Members Present: Francine Bell, Kari Branham, Debbie Einhorn, David Friedman, Robert Gould, Daniel Hawkins, LaDonna Henson (Chair), Cindy Montgomery, Melynda McKeever, Barbara Moore, Rahnee Patrick, Michael Predmore, Shelly Richardson, Kelsey Thompson
DHS/DRS Staff: Francisco Alvarado, Administrator of Operations; Wolfgang Arterberry, John Gordon,Bureau Chief for BBS; Labraya Harris, Manager - Planning and Business Development Unit, Michelle Scott-Terven, Acting Bureau Chief; and Sherry Sparks, Workforce Development Unit Manager and DRS Staff Liaison
Interpreters: Missy Kinsel and Deb Siebert
DRS Guests: Julie Baker and Ryan
Call to Order - LaDonna Henson - Chair
The meeting was called to order at 9:40 a.m. due to technical issues which necessitated a platform change from WebEX to Zoom provided through an SRC member. A quorum of the SRC was verified.
- Motion: It was Moved (Jackson), Seconded Moore), and Carried to approve the March 11, 2021 SRC Meeting Agenda.
- Motion: It was Moved (Fred), Seconded (Thompson), and Carried to approve the November 18, 2020 SRC Meeting Minutes.Committee Reports
DRS Director Report- Rahnee Patrick
Division thanks everyone for making a challenging time run as smoothly as possible. The Division was able to allow flexibility to accomplish DRS goals.
- Director Patrick thanked Kari Branham for her service to our Division and is thrilled for her in her new promotion although she is sad to lose her.
- Director Patrick is working with the Interagency Council for Persons with Disabilities on being able to use disabled State of Illinois ID cards as a way to add persons with disabilities to the Successful Disability Opportunity Program. This program is not yet finalized but will soon allow an additional method for persons with disabilities to be on the list without utilizing the services of Vocational Rehabilitation.
Bureau of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Report - John Gordon (gave the report on behalf of Ingrid Halvorsen)
- An agreement was entered into with Helen Keller of job placement pre-employment services .
- NTID virtual workshop is planned for parents of students in grades 8-11. Contact Christina Pean for more details.
Blind Services Program Update
- John Gordon works with the Business Enterprise System for the Blind, ICRE Wood and field services staff. His Unit oversees a grant across the state to provide services for those over age 55 that have been impacted by COVID.
- ICRE Wood is re-opening on April 6 but customers will not share rooms due to COVID concerns. The Director and Secretary are exploring Zoom licenses for rehab instructors as Zoom is very accessible to persons who are blind.
- His field staff are finding new ways to accomplish their jobs. A contract has been established to evaluate the curriculum at ICRE Wood.
- Staff has continued their visits to the Centers for Independent Living. Some were conducted live but many were conducted in virtual settings, 2-3 visits per month.
- CAP has produced a U-Tube video in Polish which is the third most spoken language in Illinois.
- 1200 mailers were sent out to customers requesting more information about CAP as part of their awareness campaign.
- Communication problems are still a major concern for appeals filed as are unrealistic service requests that are not able to be provided by the Agency.
Bureau of Field Services
- Michelle Scott-Terven stated six agencies are offering customized employment pilots. The program got off to a slow start due to COVID but hopes to expand in 2022.
- Three office updates were reported. The Macomb office has moved to the Western Illinois University campus. The Galesburg office will move to a new location at the end of April. The Arlington Heights office will now be known as the Rolling Meadows office and will move to a new office May 15.
- Region management changes were announced. Region One has now been split into two Keith McKinley will continue to supervise the seven offices in Region One North. Region One South will be supervised by Rochelle Chambers Hindman and will cover Avalon Park, Chicago Heights, Emerald City, Ford City, South Pulaski (home services only) and Wrightwood. Region Three offices remain the same. These offices are supervised by Michelle Scott-Terven but are currently being covered by Kacie McIntire while Michelle fills in as Bureau Chief. The Macomb and Quincy offices are no longer in Region Three as they have returned to Region Four which is supervised by Erik Hanson. Eric also previously supervised Region Five but the new Assistant Bureau Chief for this area is now Susan Chapman Scholz.
- HSP cases continue to be worked remotely with good success. DRS has reduced the number of overdue redeterminations and has also reduced the number of overdue referrals.
- A question was asked how DRS staff see technology being embraced as DRS moves back to in person customer meetings at the local offices. When asked which they preferred, Wolfgang states our research shows that customers moved from preferring in person services at the beginning of the Pandemic to now preferring remote services Wolfgang was able to share numbers of persons served in Field Offices. He states DRS has lost 2,280 customers since the past fiscal year primarily due to loss of communication channels but we also had some cases close due to the customers failing to respond.
The Meeting broke for lunch at 11:25 am and resumed at 1 pm.
Executive Report - LaDonna Henson, Chair
- LaDonna Henson asked if members had reviewed the interview summaries for Brock Bush and Erin Compton prepared by Kari Branham. Members said they were impressed with the qualifications of both and felt it would be good to have an under age 25 member on the council. This has been a difficult spot to fill. Thompson and Friedman recommended these names be forwarded to the Governor's Office for additional vetting.
- VR101 through the Center of Innovative Training in VR. Matt Abrahamson wanted to remind the members he has sent in names for al Council members to access this training. LaDonna Henson has completed the training and felt the courses were very helpful and informative. It was requested that the links be sent out again. Members should contact Sherry Sparks for access issues after the link is sent.
- Brian Richard of NIU has asked that Illinois participate in a national study going out to VR counselors. Francisco Alvarado said DRS can get this out once final changes to the survey are made by Richard and the survey is ready to go out. It takes 15 hours to complete the entire training. It is best accessed through Chrome.
- Kari Branham is leaving Rehabilitation Services and someone from CAP will be recommended as her replacement to the Council. However, SRC will now need a secretary, chair for the Policy/Legislation Committee and a Member Recruitment Chair.
Policy/Legislation Committee - No report
Normally March would be the month of the live meeting and legislative updates but COVID did not allow for in person meetings at this time.
Friedman will be convening this committee soon. David Hawkins asked if he was assigned to this committee. It was confirmed that he is a member of this committee.
Henson had planned to have the SRC review the stakeholders survey, but it was discovered that some changes may be needed as result of comparing the proposed survey to the results of the past survey. There are some areas of concern that need to be addressed in the new survey. Council members do not feel the same categories have to be used as before as long as great data is secured. The group says the survey is not just a snapshot of how things are now but looks to future changes needed.
Wolfgang Arterberry showed the SRC data and reports available. He also showed the Business Engagement reports that track how many businesses staff from the Workforce Development Unit contact monthly. Sparks said she plans to keep these numbers for the SRC monthly started in January 2021 which showed 135 contacts in January (a 20% increase over the previous month) and 86 contacts in February. She pointed out that the Unit has lost a staff person so adjusted averages would be 22.5 contacts per staff in January and 17.2 contacts in February. It is hoped that direct correlations between customer hires and Unit contacts will be able to be shown in future reports.
- A question was asked about budgetary information and Wolfgang said this was information he could provide as needed.
- September is traditionally the best month for DRS in terms of numbers of referrals since the majority of referrals come from secondary schools. Our peak was 2300 referrals in September 2020. During the Pandemic referrals dropped from approximately 1800 a month to 500 referrals. The previous 49% of application status dropped to 37%. DRS has a goal of 311 applications a week and we are getting 300 applications a week. The rates of success are going up which is an encouraging sign.
- A question arose about the Order of Selection in Illinois. Francisco Alvarado reported that Illinois does not have a waiting list. All persons who meet the criteria for services is able to access DRS Services currently.
- Illinois was reported to have the highest customer measureable skills gains in the country. Customers have reported the DRS program is a lifeline to them. Illinois is middle of the road for earnings. Higher wages are one area that could be improved upon.
- It is difficult to compare other state data to the Illinois DRS program as our program is not structured like many of the others.
Workforce Development Unit
- Sherry Sparks reported that the mission of her Unit is to assist people with disabilities in locating and maintaining quality employment. The Unit was formed in 2019 and consists of a Unit Manager and staff that are assigned to cover the businesses and employers in their designated geographic areas within the state. Staff also work with partners at American Job Centers and participate in Business Service Teams at each Center. Staff refer "job ready" customers to positions. A question was asked how DRS works with customers who are not job ready. She said that the local counselor and supervisor have options to work with community providers to help assist a customer to become job ready and ultimately employed.
- Sparks also shared the Employer Recognition Awareness Event that was conducted by the Unit in October 2020 as part of National Employer Disability Awareness Month. There were 21 businesses recognized. Each business was asked to take a photo with the certificate they were mailed and to send back the photo to the Unit for future promotional opportunities. COVID did not allow for live celebrations this year but the Unit still wanted to recognize employers that are working with DRS and hiring our customers. Mailing a certificate of appreciation was the solution during the Pandemic.
Updates from Other Councils
- Shelly Richardson reported on the Statewide independent Living Council. The Council has been working on emergency preparedness for assistive technologies.
- No report from the Blind Service Planning Council
- There was no new business.Public Comment
- There were no public comments.
The next meeting will be June 10. Meetings to follow are September 16 and November 9.
The meeting concluded at 3:15 pm on a motion by David Friedman and seconded by Deb Einhorn.