5/1/2008

Francisco Alvarado Promoted to Assistant Director 

DRS is ecstatic to announce that effective May 1, 2008, Francisco Alvarado will be promoted to Assistant Director at DRS. Francisco has had a 17 year tenure with the division, having started out as a Counselor, then a Field Supervisor, before taking over as Manager of Latino Services when Gerry Jimenez was promoted to ABC [approximately six years ago]. Francisco's new responsibilities will include overseeing the Rehabilitation Technology Unit, Independent Living, the Bureau of Disability Determination Services, and the Educational Unit, in addition to his ongoing, unparalleled commitment to Latino Outreach. Please drop Francisco a note of congratulations, or call him in his new office at JRTC (once he has had a chance to move). Thanks for all your efforts Francisco, your commitment to people with disabilities has paid off again!

RSA Visit to Illinois

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) will be visiting Illinois the week of April 28-May 2. They will be talking to a number of stakeholders about the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and the Independent Living programs in Illinois. Activities include a visit to a Community Rehabilitation Program operating an Evidenced Based Supported Employment program for people with mental health disabilities, and an afternoon with a Secondary Transition Education Program (STEP) in the Chicago area. They will also visit with DRS Counselors and Supervisors in Springfield and Chicago, as well as a number of stakeholders from the State Rehabilitation Council, the Statewide Independent Living Council of Illinois, the Client Assistance Program, and a number of other interested parties. Technical assistance will be provided by RSA during this week to help DRS improve the services provided to thousands of VR Customers and those served by Illinois Centers for Independent Living. A comprehensive, written monitoring report will be made available to all stakeholders later on in the summer. We look forward to the arrival of Tonya Stellar, Carol Dobak, and their contingent from Washington, DC.

CSAVR Spring Meeting in DC 

Field Services Bureau Chief Jeff Standerfer attended the Council of State Agencies of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Spring Conference in Bethesda, Maryland from April 20-23. As part of this conference, Standerfer also made office visits to critical members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation and their staff, including U.S. Senators Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, and Congresspersons Judy Biggert, Danny Davis, and Jan Schakowsky. DRS applauds Standerfer for his continued leadership and dedication to the Vocational Rehabilitation program in Illinois, and for representing the Land of Lincoln at this important membership conference.

Money Follows the Person (MFP) Update 

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) is working with a broad range of stakeholders to develop an Operational Protocol for the MFP initiative in Illinois. HFS received this important federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to rebalance the long-term care system in Illinois; that is, to increase the options of Illinois residents in terms of receiving community-based long term care rather than institutional care. One of the critical benchmarks of this protocol calls for Illinois to increase its percentage of Medicaid-funded long-term care to increase from 29 to 35%. Advocates and policymakers in Illinois have been calling for such a change for years, and DRS applauds HFS for their efforts to invest in more community-based long-term care options. DHS and the Department on Aging have also played an integral role in the development of the Operational Protocol, which was forwarded to CMS in Washington, DC on April 25. This is just the beginning of this five-year process, which will, among other things, significantly change the way we do business in the Home Services Program. Stay tuned for more on this in future Community Partner Updates!

The DRS- Center for Independent Living partnership to provide services through the Community Reintegration Program continues to move forward in a positive direction. The number of referrals and individuals eligible for the program have doubled since December. Plans are being made to coordinate training for CIL staff and Directors regarding their participation and implementation of the Money Follows the Person grant initiative.

Illinois School for the Visually Impaired

"South of Eighty" Conference was held at ISVI on April 5th with 17 families and their children who have vision impairment and live in central Illinois attending. Topics included: Living and Succeeding with Vision Loss; Growing, Working, and Living the American Dream: Just Like You! (Oh, and I'm Blind, too); Exploring Resources and Camp Options - Finding Resources and Camps; Daily Living and Independence; Daily Living Skills for Older Children; Daily Living Skills for Younger Children. A student panel giving the student perspective where children of various ages from central Illinois shared their life and school experiences was a huge success.

The conference planners are hoping for this to be an annual conference. "South of Eighty" was co-sponsored by multiple agencies including DHS/DRS, Hearing and Vision Connections, ISVI, Mid Illinois Talking Books Center, STARNET Region I & III, Illinois Parents of the Visually Impaired, Champaign Special Education, Peoria Special Education; Springfield School District # 186, and Illinois State University, Dept of Special Education.

Illinois School for the Deaf 

ISD's Science teacher Sheila Stephens, of Arenzville, was awarded the Golden Apple, one of 10 teachers honored out of more than 600 nominations from around central Illinois. Winners receive a computer, $3,000 cash award, a sabbatical at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and are inducted into an Academy of Educators.

WGIL Morning Personality Receives State Media Award

WGIL Morning Personality Terry Cavanaugh has received the Illinois Rehabilitation Association's Excellence in Media Award for 2008. The Excellence in Media Award is presented to the media professional or, person whose media production, television program, film, commercial, radio broadcast or, printed material in the past year or few years has made a noticeable media contribution toward the advancement of persons with disabilities. Cavanaugh hosts the WGIL Morning News and "Galesburg Live" Monday through Friday on WGIL 1400AM in Galesburg, Illinois. She has been doing interviews on a regular basis with the Illinois Department of Human Services - Division of Rehabilitation Services in Knox County since 2002.

Administrative Rules

DRS recently responded to comments received from the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) on the new Part 521 - Definitions. This new rules combines all the definitions from the various Vocational Rehabilitation rules into one new Part for easier access.

DRS recently completed a review and update of the Part 650 rules - Vending Facility Program for the Blind. These revisions are being finalized and will be submitted to JCAR in the near future.

Health Forum at the Illinois Center For Rehabilitation Education on Friday, May 9, 2008

Medical professionals and Educators will present information on the following topics: HIV/AIDS Prevention and Education, CPR, Domestic Violence, and Nutrition/Diet/Exercise. Light Refreshments will be served between 12:30 and 1:00 p.m. The Health Forum presentations will begin at 9:30 a.m. and end at 2:00 p.m. Location: Illinois Center For Rehabilitation Education-Wood, 1151 S. Wood, Chicago, IL. Please contact Tracey Loggins or Derrick Phillips at (312) 633-3520 (V) or (888) 261-7913 (TTY) for additional information.

Springfield Low Vision Fair - June 12, 2008 

Medical professionals and others will present information at the annual BBS Springfield Low Vision Fair being held at the South Side Christian Church, 2600 South MacArthur Boulevard, on Thursday, June 12, 2008. Light lunch will be served between 11:30 am - 1:00 pm. Please contact Dave Jackson at (217) 782-4830 (V) or (888) 440-8990 (TTY) for additional information.

Save the Date - September 18, 2008, Rock Island Low Vision Fair 

Please save the date for the BBS Low Vision Fair to be held in Rock Island on Thursday, September 18, 2008. Location to be determined. Please contact Pat Kramer-Brown at (217) 278-3500 (V) or (888) 472-0940 (TTY) for additional information.

Legislation

P.A. 95-0193

P.A. 95-0193, the Motor Fuel Sales Act, requires gas stations to provide refueling assistance to people with disabilities. In addition, it requires the Department of Human Services to maintain a website that contains information on all gas stations in the State of Illinois. The Division has reached out to the remaining Illinois communities whose information is not available on the Department's website. As information is received, it will be added to the website, which can be accessed at www.dhs.state.il.us under "About DHS", "Initiatives", "Refueling Assistance for Persons with Disabilities."

House Bill 946

Amends the Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act and the Illinois Vehicle Code requiring a portion of the money that is received from the purchase of special NASCAR license plates ($20 for each purchase/renewal) will be deposited and utilized for the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Given the popularity of NASCAR, this measure could have a very positive impact on services for individuals with disabilities.

House Bill 4537

Requires the Illinois State Board of Education to promote an annual campaign that shall be designed to increase public awareness and respect for people with disabilities. Provides that, when possible individuals with disabilities should be incorporated into the development and delivery of the instruction. Requires the regional superintendent of schools to monitor a school district's compliance.

House Bill 4824

Amends the Illinois Insurance Code, the Health Maintenance Organization Act, and the Voluntary Health Services Plans Act to require coverage for an operation to implant cochlear implants and post-treatment services for children identified within one year of birth as being deaf or hearing impaired.

House Bill 5321 

Appropriates $2,000,000 to the Department of Public Health from the General Revenue Fund to fund the activities and costs associated with the Universal Newborn Hearing Program.

House Bill 5493 

Amends the School Code to encourage school boards to implement American Sign Language (ASL) courses into school foreign language curriculum. Amends various public universities Acts. Regarding admissions requirements, provides that ASL constitutes a foreign language for the purposes of meeting those requirements. Requires the governing board of each public university to award academic credit for the successful completion of any ASL course offered or approved by the university, which may be applied toward the satisfaction of the foreign language requirements of the university.

Senate Bill 2112 

Requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Healthcare and Family Services to develop an HSP demonstration project to reimburse spouses for providing care to eligible customers.

Senate Bill 2538 

Requires the Department of Central Management Services and DHS to develop and implement plans to increase the number of individuals with a disability employed by State government. Requires the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and not for profit groups and community partners to develop and implement an education and outreach campaign designed to increase statewide awareness of issues that affect individuals with a disability. Requires DHS to collect information regarding employer claims of the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit. Provides that a chief procurement officer may encourage prospective vendors to consider hiring qualified individuals with a disability and to notify them of any available financial incentives or other advantages associated with hiring such persons.

Senate Bill 2824 

Adds the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities, from the City of Chicago, as an ex-officio member of the Regional Transportation Authority.

DRS Contributes to Development of DHS Strategic Plan 

DRS has been working with the strategic planning unit of DHS in the development of a three-year strategic plan that includes initiatives from all divisions of DHS through state fiscal year 2011. The initiatives submitted by DRS are closely tied to our existing planning goals, such as increasing productivity, enhancing the independence of DRS customers, and improving service and outcome quality in all programs. The DHS strategic plan represents a significant effort to emphasize performance measures in a standard format throughout the agency. The DRS emphasis on performance and outcomes has meant that our existing planning concepts fit rather easily into the new DHS format. Perhaps the most notable new initiative is the expansion of the community reintegration program through the involvement with the money follows the person effort. This will greatly enhance our ability to move individuals with disabilities into community residences and out of nursing facilities.

FY09 Budget Update 

The Governor's Introduced Budget, delivered February 20th, included many funding increases for DRS. Funding for the Home Services program includes $60.9 million to support program growth and invests in the workers providing the valuable care that enables individuals with disabilities to remain in their homes. The budget also includes $2.0 million for formula funding for Centers for Independent Living. The Illinois School for the Deaf's budget includes $300,200 to replace federal funding in order to maintain the support and outreach provided through the Highlighting Education and Resources (HEAR) Program and Parent Infant Institute. The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired's budget includes $117,500 for new replacement textbooks for students. In addition, the budget includes $99,700 for general maintenance costs at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation & Education - Roosevelt. The Governor's support of these programs provides a sound investment in valuable services for people with disabilities in Illinois. The 95th General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn May 29th, at which time it is anticipated that the funding levels of DRS programs will be known.