Public Engagement Newsletter - March 31, 2013

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.


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PEN March 31, 2013 (pdf)

Dear Community Partner,

It's hard to believe that we are in our fourth month of 2013 and with the spring season upon us, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) outreach campaigns and public engagement efforts are in high gear.

In this issue, a partnership with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services "will help ensure the integrity and proper use of the Medicaid program," said Michelle R.B. Saddler, Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services.

Also, work is well underway on the state's new Integrated Eligibility System in preparation for the Affordable Care Act. In addition, IDHS is bringing together human service agencies to develop a consolidated year-end reporting tool to reduce bureaucracy and enable human service providers to focus their energies and dedicate more time to their clients.

Even more exciting, three former Jacksonville Developmental Center residents share how much they love their new home in the community; the Illinois Framework project demonstrates multi-agency collaboration at its best; and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation contracts with Chicago Lighthouse to provide jobs for individuals who are blind or visually impaired.

But that's not all that's happened in just these past three months: Governor Pat Quinn named two new leaders at the Illinois Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired; the Autism Task Force, which provides valuable input and guidance to IDHS and the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, said that "progress is being made" in the areas of early intervention and family support; and Illinois continues to provide quality child care for thousands of working families.

In addition, IDHS supports a Transition Fair for students with disabilities; Illinois School for the Visually Impaired students perform in perfect pitch and take home top honors during this year's IHSA Music Competition in Petersburg; and Chicago Dr. Gloria Wong, Au.D, receives the Outstanding Audiology Award from IDHS' Bureau of Rehabilitation Services for providing more than 26 years of quality services to deaf and hearing impaired customers of the state's vocational rehabilitation program.

These stories - and a lot more - are waiting for you inside this issue of our Public Engagement Newsletter. Enjoy!

Joint Partnership Helps Eliminate Fraud and Invalid Use of Medicaid Benefits

The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) announced the launch of a project authorized under the state's recent Medicaid Reform Act to provide enhanced annual eligibility screening of clients' income and residency to ensure that they remain eligible for services.

The Illinois Medicaid Redetermination Project will improve the integrity of the state's Medicaid program by using advanced data matching technology to verify income and residency of the state's 2.7 million Medicaid clients on an annual basis.

"It is vitally important for the sake of the integrity of the Medicaid program that we have confidence that every person enrolled is actually eligible for coverage," HFS Director Julie Hamos said. "This requires that we conduct an annual redetermination to find out if the client's circumstances have changed in such a way as to make them no longer eligible."

"Through tighter screening of eligibility, the Enhanced Eligibility Verification (EEV) system will optimize resources available to those who are truly in need and eligible for Medicaid services," said IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler.

The background information and data verification work is being performed by an outside vendor MAXIMUS, Inc. (NYSE: MMS). The company was hired in September through an expedited procurement process authorized by the state's SMART Act, the Medicaid reform law passed by the General Assembly in May and signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn in June. It will make recommendations to caseworkers housed in a new centralized eligibility redetermination unit being created by IDHS. These IDHS caseworkers will make all final decisions on redeterminations.

Among the major tasks being accomplished by the vendor are:

  • Processing the backlog of cases that require immediate redeterminations and ensuring that moving forward, redeterminations will be processed in a timely manner, so that eligibility for Medicaid coverage is verified on an annual basis.
  • Beginning the process of digitizing information flow, eliminating paperwork and automating many of the manual processes involved in collecting information for case processing.
  • Establishing an online portal for state workers to easily manage cases, collaborate, and interface with databases needed to support the verification process.
  • Providing beneficiaries with a more accessible way to verify the status of their eligibility redetermination.

MAXIMUS will provide clients with access to a dedicated call center staffed with customer service representatives who are trained to answer Medicaid eligibility questions and inquiries.

Getting Ready for the Affordable Care Act

Work is well underway on the State's new Integrated Eligibility System (IES) in order to be ready for the October 1, 2013 start of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period. It has been more than 30 years since the last major overhaul of the four legacy systems that are used to apply for Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and cash assistance.

The IES will meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act in three critical ways:

  • It will provide a new application process for everyone, one capable of meeting the challenge of enrolling thousands of new clients into new eligibility groups created by the ACA, assuming the Illinois General Assembly approves the expansion.
  • It will interface with the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
  • It will implement a new set of eligibility rules based on Modified Adjusted Gross Income, a concept borrowed from the tax returns most households file.

In addition to supporting the implementation of the ACA, IES will provide caseworkers with new tools to gather and manage case information for faster, more accurate eligibility determinations.

As part of the IES project, the Illinois Department of Human Services is also launching a new customer account management portal: ABE - Application for Benefits Eligibility. ABE enables customers to apply for medical assistance programs administered by both IDHS and the All Kids Unit, as well as SNAP and cash assistance. Customers will also be able to send their verification documents electronically with their application. Community partners will be able to set up accounts to assist customers and track processing status. When the 3-year IES project is complete, customers will have access to a full range of self-service account management tools to check the progress of their application, verify case status and renew benefits through ABE.

Staff throughout the Illinois Departments of Human Services and Healthcare and Family Services are working closely with their colleagues at the Illinois Framework project and the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace team to ensure that medical providers, community partners and customers understand how IES fits into the overall context of health care reform in Illinois, and how ABE will help individuals and families connect to and access basic human services such as food, cash assistance and health care.

Watch future issues of this newsletter for more information about the October launch of ABE and further developments with the Marketplace for access to high quality subsidized insurance coverage.

State Human Services Agencies Develop a Consolidated Year-End Reporting Tool

Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler announced the creation of a new year-end financial reporting tool that will reduce bureaucracy and enable human service providers to focus more on service delivery. The Consolidated Financial Report (CFR) was developed by a work group of Governor Pat Quinn's Management Improvement Initiative (MII).

"We were able to bring together representatives from the state's five human service agencies and look for a solution to the cumbersome process of year-end financial reporting and we are excited and pleased with the results," Secretary Saddler said. "By revising the CFR already in use by several agencies, the group developed a system that all five agencies can use that significantly reduces the time providers will have to spend on year-end reporting, allowing them to focus on quality service delivery."

The CFR is a key project in the overall MII, which was signed into law by Governor Quinn on August 25, 2011. The goal of the MII is to streamline the often complex and sometimes redundant processes involving accreditation, licensure, contracting, auditing, monitoring and reporting requirements for the state's five human service agencies and community providers.

The MII agencies include IDHS, Department of Healthcare and Family Services, Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Public Health and the Department on Aging. The initiative will ultimately foster a network of human service provision in Illinois that will enable a greater level of direct service to our vulnerable citizens, even despite the current economic crisis. The goal is to have the CFR in place by Fiscal Year 2014.

Last year the MII created the Centralized Repository Vault (CRV) or provider portal. The CRV is a technology solution used to house and manage the key documents of the organizations that provide services on behalf of the state. More than 14,000 documents have been uploaded to the CRV since it was launched.

Former Jacksonville Developmental Center Residents Thriving in the Community

Eddie says he couldn't be happier now that he has his own place with his two roommates. He can help cook, play his guitar and sing Johnny Cash songs, and go outside and smoke whenever he feels like it. Eddie, who turns 50 this year moved into his new home in August after living for years at the Jacksonville Developmental Center (JDC). His roommates, 44-year-old Jeff and 50-year-old Bobby also lived at JDC.

Eddie, Jeff and Bobby enjoying their new home.Life has changed dramatically for the three men who live in a two-story rented house with assistance from the Individual Advocacy Group (IAG). Staff from IAG are on hand 24-hours a day to help the men with their daily needs.

The men attend day training where they have jobs and take part in a variety of activities. They also go out to eat and attend local sports events with IAG staff.

"I'm happy here; I don't want to go back to JDC. I like it here. I got my own life," said Eddie.

Dr. Charlene Bennett, CEO and Executive Director of IAG, said it's important to have choices, dignity and respect.

"These are three great guys who live in a house in the community. This is their home, they are living their life independently, and they are very happy here," she added.

The Jacksonville Developmental Center closed last year as part of Governor Pat Quinn's plan to increase community care options for people with developmental disabilities.

Each JDC resident received an assessment to determine what type of services they needed and a person-centered transition plan, based on the consumer's needs and wants, was developed for all residents. A majority of the 193 residents have successfully transitioned into community programs.

IDHS produced a short video, Illinois Rebalancing Initiative Success, highlighting their successful transition.

IDHS Hosts Career Fair for People with Disabilities

The Quad-Cities Corporate Partners and the Quad-Cities Disability Employment Network held their 19th Annual Career Fair for People with Disabilities on March 4, 2013 at the iWireless Center in Moline.

More than two dozen participating area employers and several local agencies were on hand to assist people with disabilities to obtain and maintain meaningful employment.

Approximately 250 attended the free event that is held annually for Quad-Cities residents with disabilities. A local cosmetology school offered free haircuts to help individuals prepare for job interviews.

"This event has been successful for 19 years because of the response by the Quad-Cities Corporate Partners, iWireless Center and the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus," said event coordinator Tom Lowery of the Illinois Department of Human Services-Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS-DRS) in Rock Island. "In addition, the event has enjoyed success due to the efforts of the various agency members of the Quad-Cities Disability Employment Network: IDHS-DRS, QC Area ARC, Transitions for Mental Health, and the Handicapped Development Center."

For more information on the annual event, please contact Tom Lowery at 309-786-5831 or via email at tom.lowery@illinois,gov.

The Illinois Framework: State Collaboration at Its Best

Led by the Illinois Department of Human Services, the Illinois Framework project is a multi-agency collaboration to modernize information systems that support service delivery across 60 programs within the seven State of Illinois partner agencies - Department of Human Services, Department of Public Health, Department of Health and Family Services, Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Department of Children and Family Services, Department on Aging, and the Department of Employment Security. The Illinois Framework Project Management Office (PMO), working with the vendor CSG Government Solutions, is performing an in-depth needs assessment for each program, identifying opportunities for implementing shared services (interoperability) among common business processes.

Illinois was among seven states awarded grant funds from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) to research best practices in similar public sector projects, working with agency leadership to institute a governance structure to support decision making across the Framework partner agencies. Officials from the federal ACF conducted an onsite visit with the Framework Governance project team in March to discuss findings from the team's extensive research over the past three months. The team presented "Six Attributes of Good Governance"- a synthesis of findings from research and interviews - which they hope to publish this summer. This endeavor has launched Illinois into a leadership position on the subject of project governance.

Crucial to the success of any technology project is to ensure that everyone involved with the programs is represented and engaged in the initial planning. As part of the Department's ongoing public engagement efforts, the PMO kicked off another statewide Stakeholder Engagement Listening Tour to solicit feedback from customers, state staff, service provider organizations, and advocacy groups across the state. The first two meetings - Planning Dialogs - were for state staff within programs participating in the initial scan phase. Over the next few months, the PMO will conduct an array of events such as Town Hall Conversations for state staff and service providers within all participating Framework programs, as well as focus groups for customers. One important outcome from these outreach efforts is to develop a robust feedback loop to inform the planning process.

The initial Planning Phase will continue through 2014, culminating with detailed plans for introducing interoperability. The initial planning efforts will focus on leveraging federal funding, which is available to Illinois through healthcare reform and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. IDHS' Child Care Assistance program was selected as a pilot program to test our assessment tools and refine processes for collecting documentation and conducting staff and manager interviews.

The end goal of the Framework project will be the adoption of an enterprise approach to information technology with compatibility and coordination among systems rather than the individual, program-centric systems of the past. These efforts will not only improve customer service and support for case work, but also complies with federal interoperability guidelines for states as major program funding in the future will be streamlined for states that have adopted an enterprise approach.

Please visit the Framework's website to learn more about the project and register to attend one of the public events so you can share your ideas on how to improve the delivery of human services.

New Contract Provides Jobs for Persons with Disabilities

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced its contract with Chicago Lighthouse to handle more than 160,000 expected calls every year to its offices across the state. Approximately 25% of the staff is blind with the remaining staff being visually impaired. The Call-in Center, located at Chicago Lighthouse's headquarters on Roosevelt Road, is currently employing 20 people trained to route callers to the agency's licensing or enforcement offices. IDFPR licenses and regulates more than one million professionals and businesses in Illinois.

"This contract, which started on March 1, 2013, has already improved our ability to assist professionals who need to be licensed to work in Illinois," said Manuel Flores, Acting Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. "I am very excited about our partnership with the Lighthouse for the Blind; the department will now have a permanent, professional team that will enhance customer service to better serve the public."

The two-year, $1.35 million contract with the Chicago-based not-for-profit organization will provide assistance to licensed businesses and individuals customers calling 1-888-4REGUL8 (1-888-473-4858) with questions about obtaining a new professional license, finding authorized providers of continuing education, renewing a current license, handling a disciplinary action and other questions that have in the past been managed by temporary employees.

"We extend our deepest appreciation to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for this amazing opportunity to provide employment for many talented individuals who are blind or visually impaired," said Dr. Janet Szlyk, Chicago Lighthouse president and executive director.

IDFPR, created by merging several independent agencies, has experienced a massive growth in call volume over the past few years. The need for a dedicated Call-in Center has been a priority of the department for several years. After researching its alternatives, IDFPR decided to contract with Chicago Lighthouse, through Illinois' State Use Program, which is designed to provide long-term employment opportunities for people working in not-for-profit community rehabilitation facilities.

"I am delighted that IDFPR has chosen to work with the Chicago Lighthouse, a renowned social service organization which we proudly approved for our State Use Program last year," said CMS Director Malcolm Weems. "This partnership underscores our commitment to empowering persons with disabilities and veterans, while also helping to reduce costs and expedite services to Illinois residents."

"We are very excited about this partnership with IDFPR and the Lighthouse. It will help further our mission of assisting individuals with disabilities in finding quality employment," said Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS-DRS) Director David Hanson. "The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is estimated at over 70 percent, so jobs are critically important to this population."

The State Use Program was created by the 1983 enactment of the State Use Law. The program provides long-term employment opportunities for people working in not-for-profit Community Rehabilitation Facilities (CRF) by encouraging all state agencies to purchase products and services produced and provided by severely disabled people. CRFs pay wages that permit employees to reduce their need for state benefits, enabling them to become taxpayers rather than tax recipients. CRF employees also gain vocational training, long-term work experience and marketable job skills. These are significant aids in reducing high unemployment for the disabled community. At the same time, State of Illinois agencies that participate in this program are assured of high quality products and services at fair market prices, reduced administrative costs, on-time delivery and a central point of contact for assistance. All contracts are independently reviewed, evaluated and approved by the State Use Committee to ensure the finest quality and pricing available.

The Chicago Lighthouse, founded in 1906, is one of the nation's most comprehensive social service organizations. Housed under its roof are the oldest and most prominent vision care and rehabilitation programs in the U.S., a nationally acclaimed school for children with multi-disabilities, a world class employment services program, one of the few remaining clock manufacturing facilities in America, a veterans assistance program serving veterans in all 50 states and a radio station.

The Division of Rehabilitation has placed nearly 30 blind and visually impaired people into employment at the Call-in Center through the Chicago Lighthouse since the start of this year. Persons who are blind or who have disabilities can discuss opportunities for employment by calling 1-800-843-6154. Many more positions will be available for fast and capable computer users. The Call-in Center serves the IDFPR, the Advocate Employee Wellness Program and the Illinois Tollway Authority.

Other Happenings at the Illinois Department of Human Services

Two new leaders named at the Illinois Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired

Janice Smith-WarshawGovernor Pat Quinn recently announced the appointment of Janice Smith-Warshaw as superintendent of the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) and Serena Preston as superintendent of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI).

"The extensive experience Janice Smith-Warshaw and Serena Preston will bring to two of our most important schools will help ensure students at ISD and ISVI achieve their full potential," Governor Pat Quinn said.

Serena PrestonJanice Smith-Warshaw, will become the first deaf female superintendent of ISD since the school opened in 1839. She has served at the California School for the Deaf, Riverside since 2000, where she has risen from elementary teacher to principal and now as curriculum supervisor for the school, which serves students ages three to 21. She has also taught at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf in Washington D.C. and the Delaware School for the Deaf. She holds a master's degree in deaf education from McDaniel College and is a doctoral candidate in Leadership for Educational Justice at the University of Redlands.

Serena Preston, of Jacksonville, Illinois, has served as Acting Superintendent of ISVI since February 2012, where she has overseen all school operations and has been a strong voice for improving education for students with special needs. During the past 16 years, she has worked at ISVI as a vocational principal, behavior specialist and high school math teacher. She holds a master's degree in special education from Illinois State University and a bachelor's degree in learning disabilities and social emotional disorders from MacMurray College in Jacksonville. She is an extensively licensed Illinois educator and is an active member of the community, serving as superintendent of the 4-H county fair show for 22 years, as well as vice chair of the Jacksonville Area Transition Planning Council.

Autism Task Force Highlights progress made in 2012

Early Intervention and family support are areas where progress is being made according to the Autism Task Force. The task force released its annual report on efforts to improve services for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families. The Autism Task Force provides valuable input and guidance to the Illinois Departments of Human Services, Healthcare and Family Services and the State Board of Education.

The report says progress has been made in:

  • Addressing Early Intervention services for children with autism;
  • Enhancing family support mechanisms to enable persons with autism to remain in their homes and communities;
  • Transition services from public school services; and
  • The Section 1915c waiver for persons with autism.

Other accomplishments include a resource catalogue of autism training and education programs offered in Illinois and across the country and the Autism Information Clearinghouse.

IDHS and other state agency partners work closely with the task force to address the areas that are required by Public Act 93-773.

Read the full report, State Efforts to Improve Services for Persons with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

"Through the Eyes of Women" reflects lived experiences of women with substance abuse

The 2014-2016 Specialized Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services for Women plan, "Through the Eyes of Women," seeks to accurately reflect the lived experiences of women with mental health and substance abuse disorders. The 8th legislatively mandated report is compiled by the Women's Committee of the Illinois Alcoholism and other Drug Abuse Advisory Council.

Committee Interim Chair Renee Popovits says "the goal of women's treatment services is to empower women and their families to seek appropriate treatment for addiction and mental illness and to support women in continuing healthy lifestyles through adequate aftercare following inpatient or similar treatment. Effective treatment spans the continuum of care and sensitively reflects the varied health needs of women."

Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Director Theodora Binion says the Women's Committee has been in the forefront in identifying gaps and disparities in services and outcomes.

"As we enter the era of Medicaid reform in Illinois and Healthcare reform nationwide it is even more imperative that informed stakeholders continue to provide input and initiate relative discussions concerning women's health care."

"Through the Eyes of Women" includes data on women's treatment services and looks at today's climate and key trends. The report also has articles from many of the top leaders in the field. The report, Specialized Treatment Services For Women 2014-2016 (pdf).

*The Women's Treatment Plan was compiled and edited by Barbara J. Brooks, Ms, Ed, MSW, LSW, Administrator, Women, Youth and Criminal Justice Services for the IDHS Division of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse.

Illinois continues to provide quality child care for thousands of working families

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) recently released an annual report about the status of its child care programs. The findings reiterate the state's continued commitment to providing necessary services to working parents and their children.

"Despite budgetary problems over the past several years, the department has continued to subsidize high quality care for children from birth to age 13," said IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler. "Access to these types of child care services is vital in assisting working families to achieve maximum self-sufficiency and independence."

IDHS is required by state statute to submit an annual report to the Governor and the General Assembly regarding the status of the department's child care programs, which include the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) and Quality Improvement Programs.

CCAP provides low-income, working families with access to quality, affordable child care that allows them to continue working and contributes to the healthy, emotional and social development of the child. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 (July 1, 2011-June 30, 2012), CCAP served a total of 265,693 children from 152,690 families. IDHS' Quality Improvement Programs are designed to increase the quality of child care across the state and participation in these programs is also on the rise.

Last year, the number of programs licensed through the Illinois Quality Counts Quality Rating System (QRS) increased to 760 or 13 percent. These licensed child care centers and family child care homes provide care for more than 50,000 Illinois children. In FY2012, the Department also provided $3 million in grants to these child care centers and family child care homes for program and facility improvement, parent resources and staff training.

Participation in and receiving a QRS certification means a provider has achieved specific standards of quality set by the State of Illinois. This can help prepare children in care for success in school and in life.

Other highlights from the "Illinois Child Care Report FY2012" include:

  • The number of child care center staff receiving Gateways Scholarships to attend college increased by 17 percent to 652.
  • The number of Gateways to Opportunity Credentials awarded in FY2012 increased by 34 percent to 749. These credentials are symbols of professional achievement that validate knowledge and skills, experience, and contributions in early care and education, infants and toddlers, and/or administration.

For more information on these programs or to view the entire "Illinois Child Care Report FY2012," visit the IDHS website at

IDHS supports Transition Fair for students with disabilities

The Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS-DRS) participated in the 20th Annual Transition Fair for Students with Disabilities. The event is designed to improve the transition from school to post-school or work for youths with disabilities.

Nearly 250 students with disabilities from area high schools and their parents attended the free event, which was held in February 2013 at the Route 66 Hotel and Conference Center in Springfield, IL. DRS showcased many of the programs and services IDHS offers to assist individuals with disabilities in preparing for and finding quality employment while remaining independent in their homes.

The transition fair wasn't considered to be a traditional job fair. In fact, it was more of an opportunity for students to "meet and greet" representatives from potential employers such as Walgreen's, Schnucks, County Market and the Illinois Department of Transportation.

A fashion show highlighted clothing suitable to wear to a job interview. Teachers and others have donated the clothing for the event.

Mock job interviews were also conducted, including one "bad interview" to show the students what not to wear and how not to act. Organizers advised students on how to properly apply for jobs and helped complete job applications.

The Sangamon County Transition Planning Committee is a consortium of groups aiming to improve the transition from school to post-school or work for youths with disabilities. The Committee partners with businesses, schools, agencies, parents and not-for-profit organizations to work toward increasing understanding of people with disabilities.

ISVI students in perfect pitch at the IHSA Music Competition

A group of Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI) students competed in the IHSA Music Competition in Petersburg on March 2 and had outstanding results.

ISVI students competing at the IHSA Music Contest include: (Front Row) Alexis Dhabalt, Morgan Schulte and ada Pumphery (back Row) Kyle Pope andKyle ChellinoUnder the direction of Music Educator Denise Kerhlikar, five students traveled to Porta High School in Petersburg to compete in the IHSA Music Competition. The ensemble received a standing ovation from the judge who then gave them a perfect score and has invited them to sing at his church. The contest hosts were glad to have ISVI back in the competition, especially since last year the students had to go home the weekend of the competition and were not able to compete. Nonetheless, the students had a great time performing.

Congratulations to the group of ISVI students for these outstanding results in the IHSA Music Competition!

  • ISVI - 1st place, Ensemble
  • Morgan Schulte - 1st place, Individual
  • Jada Pumphrey - 1st place, Individual
  • Kyle Pope - 1st place, Individual
  • Alexis Dhabalt - 2nd place, Individual
  • Kyle Chellino - 2nd place, Individual

Chicago Dr. Receives Outstanding Audiology Award

The Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services presented Dr. Gloria Wong with the 2012 Outstanding Audiology Award. The annual award was presented at the Illinois Academy of Audiology's Annual Convention in Chicago, IL.

Dr. Wong, Au.D., was recognized for providing more than 26 years of quality service to deaf and hearing impaired customers of the state's vocational rehabilitation program. Dr. Wong is currently the Manager of Audiology for the Chicago Hearing Society - a Division of the Anixter Center in Chicago.

Dr. Gloria Wong received the 2012 Outstanding Audiology Award from Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services employee Bob Griffith at the Illinois Academy.

Grant designed to help low-performing schools in Illinois

The Serve Illinois Commission recently announced a new federal grant program to assist struggling schools across the state. The School Turnaround AmeriCorps Program will provide funding to strengthen a number of Illinois' lowest-performing schools.

"AmeriCorps is an innovative opportunity for people to apply their time and talents toward high impact outcomes for their communities," said Brandon Bodor, Executive Director of the Serve Illinois Commission. "Illinois' vision is to remain a leader in volunteerism and service. AmeriCorps members across the state represent a critical part of that vision."

Serve Illinois is looking to partner with community agencies and their local schools to support the placement of dedicated networks of AmeriCorps members in persistently underachieving schools across the state. This innovative approach seeks to increase student academic achievement, attendance and high school graduation rates, and college and career readiness in those schools.

The new School Turnaround AmeriCorps Program is a collaborative effort between the Serve Illinois Commission, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the United States Department of Education.

The Serve Illinois Commission, part of the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), administers the AmeriCorps State programs in Illinois, and is charged with enhancing and supporting community volunteerism. AmeriCorps members in Illinois dedicate up to a year to helping communities address unmet human services, education, public safety or environmental needs. Serve Illinois currently supports 29 AmeriCorps programs throughout the state.

Public or private nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and other community groups; schools or districts; institutions of higher education; cities and counties; Indian Tribes; and labor organizations were eligible to apply for the School Turnaround grant program, along with partnerships and consortia of these entities.

Serve Illinois also hosted a mandatory webinar for all programs interested in this funding opportunity in March. For more information about the School Turnaround AmeriCorps Program, please visit

Congratulations Platinum Customer Service "Going the Extra Mile" Awardees

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) recently hosted their 4th Annual Platinum Customer Service "Going the Extra Mile" (PCS/GEM) Award ceremonies to acknowledge this year's Annual Awardees in March 2013.

IDHS Acting Assistant Secretary Nélida Smyser-De León attended the Springfield event and IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler was present at the Chicago event to thank this year's Annual Award winners and 10 GEM Ambassadors for their hours of completed PCS training.

The PCS Annual GEM Awards are bestowed upon staff who have been nominated by their fellow colleagues, managers, supervisors and/or directors and selected by the PCS GEM Awards Committee for their excellence in consistently going the extra mile to demonstrate the guiding principles of the agency's Platinum Customer Service initiative. After careful review of approximately 120 nominations submitted to the PCS Awards Committee, the following 20 staff members were selected as this year's annual awardees.

  • Anne Bradley, DFCS
  • Becky Reynolds, DFCS
  • Benjamin Newhouse, DMH
  • Dan Wasmer, DMH
  • Debra Scott, DRS
  • Keith Edmund Johnson, DMH
  • Elaine Novak, DMH
  • Ira Collins, DDD
  • Joseph Gilmore, DMH
  • Julia Hall, DRS
  • Karen Klunk, DMH
  • Keith Rose, DMH
  • Mark Kraus, OIG
  • Melissa Gross, DMH
  • Rafael Arreola, DFCS
  • Rhonda Hinton, DMH
  • Tammi Craig, DMH
  • Tina Flemons, DFCS
  • Dr. Tom Holt, DMH
  • Tom Miller, DMH

Staff can become GEM Ambassadors after completing 36 hours of PCS/GEM certified training modules. Please join the Department's administration as they commend this year's 20 Annual Awardees for their dedication and for going the extra mile to ensure that their customers receive the best customer service experience.

We hope you enjoyed reading this edition of our Public Engagement Newsletter. As always, please feel free to forward and share our newsletter with your networks, partners, colleagues, customers and friends.

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Aurelio Huertas Fabrizio
Editor-in-Chief | Public Engagement Newsletter
Illinois Department of Human Services

O: 312.793.9959 | C: 312.515.8039 | F: 312.793.2351

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