4/30/2010

DHS Appropriation Committee Hearing

On April 27 the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the DHS Budget. Secretary Saddler gave an overview of the DHS Budget, and the six Division Directors gave testimony concerning their budget priorities. There were a number of questions from the committee, including Senators Althoff, Bivens, Hunter, Murphy, Schoenberg, Syverson, as well as Chairman Donnie Trotter. This was a subject matter hearing with no votes taken on the budget at this point in time.

Bureau of Field Services

We are pleased to recognize and acknowledge Transitions Mental Health Rehabilitation for their outstanding accomplishment in being recognized by Johnson and Johnson Foundation for their excellent work in helping persons with serious mental illness reach their dreams of employment. This success is evidence not only of one agency's determination and commitment to recovery, but also to the successful partnership between DMH and DRS on behalf of persons with serious mental illness. Let us all take the time to celebrate the achievable!! Thanks also to Paul Hanson and the Rock Island DRS Office for being such a good partner of Transitions over the past several years; without Paul and the DRS Rock Island Office and their support, this award would not have been possible.

All VR staff received in-depth training from Bill Santos on The Foundation of Job Development Marketing. Sessions were held in Alsip, Naperville, and Springfield during the week of  April 12th. Well over 500 staff were in attendance, and the evaluations were very good. The training was a follow-up to introductory training held last September.

Several DRS office staff have recently moved to co-locations with Family Community Resource Centers in Quincy and Benton. The East Saint Louis HSP and VR offices are now housed together and are located on the SIU-E, East St. Louis campus.

Jeff Standerfer, Bureau Chief of Field Services, attended the Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation's (CSAVR) semi-annual meeting on April 18-21 in Bethesda, Maryland. Important discussions on Maintenance of Effort, Ticket-To-Work, Workforce Investment Act, and audit findings were presented. In addition, Jeff attended a "Day on the Hill." Meetings were held with key Illinois staff surrounding topics such as FY 2011 Labor-HHS Education Appropriations, recommendations for the Reauthorization of the Rehabilitation Act and the Workforce Investment Act.

At the conference, long-time Executive Director of CSAVR, Carl Suter, announced his retirement effective December 31, 2010. We certainly wish Carl good luck in whatever he decides to do in his retirement years.

Bureau of Blind Services

On May 27, 2010, a Senior & Low Vision Expo will be held from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the QCCA Expo Center, 2621 4th Avenue, Rock Island, Illinois. Admission is free. There will be workshops, vendor booths, community agencies, and dancing. It is sponsored by: Illinois/Iowa Center for Independent Living. For more info call (309) 793-0090 (Voice) or (309) 793-0693 (TTY).

BBS Region IV is in the final planning stages of its eighth annual Low Vision Fair, which will be held at the Southside Christian Church, 2600 South MacArthur Boulevard in Springfield on  June 10, 2010, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. The Low Vision Fair is open to the public and individuals of all ages.

The Blind Vendors Act continues to provide additional opportunities for blind managers of our BEPB program. We have met with Business Managers from Graham, Shawnee and Dixon Correctional Centers regarding installing vending machines in the near future. We have also been in contact with the manager of the State Fair. Currently, we are in the negotiating stage of assuming the operation of all the vending machines at the fair.

Bureau of Home Services

On March 1, the Home Services Program (HSP) initiated the Spousal Caregiver pilot that will test the appropriateness and effectiveness of paying a spouse to be the caregiver for an HSP eligible customer. The pilot will serve up to 100 individuals residing in any of the following five counties: Jackson, Knox, LaSalle, Madison, and Tazewell. A spouse is not eligible if they had a previous founded case of abuse or neglect. Initial letters were sent out to 55 potential customers. As of April 28, nine cases had entered the program. One initial application was denied due to a past finding of abuse. Some families have declined to enter the program because it would result in the loss of public benefits, such as Medicaid. The next step is to plan and execute an outreach plan to draw more customers into the pilot.

DHS-DHS staff held Community Rehabilitation Program training in Springfield. Eleven CIL staff attended the training, with three CILs taking the certification examination. Cathy Buchanan, CRP/MFP Program Manager, has been traveling to each CIL to discuss problems and to brainstorm solutions with regard to CRP and MFP. She has also begun distribution of bi-monthly newsletters to CILs. The Department on Aging has begun to involve the nursing home Ombudsmen in obtaining Money Follows the Person referrals. We believe this is another promising approach to identifying individuals in nursing facilities who wish to transition to the community. MFP brochures from DHS are being printed in Spanish and English for CIL usage.

We continue to work on filling counselor and coordinator positions providing direct services in the Home Services Program created by the arbitration decision which no longer allows continued contractual support for the program. We have approximately 80 positions filled and continue to work with the Office of Human Resources to fill as quickly as possible to ensure quality services continue to be provided.

Fiscal Unit

The General Assembly is expected to pass a FY11 State Budget in early May. As introduced, the major budget request highlights for DRS include:

  • A $69.3M net increase for the Home Services Program. An estimated $36.3M is to support the personal attendant and homemaker wage and health insurance increases. In addition, $49.5M is needed to fund program annualizations and new growth in FY11.
  • HSP will be implementing services parameters in the five instrumental activities of daily living to standardize the number of hours available for housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, money management and activities outside the home. In addition, the asset limit test for eligibility for new clients only will be reduced from $17.5K to $2.0K (current Medicaid level). Estimated savings of $19.5M from these changes.
  • As a result of the Fletcher arbitration decision, $3M is included to convert contractual staff to state employees.

Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

April 14th was a day to remember as well as being a very productive day! Staff from our Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Unit, Rehab Counselors for the Deaf, Transition Specialists from Chicago Public Schools, parents and students participated in the annual transition meeting at Whitney Young High School. This year the meeting was expanded to include students from Prosser High School and Chicago Vocational Career Academy. Susan Martin, social worker assigned to Whitney Young High School and Prosser High School, did a fantastic job in coordinating all of the players and their participation.

Representatives from Equip for Equality, Anixter Center, Goodwill, and The Mayor's Office for Persons with Disabilities introduced themselves and explained their agencies purpose and the services they provide to persons with hearing loss as well as to other people with disabilities. Jean Baker provided an overview of sign language interpreter licensure with an explanation of the four different licenses (provisional, intermediate, advanced, and master) and the settings that license holders can work given the license they hold.

Immediate feedback was very positive from both CPS administrative staff and teachers. They expressed their desire to have more of these meetings and want to start comparable meetings with the other high schools with programs for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. Students and parents were able to meet with the RCDs and arrange appointment times to meet with staff in order to continue to discuss and formalize career goals and finalize plans for the future.

Hispanic/Latino Unit

DRS is collaborating with Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) on a community-based and collaborative outreach project that started in January 2010. The Asians with Disabilities Outreach Project will help agencies improve services to Asian Americans with disabilities. Today dozens of Asian with disabilities of various ethnic origins are living in the Chicago area who are willing, able, and wanting to work, but unable to find employment because of a simple problem: They have no idea where to go for job advice services or support. The 18-month project is designed to help VR agencies increase their capacity to help Chicago-based Asians with disabilities (AWD) gain meaningful access to the state VR system, and increase quality of service through culturally and linguistically relevant outreach efforts. This project is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In addition to the above efforts, DRS is continuing to work with the CCBDR and various community agencies to develop other culturally appropriate outreach strategies and solutions that will help bridge the service gap between DRS and the Asian American community in the greater metropolitan Chicago area.

Legislative Division

Legislation that has particular significance to DRS and that are being tracked include:

  • HB6002, Senior Safety Rapid Response, sponsored by Representative John E. Bradley, pertains to nursing home prescreens and re-screens.
  • HB6230, sponsored by Representative Chapin Rose, concerns the DHS Home Services Program Waiver. This proposed legislation would waive HSP requirements for persons who are victims of sexual violence who may need PA services.
  • SB3416, sponsored by Senator Dan Kotowski, is proposing legislation requiring mandatory background checks for all individuals who are prescreened and are in need of long term care.

Rehabilitation Technology Division

DRS is in the process of migrating from Corel Office Suite and Novell GroupWise to Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook. We hope to have Central Support staff migrated to the new systems by the end of May. We plan to migrate our field staff starting May 1 with an anticipated completion date by August 31. This is a major change and a major challenge for staff as they learn how to use Microsoft Office and Microsoft Outlook.

DRS is also in the process of migrating from a Virtual Case Management (VCM) system to a Web-base Case Management (WebCM) system. WebCM should provide our staff with greater opportunities to work on a more mobile basis with our customers and to complete work with customers in their homes or other locations with internet connections. WebCM will reduce the need for customers to come to their local office for services.

Training Unit

DRS held its Director's Statewide Regional Forums April 13, 14 & 15. Bill Santos, Executive Vice President of Employment Management Professionals, returned to present the "Foundation of Job Development Marketing." Exercises were conducted to demonstrate how to categorize counselor's individual "placement ready" caseloads, identifying employer's values and needs, and how to present our features and benefits to employers. The staff was overwhelmingly supportive of Bill's discussion and examples and felt the training would be an asset to helping them increase their competitive closures.

The training unit has recently begun working with Health & Disability Advocates to bring Work Incentives training to DRS staff and Community Rehabilitation Providers that work directly with customers receiving SSI and SSDI benefits and are interested in going to work. The trainings will be offered in each DRS region and will end in June.

There is a new training opportunity being offered to DRS staff. Heartsaver First Aid has several dates scheduled at 401 S. Clinton in Chicago and 400 W. Lawrence in Springfield. The information given in this potentially life saving training is valuable both personally and professionally.

The State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) held their annual meeting in Springfield on April 14 & 15. They developed their legislative priorities for 2010 and utilized April 14 as a legislative day, visiting elected officials in the Capitol and Stratton building, and discussing their agenda (SB2516 - Hearing Aid Coverage, HB5095 Disabled Pedestrian Safety, and HB5669 - Special Needs Alert). The SRC conducted their annual meeting on April 15, heard agency updates from Director Kilbury, and discussed committee activities and future meetings.

Independent Living Unit

In conjunction with SILC and other community partners, the Independent Living Unit has begun the process of developing the 2011-2013 (five year) State Plan for Independent Living. Two public hearings were held; one in Springfield on April 21 and one in Chicago on April 28, to solicit feedback from consumers, advocacy groups, providers, etc. Public hearings are mandated by the Rehabilitation Act, as amended, in an effort to reach as many people with disabilities and the community as a whole in the planning process.

ARRA Update

The April 6 closing of two new RFPs (request for proposals) has resulted in DRS receiving over 100 proposals for two Vocational Rehabilitation projects that will be funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Twelve million dollars is available to fund the two initiatives. The initiatives are for services to transition age youth with disabilities and for innovative job placement services for adults with disabilities. Both initiatives are focused on helping community agencies hire new staff that can work directly with VR program customers and help them obtain or retain employment.

On April 9, 2010, the 2nd quarter ARRA reports for the Independent Living, Older Blind, and Vocational Rehabilitation grants were completed and uploaded to the Federal reporting website. National data can be viewed at www.recovery.gov and Illinois specific DRS data can be viewed on the Illinois website at www.recovery.illinois.gov.

Illinois Rehabilitation Association State Conference

The statewide IRA conference was held April 18 - 20 in Galena, Illinois. More than 165 individuals dedicated to providing services to people with disabilities attended the conference entitled "The Hills Are Alive With Rehabilitation." Keynote speakers included Dr. Rob Kilbury, Director of DHS-DRS; and Susy Woods, Director of Disability Services at UIS and Chair of Illinois State Advisory Council on the Education of Students with Disabilities.

In addition to a number of vendor exhibitors, a multitude of breakout sessions were offered to participants. Ajeet Charate and Stephanie Behlke from Trinity Services, Inc., presented "Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and its Impact on the Outcome of Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling" and "Navigating Hills & Valleys: Achieving Successful Outcomes for Intellectual Disabilities." Linda Hedenblad from Great Lakes RCEP TACE provided sessions on "New and Improved - the 2010 CRC Code of Ethics," "Ethics and Boundaries," and "Ethical Thinking is Critical Thinking." A session entitled "How Can Your Community Provider Organization Survive During this Economic Downturn?" was presented by L. Dale Sanders, previous CEO of Illinois Growth Enterprises. Laura Thomas, from Helen Keller National Center and JoAnn Rushing from Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind presented "Combined Hearing and Vision Loss: Resources and Technical Assistance."

Thanks to DRS staff Jackie Bastian, Antonine Grimes, Janet Sherburne, and Ovelia Smith-Barton, who were presenters at three breakout sessions: Employer Panel, Morbid Obesity Options, and Heartsaver First Aid.

Individuals, community provider agencies, and vendors interested in joining and supporting the Illinois Rehabilitation Association may contact Cathy Overturf at cathy.overturf@illinois.gov or (618) 435-4885 (Voice/TTY).

ICED Legislative Reception

The Interagency Committee of Employees with Disabilities held their annual legislative reception at the StateHouse Inn on April 27. The meeting was emceed by Rocco Claps of the Department of Human Rights and Secretary Michelle Saddler of the Department of Human Services. State Representative Esther Golar received the Carl Suter Legislator of the Year Award, and Representative Sara Feigenholtz received an ICED Special Recognition Award. Golar was instrumental in the creation of the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force, while Feigenholtz has been a stalwart on issues affecting Illinoisans with disabilities as Chairwoman of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee. Kathy Ryg, a former representative in the General Assembly, was also recognized by ICED for her many contributions as a public servant as well as her support for progressive disability policy over the years.

Office Relocations

Two DRS Office relocations are scheduled to occur within the next couple of months. They are the Benton Office, which will relocate to the HCD office on April 29 and the Decatur Office, which will relocate to the HCD office on May 24. The DeKalb Office's proposed relocation is on hold due to public transportation issues, and the Elgin Office is in the process of finalizing floor plans with HCD. The Evergreen Park office is in the very beginning stages of discussions for adequate space needs with CMS for both the VR and the AIDS Unit staff. The Galesburg Office will remain as is until bids are resubmitted for a combined DRS/HCD consolidation. The Rockford North and South Offices are making plans to move into space previously occupied by DCF