Public Engagement Newsletter - June 30, 2013

6/30/2013

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VOULME 3, ISSUE 2, JUNE 30 2013 [COVERING APRIL/MAY/JUNE]

PEN June 30, 2013 (pdf)

Friends,

We are excited to share with you how the Governor's "Rebalancing" initiative is increasing community care options for former state-operated developmental center residents such as Ron, Michael, and Dennie, while reducing the number of outdated, expensive institutions. In fact, Governor Pat Quinn reemphasized his commitment to improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and mental challenges in Illinois during a "Going Home" rally in April, hosted by several disability advocacy groups.

We would also like to tell you why Illinois is on its way to becoming the most immigrant-friendly state and how Illinois is among several states that have found common ground in their commitment to improving access to work support programs for eligible low-income families.

Additionally in this issue, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) unveiled a new human services digital record system that saves time and resources while reducing customer response time from days to seconds; IDHS Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler received the Adlai E. Stevenson Public Service Award; and several IDHS staff were honored for doing an exceptional job of supporting persons with disabilities in the workplace.

And find out why Acting Assistant Secretary Nélida Smyser-De Léon traveled to Woodstock, IL; where LINK card customers can receive twice the dollar value when purchasing food; and how the IDHS was able to provide assistance to thousands of Illinois residents affected by the recent flooding.

As always, we are committed to partnering with you to serve the individuals, families, and communities who need us now more than ever. Enjoy!

 15 Years DHS Logo


Governor Quinn attends "Going Home" rally

Governor Quinn at the Going Home RallyGovernor Pat Quinn addressed the ARC "Going Home" rally in April, hosted by several disability advocacy groups, to emphasize his commitment to improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities and mental challenges in Illinois.

As part of his agenda to ensure all people have the opportunity to follow their dreams and reach their full potential, Governor Quinn launched his Rebalancing Initiative in 2011 to increase community care and reduce the number of outdated, expensive institutions.

In the last several years, the Governor and the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) have closed two State-Operated Developmental Centers (SODCs), and increased community care options in Illinois, which are proven to provide a higher quality, more independent life, according to numerous studies.

"This is a historic time for Illinois as we continue our commitment to change the status quo and improve life for people with disabilities and mental health challenges in Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "Moving from outdated institutions to community care is improving Illinois' quality of care and allowing people to lead more independent and fulfilling lives."

Hundreds of supporters and advocates gathered in support of the governor's Rebalancing Initiative. Numerous studies show that individuals living in the community have a better quality of life than those living in large institutions. Community settings allow individuals to receive the care they need, including 24-hour care. In addition, community care is also significantly less costly than institution-based care. The average cost for Murray Center is $239,000 per year per resident, while the average cost for a Murray resident living in the community while receiving the supports they need is estimated at $120,000 per year.

The governor's proposed fiscal year 2014 budget will move 1,150 individuals into community living, home-based services including 500 individuals off of the waiting list. The Quinn Administration has developed a comprehensive, person-centered plan to transition residents safely into the community, ensuring that each individual's new home meets their specific needs. The plan is being implemented carefully and responsibly over the next several months to ensure a smooth transition for residents.

"We are working closely with families and guardians using a person-centered planning process to ensure safe transitions for residents," said Kevin Casey, Director of the IDHS Division of Developmental Disabilities. "We developed a comprehensive, well thought out plan to transition residents safely into the community and ensure that each individual's new home will meet their specific needs."

Rebalancing initiative increases community care

Ron, Michael, & Dennie on their way to play basketball close to their new home in Western IL.
Ron, Michael, and Dennie on their way to play basketball close to their new home in Western Illinois.

The Governor's rebalancing initiative is enabling hundreds of people with disabilities to move out of large institutions and move into their own homes in the community. The Illinois Department of Human Services recently visited one of those homes in a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood and found three men, all former state-operated developmental center residents, thriving and living a new life of choices and dignity.

They make their meals, do their laundry, go out for walks or play basketball at a local park. One resident works part-time earning a paycheck he uses for shopping with his girlfriend or going to concerts.

"I am enjoying a lot more freedom. I like the freedom. I like going for walks. I like spending one-on-one time. I like watching basketball on TV and playing basketball," said Michael, former Jacksonville Developmental Center resident. "We just got a membership going to the Y. We go to the Y once a month and walk around the track and I play basketball and then lift weights."

Robin Lank, director of the Individual Advocacy Group, oversees the management of individuals with developmental disabilities.

"We provide the staff to support them in their own home environment and part of our agency's mission is to integrate the individuals in the community. They're living in their own home. Giving them opportunities for choices and provide them the staff to support them in that role, not only integrate them in their own home, but their own bedroom, their own bath, and have an ownership of their own home," Lank said.

The Individual Advocacy Group also encourages residents to engage in community events and take part in daily activities such as grocery shopping, banking, concerts, fairs, events or things people enjoy doing in the community.

Illinois welcomes immigrants with open arms

Governor Pat Quinn
Governor Pat Quinn

Governor Pat Quinn released an inter-agency report detailing the efforts of his New Americans Initiative to welcome everyone in Illinois. The report comes in advance of the Governor's upcoming trade mission to Mexico, which is part of his agenda to create jobs in Illinois and drive the state's economy forward.

"This report shows the major progress we have made in welcoming new Americans to Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "I invite every newcomer to visit one of our innovative 'one-stop' Welcoming Centers for health screening, job training, legal assistance or help in applying to college or for a mortgage. We are committed to making Illinois the most immigrant-friendly state in the nation."

Governor Quinn made the announcement during a recent visit to the Illinois Welcoming Center in Melrose Park, which provides a wide range of services to newcomers under the Governor's Office of New Americans. He was joined by cabinet members, immigrant rights activists, and several consuls general to highlight the services, partnerships and legislation spearheaded by the Office of New Americans in 2012 to improve the integration of Illinois' two million immigrants.

In 2012, the Office of New Americans grew the number of Welcoming Centers from two to five (North Riverside, Melrose Park, Chicago's Northwest Side, Front Cover of New Americans Phase 3 ReportChicago's Southwest Side and Aurora), and another will open soon in Chicago's Southeast Side. Since 2010, the Office of New Americans boosted the number of service providers from 11 to 25 state agencies, and made more information available online and in multiple languages. To aid the growing numbers of immigrants who live outside of the Chicago area, the Governor's Office used a Welcoming Center "Mobile Unit."

According to the report, this major progress meant that at least 11,000 new Americans utilized the services and programs offered by the Welcoming Centers in 2012.

In the upcoming year, Governor Quinn plans to open a new Illinois Welcoming Center in Chicago's Southeast Side, and implement a statewide "Language Access Policy" to ensure meaningful access to newcomers with limited English language proficiency. To read the complete report about Governor Quinn's Office of New Americans or learn about available services, visit immigrants.illinois.gov.

Urban Institute report demonstrates early gains for Illinois

Urban Institute Home PageIllinois is among several states that have found common ground in a commitment to improving access to work support programs for eligible low-income families. A new Urban Institute report demonstrates that state agencies participating in the Work Support Strategies (WSS) project, funded largely by the Ford Foundation, reported numerous early gains in its debut year. The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) served as the lead agency on this project in Illinois.

During the planning period (spring 2011 to spring 2012) devoted to examining their delivery of work supports and piloting ways to modernize services, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, and Rhode Island generally took initial steps to:

  • implement policy, process, and technological changes to streamline and integrate benefit programs;
  • improve county-state relationships and collaboration between health and human service agencies;
  • reduce bureaucratic burdens for working families and accelerate benefit eligibility decisions;
  • reduce interruptions in eligible families' access to benefits and the added workload for overstretched staff;
  • use available data to enroll children in health coverage and nutrition benefits;
  • lower barriers to families' enrollment in child care subsidies;
  • improve staff morale; and
  • prepare for changes under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) by using federal grants to modernize their health and human services computer systems.

WSS seeks to improve public programs that address a major national challenge: many parents work yet earn too little to make ends meet. When parents cannot pay for necessities or emergencies arise, they risk derailing their stability on the job and their families' well-being. WSS builds on research underscoring the value to work and child development when families get the full package of help available, including health insurance, nutrition assistance, and child care subsidies.

At the same time, overloaded state staff, outdated computer systems, and inflexible practices pose significant barriers for smooth, effective agency operations and for working families who want to sign up for benefits. Participation in individual programs has grown in recent years, but there has been far less progress in ensuring that families receive and keep the full package of benefits.

"Almost all the states shared one overriding reason for their interest: They believed their pre-reform systems weren't working," said Olivia Golden, a fellow at the Urban Institute and WSS principal investigator. "New approaches promised to reduce burden and administrative costs while improving timeliness and reducing errors. States also thought reforms could lead to more responsive and less bureaucratic government - valued across party lines - and to benefits for families, such as healthier children or parents more able to sustain employment."

Early Wins for States

From the planning year, six states -- Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Rhode Island - are now in the midst of the three-year implementation phase of WSS. States had many successes during the planning year.

In three IDHS pilot offices, the goal was to move from crisis management to process management by realigning workers' tasks. Early signs show much quicker service delivery. Illinois' report outlines how the state approached transforming local office practices in the face of overwhelming caseloads.

"We knew that re-envisioning our local office operations was a critical first step to ensuring that technology and policy changes were successful," said Jennifer Wagner, Associate Director of the IDHS Division of Family & Community Services. "Our work with the pilot offices and their leaders was critical to identifying a longer-term vision for how we want to serve customers."

Lessons Learned

With passage of the ACA, a key question was whether states could maintain their commitment to integrating health and human services programs while meeting timelines for ACA implementation. In fact, most WSS states have redoubled their commitment to integration. New federal money to modernize computer systems allows them to improve technology for multiple programs at once, and policy and data assessments conducted for WSS showed that jointly streamlining programs is more efficient than changing rules one program at a time.

States also learned about what it takes to carry out reform. Despite multi-billion-dollar programs under their leadership, state agency executives generally faced great barriers to data-informed management at the outset. Making progress required not just better technology to produce better data but also improvements to staff capacity and culture, such as facilitating data-sharing among technical and policy experts, state executives, and managers in county or local offices.

OTHER HAPPENINGS AT THE ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

A new IDHS technology tool helps decrease paperwork and increase customer face time

IDHS TechnologyGovernor Pat Quinn announced a new digital record system at the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) that will eliminate more than seven million documents per year is already reducing response times for client service from days to seconds. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn's commitment to reduce government waste and save taxpayer money.

"Our human services caseworkers can best serve their customers by spending time with them, not battling wasteful paperwork," Governor Quinn said. "This system will allow us to increase accountability while eliminating millions of pieces of paper from the process, helping our caseworkers focus on the needs of their clients."

The IDHS is using IBM software to digitize three forms critical to the benefit eligibility determination process: calculation sheets, the combined application form and the chronological record of case processing. Digitizing these forms will eliminate more than seven million pieces of paper annually. With the new system, these forms are electronically filed, which produces an immediate paper savings. It also eliminates the need to wade through more than 100 million pieces of paper stored in case files at local offices and warehouses throughout the state when caseworkers need to retrieve and update information.

"This solution is an excellent example of state government and private industry working together to develop strategies for maximizing our limited resources," IDHS Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler said. "Just as important, it helps us streamline our local offices and improve efficiency, which in turn enhances the workplace, employee morale and service to our customers."

The IBM system cost $325,000 but paid for itself in just three months with the savings that were realized from its use by more than 2,000 IDHS caseworkers. Caseworkers input information into the system and the system automatically determines program eligibility and stores the electronic forms in a central repository for later retrieval. Caseworker time spent retrieving information has gone from days to just seconds, which has been a big boost to customer service.

IDHS partners with Arab-American service organization

IDHS partners with Arab-American service organizationThe Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) was invited to the Arab-American Family Services Organization to speak about employment opportunities with state government.

Mario Perales, from the IDHS Office of Latino Affairs, explained the employment application process and encouraged bilingual individuals, especially Arab speaking, to apply for state employment within the IDHS and state government in general.

The workshop was divided into two segments, "How to Apply for State Employment" and "Understanding the Application and Grading Process." All participants walked away with applications, brochures detailing the employment process, and a list of underutilized job titles.

IDHS Secretary receives award

IDHS Secretary receives awardPresident of the Greater Chicago Chapter of the American Society for Public Administration Greg Jackson presents Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler with the Adlai E. Stevenson Public Services Award in Chicago, IL. The award honors individuals who have made substantial contributions to good government and public administration in the Chicago area.

ICED announces annual awards for hiring and promoting of people with disabilities

Several Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) staff members were among those honored for doing an exceptional job of supporting persons with disabilities in the workplace. The awards were presented by the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) Director Rocco J. Claps and the Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary (IDHS) Michelle R. B. Saddler

IDHS Secretary Saddler and CMS Disabled Workers Coordinator Jaci DeBrun present Kimberly Foy with an award for IDHS' participation in the Successful Disability Opportunities.
IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler and Central Management Services Disabled Workers Coordinator Jaci DeBrun present Kimberly Foy with an award for IDHS' participation in the Successful Disability Opportunities program. Kimberly, who works in the IDHS Bureau of Civil Affairs, accepts the award on the agency's behalf.

during a ceremony of the state's Interagency Committee on Employees with Disabilities (ICED). Others receiving awards were the Illinois Tollway, State Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago), and Schnucks grocery store.

The ICED represents the interests of more than 3,000 employees with disabilities in state government. The Awards Program promotes independence, access, and opportunities for employees with disabilities.

"On behalf of the administration of Governor Quinn it is a privilege to be here today to shine a light on the truly exceptional performance of these organizations and individuals who have all worked so hard to create opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in the workforce," said IDHR Director Claps. "Rep. Harris has worked tirelessly as an advocate for persons with disabilities. And the Illinois Tollway was deservedly singled out for recognition for its outstanding affirmative action record in employing people with disabilities, including recruitment, hiring and accommodation practices."

"IDHS is proud that four of our employees - among so many who work hard every day to serve and empower persons with disabilities around the state - were singled out for special recognition today," said Secretary Saddler. "We also salute the Tollway, Rep. Harris and all the other honorees for their dedication to creating a workplace

IDHS Secretary Saddler and IDHR Director Claps present Wanda Bethel Satkas with the Advocate of the Year Award.
IDHS Secretary Michelle R.B. Saddler and IDHR Director Rocco J. Claps present Wanda Bethel Satkas with the Advocate of the Year Award in Springfield, IL. Wanda works at the Ludeman Developmental Center and has been a tireless advocate for her son and others with autism.

environment that gives every worker an opportunity to fulfill their potential."

Certificates of Award were also presented to the following state agencies for hiring employees through the successful Disability Opportunities Program: The Departments of Military Affairs, Children and Family Services, Public Health, Natural Resources, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Human Services as well as the Gaming Board and the State Retirement System.

The ICED award for Employee of the Year went to Richard Jonathans, a ten-year employee of IDHS' Division of Rehabilitatition Services in Waukegan. Jonathas is described as a knowledgeable and dependable worker who empowers customers on a daily basis with his caring, positive approach. IDHS employees Elisabeth Mann of Rockford and Benro Ogunyipe of Chicago received certificates as well.

The ICED Advocate of the Year award went to Wanda Bethel Satkas, an IDHS employee at the Ludeman Developmental Center in Park Forest. Satkas advocates on behalf of her son and others with autism. She started an autism organization 16 years ago that has made a real difference in the lives of countless parents and persons with disabilities.

IDHS opens new local office in Woodstock

IDHS opens new local office in Woodstock

The Illinois Department of Human Services Acting Assistant Secretary Nélida Smyser-De Léon joined local elected officials during a ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the new McHenry County Family Community Resource Center in Woodstock, IL. The new resource center will give local residents greater access to human services offered by the department such as cash, medical, and SNAP benefits (formerly known as food stamps).

Double value for LINK customers at local farmers market

Governor Quinn reminded working families across Illinois to take advantage of the LINK Up Illinois Double Value Coupon Program during Illinois' farmers market season. The announcement is part of Governor Quinn's agenda to drive the economy forward and increase the accessibility and affordability of healthy food options in Illinois.

"The LINK Up Illinois Double Value Coupon Program helps to support Illinois children and our economy," Governor Quinn said. "By encouraging families to buy fresh, healthy foods from nearby farmers markets, Governor Quinn at local farmers market reminding working families across Illinois to take advantage of the LINK Up Illinois Double Value Coupon Programthe program invests back into local economies and makes sure nutritious needs are met."

Many underserved communities in Illinois have limited access to affordable fresh foods. Farmers markets have sprung up in a number of these communities, however healthy food options sold at these markets can be more expensive and difficult to afford.

A program of the organization Experimental Station in partnership with Wholesome Wave and the Illinois Farmers Market Association, LINK Up Illinois aims to connect low-income residents with nutritious food options by providing farmers markets throughout the state with Double Value Coupons. The Double Value Coupon Program allows Illinois LINK card users to receive twice the dollar value when purchasing LINK-approved foods at their local farmers market. In 2012, LINK Up Illinois helped farmers markets throughout the state serve more than 6,000 families and generate over $227,000 in combined LINK and Double Value Coupon Program purchases.

The Double Value Coupon Program also boosts local economies by driving LINK dollars (federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program dollars) to Illinois farmers selling their produce at one or more of the 38 farmers markets currently participating in LINK Up Illinois. According to a recent study by Moody's, every $1 of LINK money spent generates $1.73 for local economies, meaning that participating farmers markets generated over $392,700 in local economic benefit in 2012. A growing number of farmers have also increased their farm or market staff and diversified their product offerings as a direct result of the Double Value Coupon Program.

IDHS provides food assistance to thousands of Illinoisans impacted by the recent flooding

The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) offered food assistance in 33 counties, June 17 to 21, to individuals impacted by the April flooding. The USDA's Food and Nutrition Services and Governor Pat Quinn authorized IDHS to offer special Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to residents in those counties declared federal disaster areas as a result of flooding in April.

Food assistance to thousands of Illinoisans impacted by the recent flooding.

The Disaster SNAP benefits were offered to individuals and families of specific areas of Cook County and 32 other Illinois counties. Over the course of seven days of taking applications, the IDHS had served as many as 50,000 households and 160,000 people. The department distributed more than $21 million in SNAP benefits. Some applicants camped out overnight and stood in line for hours to receive assistance. Many IDHS staff worked diligently to ensure that the program was a success. The department was aided by several other state, county, and local organizations. The IDHS used a ticket system to help control the long lines. Applicants were given tickets enabling them to return at a later time so they wouldn't have to wait in line for long periods of time.

"With this special program, we were able to provide those affected by the flooding with extra money to buy groceries and take care of their families. We are appreciative to program applicants, as well as our local and state partners for helping ensure order despite the large number of people being served," said IDHS Secretary Michelle R. B. Saddler.

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

Email: Aurelio.Huertas@illinois.gov

O: 312.793.9959 | C: 312.515.8039 | F: 312.793.2351

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