their lives. Afternoon sessions included a discussion on the evolution of the coordinator's job and a presentation by Carl Suter, Executive Director of Council of State Administrators in Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), which focused on the role of business as a primary key in the rehabilitation process and the future of VR.

Customer Success Story

Mark Krupke, Supervisor with the Rockford South DRS office, shares the following story about Joyce, a former HSP customer who is confident and ready to get back into the workforce. We congratulate Mark, Cynthia Brown, and the Rockford South team for the ongoing support they have given Joyce!

"Joyce was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1991. Having a career with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, her condition worsened to the point of having to leave her employment. Joyce was referred for HSP services in 2000, and was found to be eligible for services.

The past six years, a Personal Assistant (PA) has given her the ability to remain in her home with her family and allowed her to focus her energy on her rehabilitation. With PA services, and the assistance of the purchase of adaptive equipment through her insurance company, Joyce has been able to productively address her fatigue by doing some light weight lifting and water aquatic rehabilitation treatment.

During a recent reassessment, performed by LPN Cynthia Brown, Joyce had become independent enough that she no longer needed HSP services. During the reassessment and discussion of case closure, Joyce voiced the desire of having the confidence of wanting to re-enter the work force on a part-time basis. Cynthia Brown was able to provide information to Joyce regarding our Vocational Rehabilitation program, which Joyce indicated she would gladly follow up on. With this determination to overcome the challenges of a disability, we are sure that Joyce will also be a success with the Vocational program too!"