The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) recently announced that it will make its monitoring visit to Illinois the week of April 28 to May 2, 2008. This will be the first on-site monitoring visit from our federal partner since 2004. The visit will involve a team of five RSA staff from Washington, and will include activities related to both the vocational rehabilitation and independent living programs. RSA developed new monitoring protocols in 2006 and began state reviews in 2007. The new process involves more emphasis on meetings with customers and other stakeholders around the state, while still including reviews of rules, procedures and casework practices. The first of a series of phone conferences that will lead up to the site visit was held on November 26. It involved Director Kilbury and DRS managers, as well as representatives of the State Rehabilitation Council and the Statewide Independent Living Council.
2008 Calendar Watch
Keep an eye out for the new DRS Calendar/Annual Report, coming to a diverse group of stakeholders around the first of the year. This calendar is full of important dates, wonderful success stories, and lots of information about the Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS). If you don't receive a copy in the mail, pick one up at your local DRS Office or Center for Independent Living. Or call 1-888-532-4146 (TTY) and we will mail you one. Alternative formats available upon request.
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
As part of the NDEAM activities in Illinois, DHS and CMS convened a training of human resource personnel, affirmative action officers, ADA Coordinators, and other stakeholders. The training was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Springfield on October 31. More than twenty agencies and sixty individuals participated in this important training. This was part of a broader initiative to help more individuals with disabilities become state employees. Deputy Governor Louanner Peters also received an award from the Interagency Committee of Employees with Disabilities for her exemplary leadership on disability issues as part of this event.
Disability Mentoring Week Update
October 15-19 offices throughout the State of Illinois participated in National Disability Mentoring Week. More than 200 DRS Customers took part in an array of activities designed to make them more employable and productive. We believe that such annual efforts will go a long way of changing society's expectations about what people with disabilities can do; perhaps even changing some of our own expectations.
Kris Smith to assume new role at DRS
Kris Smith, a longtime, invaluable employee of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, will be temporarily assigned to spearhead exciting changes and growth in the Community Reintegration Program, effective December 3, 2007. This innovative DRS program is designed to help people with disabilities between the ages of 18-59 transition from nursing homes back into the community. Plans are to more than double the number of customers served and to move the program from a pilot to a Medicaid waivered service. We look forward to Kris working with Bureau Chief Teri Dederer and the other Home Services staff to apply their considerable skills into this ongoing initiative.
John Wilcox to leave ISVI/ISD
John Wilcox, who has worked as the Business Manager for the two Jacksonville schools for a decade, will be taking a new job effective December 3. John does all of the budgets for the two schools, develops the necessary contracts, and otherwise has made himself indispensable to the Jacksonville schools. We wish John the best in his new role with the Department Healthcare and Family Services.
Reggie Clinton hired at ISVI
After several months of interviewing possible candidates, the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired is pleased to announce the return of Reggie Clinton as the Superintendent. Clinton, who served in this capacity previously, will hit the ground running with the new semester on January 2, 2008. DRS would like to take this opportunity to formally thank Ms. Joan Forney, who has been Acting Superintendent at ISVI for more than a year. Now Joan can get back to her short-lived "retirement".
Ann Robert of BDDS Receives Prestigious SSA Award
This year Ann Robert received the most prestigious award offered by the Social Security Administration, the Lenore Carlson Disability Program Leadership Award. This award recognized Ann's "leadership, compassion, innovation, and consistent pursuit of excellence". It reaffirmed what DRS already knew, that we are extremely lucky to have someone of Ann's capacity working for us at DRS. This announcement was made at the annual Parent Agency Meeting held in late November in Springfield.
Kilbury Speaks at Will-Grundy Annual Meeting
In a well-attended celebration of the 19th anniversary of the Will-Grundy Center for Independent Living in Joliet, Rob Kilbury got a chance to reminisce about his long-standing friendship with Pam Heavens, perhaps the longest-tenured CIL Director in Illinois. Senator A.J. Wilhelmi and Representative Jack McGuire were at the meeting, as were about 50 members of the community at large.
Miscellaneous Items of Interest
ISD Receives Laptops from Lt. Governor Pat Quinn
Forty laptop computers were passed out to elementary school students at the Illinois School for the Deaf late last month. The computers were made possible by the Lieutenant Governor's Office. DRS would like to thank Lt. Governor Pat Quinn for making this significant contribution in the futures of these young students.
Money Follows the Person Update
The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is in the process of convening a consumer stakeholder group to provide input in the implementation of the Money Follows the Person grant that HFS received on behalf of the State from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The purpose of the funding is to rebalance the long-term care system in Illinois as it relates to community rather than institutional placement of people with disabilities and the elderly. HFS will be convening this MFP Workgroup in order to make long-term care in the community more available to people with developmental disabilities, elderly Illinoisans, those with mental illnesses, and those with all other disabilities. In particular, consumer stakeholders will be able to provide powerful insight into the needs of persons transitioning from nursing home to community-based long term care programs.
WIA Reauthorization Update
It looks like the conventional wisdom is that the Workforce Investment Act will not be reauthorized until the next Congress is convened in 2009. Perhaps this will be perfect timing for CSAVR to complete its "Futures Initiative" in time for the reauthorization. This neverending saga continues . . .
CSAVR Fall Meeting
The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation fall conference was held in San Antonio in early November. Jeff Standerfer, the Bureau Chief of Field Operations and Greg Pohlman of the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind and the State Rehabilitation Council Chairperson represented Illinois. There were three hundred and forty six people registered for the conference. It featured a Business Relations track as well as a track on Transition. The Business Relations track was full of useful information and great examples of VR best practices with business customers and community partners. There were sessions on VR Outreach and Disability Technical Outreach Assistance Centers; VR Services to Veterans and the Aging Workforce; Deaf2work: A Multi-State Partnership with Home Depot; and the VR Peer NETworking Tool Kit, amongst many other relevant topics. If you want further information you can obtain it through the CSAVR website at www.rehabnetwork.org.
SSA Reimbursement Statistics
At the recent Parent Agency Visit, SSA reported that Illinois rehabilitated 249 individuals in the state with a reimbursement of $2.6 million. While this number has been somewhat stagnant in recent years, DRS continues to strive to increase this statistic due to the positive financial contribution, as well as the fact that this is our best quality indicator of how the Division is doing in terms of rehabilitating our most significantly disabled VR Customers.
The Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors' (ICBV) Fall Training Conference was held November 16-17, 2007 at the Wyndham Hyatt in Rosemont, Illinois. In addition the ICBV Committee Meetings, a vending, retail and food service expo was held. Training sessions included: Vending Routes 101 (a round table discussion); "Do's and Don't's" of Hiring Practices conducted by staff of the Department of Central Management Services; and an Open Discussion regarding the Nominee Agency Proposal. A banquet and awards ceremony honoring vendors (service awards and Vendor of the Year) and Business Enterprise Program for the Blind (BEPB) staff was held Saturday evening.
In November DRS completed a series of 10 training events for counselors and supervisors relating to VR rules and procedures dealing with transition services. The training was targeted at DRS counselors specializing in serving high school students who are customers in the Secondary Transitional Experience Program (STEP), as well as transition specialists employed by school districts who assist DRS in serving these individuals. Each year DRS serves over 15,000 students in the STEP program, which provides community work experience to students which are intended to lead to employment after the student leaves high school. A major focus of the training was the need to comply with state and federal rules relating to the timely completion of the certification of eligibility process, as well as the development of an individualized plan for employment, prior to graduation from high school.