Pubilc Engagement Newsletter - December 2011

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

12/31/2011

VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2, DECEMBER 31, 2011
[COVERING OCTOBER/NOVEMBER/DECEMBER]

Public Engagement Newsletter (pdf)

Public Engagement newsletter (ppt)


It's been quite an exciting three months here at the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) since we first released our inaugural issue of our Public Engagement Newsletter. The Illinois General Assembly reallocated funding to DHS to stave off the most dramatic operational cuts, which now allows us to move forward with a more thoughtful restructuring of mental health and developmental disabilities services.

Meanwhile, our Social Services Advisory Council has been fully staffed and elevated as an advisory body for DHS; the Illinois Latino Family Commission has started to build a strong advocacy and policy platform; the Illinois Welcoming Center recently celebrated its 4-year partnership with the Community Alliance; and in what officials are saying is the first of its kind in Illinois, DHS has partnered with nonprofit groups to offer free voluntary rapid HIV testing in several of our Family Community Resource Centers.

In addition, DHS recently opened the Artfully Gifted store at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education - Roosevelt; partnered with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, and other providers, to kick-off the State's Domestic Violence Awareness Month rallies in Chicago and Springfield; and recently held two job fairs for people with disabilities.

Governor Quinn Signs SB 2412 Increasing DHS Funding for FY12

Alan Rogers, Michelle R.B. Saddler and Lorrie Rickman Jones testify Oct. 12 at Chester High School

Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler was more than pleased to announce last month that Governor Pat Quinn signed SB 2412 providing additional funding for the Illinois Department of Human Services. The legislation was finally signed by Governor Quinn on December 19, 2011.

The budget bill and reallocation of dollars provides sufficient appropriation authority to avoid layoffs and closures in FY12. The reappropriation staves off the most drastic operational cuts and allows us to move forward with a more thoughtful restructuring of mental health and developmental disabilities services.

The bill provides $110.2 million more for state operations and $70.7 million for select grant lines. Specifically, the General Assembly has addressed operational issues as well as the following program needs:

  • $30 million for Mental Health grants
  • $28 million for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse treatment and prevention grants
  • $8 million for the Funeral & Burial Program
  • $4.7 million for Emergency Food and Shelter

Despite the good news, the budget challenges for DHS are not over and will continue into the next fiscal year. DHS program divisions must still implement other operational cuts of six percent (non-personnel) that are in this year's budget. Our Budget Office will be working with each program division to discern how these cuts will be managed. Patience, understanding and dedication will continue to be needed during this extremely demanding time for all of us.

Social Services Advisory Committee to Provide Valuable Guidance to DHS

Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler is renewing her commitment to the Social Services Advisory Council (SSAC) and elevating its role as an advisory body for DHS.

DHS created the SSAC in 2005 to advise and assist in the development of policy for the department regarding programs. Over the years, this group has provided important guidance for DHS, including the recent report on core human services. The SSAC has helped provide an open and effective level of communication between the department and its stakeholders and providers.

"Now more than ever, we are experiencing serious financial challenges," said Secretary Saddler. "It will take a strong will and commitment to our mission to continue providing quality services in the face of such adversity. So, I have retooled the SSAC to include an even more balanced representation of clients, service providers, community and welfare advocacy groups, and others."

 The SSAC meets at least four times a year and has several subcommittees that focus on important issues affecting the department. The governance and structure subcommittee is currently reviewing and updating the council's bylaws to ensure that the council is providing the most current and relative input possible for today's many challenges.

The Illinois Latino Family Commission: Opening State Government for Latino Communities

Illinois Latino Family CommissionThe tremendous growth in the Latino community (25% of all children under 18 in Illinois are Latino!) and growing disparities make the mission of the Illinois Latino Family Commission (ILFC) all the more timely. Established by legislation in 2007, ILFC's purpose is to advise the Governor and legislature, and to work directly with several State agencies, to improve and expand opportunities for Latino families. The Commission has already started to build a strong advocacy and policy platform. In collaboration with the Latino Legislative Caucus, the ILFC recently introduced several legislative initiatives, including equal access and uniform race/ethnicity data collection. The ILFC also partnered with the Governor's Office to hold a series of Latino Community Dialogues to better understand regional needs and concerns. The diálogos were the first step in "setting the table" where community leaders and State agency representatives could get to know each other and begin working strategically to address community concerns. In the past few months, ILFC has been engaging Latino leaders in key state initiatives such as Budgeting for Results and Care Coordination Networks.

The ILFC is committed to building an equitable future for Latino families in the State of Illinois by advancing legislation, assisting State agencies in developing programs and policies, facilitating Latino participation and promoting research efforts. The ILFC began meeting in February 2010 and although it remains unfunded, DHS has served as a temporary home; playing a critical role in its development by providing in-kind support.

Unique Program Brings HIV Testing to DHS Family Community Resource Centers

In what AIDS advocates and public health officials say is the first effort of its kind in Illinois, the Illinois Department of Human Services has partnered with nonprofit groups to offer free, voluntary HIV testing at three of its Family Community Resource Centers located at - 8001 South Cottage Grove Avenue, 5323 South Western Avenue, and 915 East 63rd Street. The centers primarily serve individuals and families in need of cash, medical assistance and food stamps, while connecting customers to a myriad of other social services.

The testing is coordinated by The Bridge Project, an HIV testing and linkage to care initiative comprised of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), Beyond Care Inc., Brothers Health Collective, and Making a Daily Effort (M.A.D.E.). The project is sponsored by HIV FOCUS, a program of Gilead Sciences, and represents a unique public-private partnership.

"Given the fear and stigma that exists around HIV, our project aims to normalize testing in the same way that organ donation and voter registration have been normalized at the DMV," said AFC Director of Prevention Cynthia Tucker, who coordinates The Bridge Project. "One way to do that is to make testing available in non-traditional settings, especially in communities that have high rates of poverty, a social driver of HIV infection."

Say Yes to the TestOn-site testing is available two days a week at each of the three DHS center locations. Anyone who visits can be screened for HIV and get their results within 20 minutes. All tests are administered in private by trained staff and adhere to confidentiality protocols. If the patron tests HIV-positive, Bridge Project staff provides on-site counseling and linkages to care and supportive services. Since September 2011, The Bridge Project has administered 3,445 HIV tests.

The Bridge Project is promoting its efforts through a South Side public transit ad campaign called "Say Yes to the Test," which urges Chicagoans to text YES to 48510 for testing hours at the three DHS locations.

For more information on the Bridge Project, please contact Johnathon Briggs at (312) 334-0922 or via email jbriggs@aidschicago.org.

The Illinois Welcoming Center & Community Alliance Celebrate Four Year Collaboration

Illinois Welcoming Center Making Illinois your HomeThe Illinois Welcoming Center (IWC) this month celebrated its successful collaborative partnership with the nonprofit group Community Alliance (CA). Since the partnership's development four years ago, CA has been instrumental in helping IWC develop a community action plan to service individuals and families in need of assistance. Members identified five priority areas along with goals and strategies for addressing them. The priorities, action steps, and strategies were reached through a series of discussions with committee members who shared their experiences, knowledge of the community and its resources to improve the quality of life for its residents. The dialogues allowed IWC and CA members to bring together faith, social service, municipal, and school leaders to explore strategies to integrate newcomers into their communities and to ascertain priorities for the youth and families. Other State partners include: Illinois Department of Human Services, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Illinois Healthcare and Family Services, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Illinois Department on Aging, Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The Community Alliance meets every third Thursday of the month at the Melrose Park Illinois Welcoming Center located at 1115 N. 23rd St., Melrose Park, IL 60160.

Members of nonprofit groups, government agencies and faith-based institutions are encouraged to participate and join the group. For further information, please contact Silvia.Villa@illinois.gov or call (708) 442-8640.

ICRS/JVS Partnership Opens Store at DHS Facility

On October 18, 2011 the Grand Opening of Artfully Gifted was held at the Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education - Roosevelt (ICRE-R). More than 75 people attended the opening, including guest speakers, Rob Kilbury, DHS/DRS; State Representative Arthur Turner; and Executive Director of JVS, Richard Rotberg. The store is a result of an ARRA grant intended to provide a retail training experience to ICRE-R students. The grant was awarded to Jewish Vocational Services due to their experience in this type of endeavor. As JVS and ICRE-Roosevelt staff and students collaborated on the development of the store, it was decided that the store inventory would be made up completely of products produced by people with disabilities. The intent is to give young entrepreneurs and organizations a platform to sell their products, to bring attention to their businesses and to encourage other people with disabilities to consider the possibilities of an entrepreneurial enterprise.

Currently, the store stocks products from the Chicagoland area, the Philippines, Jacaranda, Bangladesh, Nepal, Lydia Trading, Chennar, and of course, from ICRE-Roosevelt students. The store hopes to soon have an online presence. Meanwhile, stop by to do some shopping!

OTHER HAPPENINGS AT THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

DHS & Lt. Governor Sheila Simon Kick-off Domestic Violence Awareness Month Rallies

The Illinois Department of Human Services' (DHS) Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention, along with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon, the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women's Network, domestic violence service providers, and other agencies, held the State's Domestic Violence Awareness Month Kick-Off Rallies in Chicago and Springfield. The events were held October 3, 2011 at the James R. Thompson Center (JRTC) in Chicago, Illinois, and at the State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

As part of the main programs, the honored guest speaker at both events was Illinois Lt. Governor Sheila Simon. Throughout her career, Lt. Governor Simon has been a tireless advocate for victims of domestic violence. At the rallies, the Lt. Governor Simon was raising awareness and collecting used cell phones for domestic violence victims through the Verizon Wireless Hope Line Program. HopeLine® phones are provided to participating domestic violence agencies and organizations nationwide for use by victims and survivors as they rebuild their lives.

DHS' Bureau of Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention is dedicated to assisting Illinois residents to live free from domestic violence, promoting prevention and working in partnership with communities in advancing equality, dignity and respect for all individuals. DHS supports 64 multi-service domestic violence programs throughout the state offering counseling and advocacy, legal assistance, children's services, and shelter and supports services to perpetrators to reduce and prevent violence at no cost to the victim. Programs across the State sponsored events and activities all month long such as "Take Back the Night" rallies, candlelight vigils, and other projects to increase community awareness of domestic violence.

In State Fiscal Year 2011, state-funded domestic violence service programs responded to over 173,490 hotline calls, provided 593,038 hours of services to 57,956 individual adults and children. Residential programs provided 241,450 days of shelter. Programs also conducted over 88,042 hours of prevention and outreach activities that reached 424,601 community members.

 If you or someone you care about may be experiencing domestic violence, please contact the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line 1-877- TO END DV (1-877-863-6338) for more information, resources, and/or referral. The Help Line is a toll-free, 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, multilingual, confidential service to all State of Illinois staff and residents.

DHS Hosts Job Fairs and Disabilities Expo During National Disability Awareness Month

As part of National Disability Awareness Month, DHS' Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) Bloomington office recently hosted a job fair for people with disabilities at Heartland Community College.

There were employers from the Bloomington/Normal area and from a wide variety of business sectors, including education, retail, temporary services, and manufacturing as well as social service agencies. The fair was designed to bring job seekers with disabilities face to face with local businesses from the Bloomington/Normal area in order for them to obtain information about hiring practices, open positions, and the hiring process itself.

The fair also allowed job seekers an opportunity to network and interact with human resource representatives from companies in a less threatening manner in which they could more comfortably market themselves and their best characteristics.

DHS/DRS also recently held their 7th Annual Job Fair and Disabilities Expo at the Richard Orr Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, IL. With over 450 people in attendance, including DHS customers and Military Veterans, the Expo featured over 50 vendors that included 27 employers, six universities, and several service agencies; new to this year's Expo were 17 home-based businesses and seven volunteer organizations.

The goal of the Expo was for DHS and other vendors to showcase the myriad of services available to people with disabilities and the tools they need to live their lives independently. In addition, 20 such exhibits entertained participants by showcasing accessible vehicles, VR services, accessible equipment, home services, support groups, and advanced new technologies. While the Sangamon County Elections Office was demonstrating the new accessible voting machines and registering voters, the Illinois Worknet was also on hand assisting customers to sign up for the Illinois Skills Match program.

As a direct result of this year's Expo, at least 10 of our DHS customers have either obtained employment or received tuition assistance to pursue post-secondary education. In fact, two other customers obtained assistance in setting up their home-based business as well.

Click on the following link for a complete list of all the vendors at the 7th Annual Job Fair and Disabilities Expo. For information regarding next year's 8th Annual Job Fair and Disabilities Expo, please contact our Job Fair/Disabilities Expo Coordinator Herbert Earl by email or by calling (217) 782-4830.