From Empathy to Equity.
A message from the Director…
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) is proud to honor the invaluable contributions and achievements of people with disabilities. People with disabilities are taking pride in themselves and their circumstances which aligns with IDHS Division of Rehabilitation (DRS)'s overall Mission and Goal to improve independence and achieve full community participation.
At IDHS, through all the Divisions and Offices, equitable access to work, recreation, and home enhances the lives of Illinoisans with disabilities. The resources and support provided to people with disabilities benefit our entire state. When people with disabilities are included and appreciated, our workforce, neighborhoods, and lives are better.
In 2022, IDHS-DRS increased customer contacts and revolutionized direct services in ways that allowed us to serve more people with disabilities. The Division continued its hard work in 2023, embracing the guiding values of IDHS: Human Dignity, Equity, Community-informed, Urgency, Transparency, and Kindness.
2023 Goals and Accomplishments:
- Actuate Division Reorganization
- In 2022, IDHS-DRS reinvented and realigned itself to better meet the needs of our customers with disabilities. In 2023, the IDHS-DRS:
- partnered with Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to examine staff engagement as understanding staff experience is an integral component to addressing the challenges we face as a division, and
- conducted an all-staff DRS Resource and Education Fair Series to educate staff on the newly designed Bureaus within DRS.
- Change DRS Culture to Disability Neutral
- Advanced individual and collective growth in cultural fluency, agility, and competency across IDHS-DRS through:
- Creating a Targeted Populations Unit to address disability neutrality. IDHS-DRS now has specific programs in place to ensure equal access to VR services for all populations of disability, specifically:
- Individual Placement and Support for individuals with severe mental illness,
- Deaf and Blind Services,
- Hispanic populations, and
- Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Collected external feedback from more than 21,000 Illinoisans through the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment.
- Assembled stakeholder groups to identify and remedy barriers to social justice and equity, developing a culture of inclusivity and respect through:
- Engagement of the Statewide Rehabilitation Council and others to develop a survey for the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment to identify barriers to employment for Illinoisans with Disabilities.
- Partnership with Illinois Self-Advocacy Alliance, Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the Illinois Division of Developmental Disabilities to redesign career counseling presentations for Subminimum Wage workers.Presentations included peer self-advocates as co-presenters who shared lived experiences of transitioning from subminimum wage employment to competitive integrated employment.
- Doubled Individual Placement Services (IPS) training and programs.
- IDHS-DRS arranged multiculturalism and diversity training for all local and central staff.
- Increase the competitive employment rate of disabled people
- Served 38,012 Vocational Rehabilitation customers, successfully placing 4,456 customers in competitive, integrated employment.
- Commenced the $14M Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment Demonstration (SWTCIE Illinois) Project to supporting six geographically diverse community rehabilitation providers in creating a new business model to end subminimum wage for Illinoisans with disabilities.
- Introduced the Dignity in Pay Act which would phase out 14c/Subminimum wage in order to safeguard the rights and dignity of individuals with disabilities.
- The State of Illinois hired 53 IDHS-DRS customers into competitive state employment.
- Outreach to more than 4,000 Williams/Colbert class members to offer VR services.
- Expanded Supported and Customized Employment programs, Increasing provider contracts to 14.
- Business Engagement Unit engaged 1650 employers, connecting talent with workforce needs.
- DRS collaborated with Illinois Center for Transition to Work at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, as well as with several representatives from both the Illinois State Board of Education and local education agencies, to develop a transition guide.
- Strengthen the Home Services Program
- In FY23, 237 individuals were transitioned out of nursing facilities and into the community.
- Served nearly 34,000 in the Home Services Program, supporting people with disabilities to remain in their homes and out of nursing home care.
- CILs serviced all of Illinois' 102 counties. Services were provided to over 65,000 individuals regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or disability.
- Increased customer contact by nearly 2,000, 6% over FY22.
- Rates were increased by 7.9% for Homemaker services and more than 25% for Home Health Agency Services to ensure provider capacity exists to meet the thousands of HSP customer who rely on these services.
- Identified and initiated the recovery of more than $1.78 million in overpayment for a total of 325 cases.
As we exit Fiscal year 2023 and enter the new fiscal year, we also say goodbye to Illinois Department of Human Services Secretary Grace Hou and thank her for her steadfast dedication to the Division. During her tenure, Secretary Hou worked with DRS and the Governor's Office to:
- Identify new funding resources to support Home Services Program costs, caseload management, and wage increases.
- Achieve rate increases for homemaker services, adult day care, and adult day transportation.
- Reassign the Client Assistance Program outside of IDHS to Equip for Equality to promote impartiality in program appeals and to dedicate resources to improve client advocacy, offering customer-focused solutions to programmatic issues.
- Receive $13.9M in federal funding to establish the Subminimum Wage to Competitive Integrated Employment (SWTCIE) Illinois program designed to develop innovative strategies whereby people with disabilities can achieve competitive, integrated employment rather than accepting subminimum wage employment. Only eleven states received this type of funding.
- Eliminate the inherited backlog of 7,000+ people awaiting a determination of eligibility for Home Services Program supports (Personal Assistants).
- Maintain the required goal of 97% Net Accuracy on Initial Cases adjudicated, helping 22,386 Illinoisans secure Social Security Disability benefits.
- Led the country in % of individuals receiving an education or training program that leads to a credential or employment for people with disabilities.
- Safely transition DRS school learning to remote in response to the pandemic and reintegrated in person instruction safely.
DRS looks forward to working with the new IDHS Secretary Dulce Quintero to further eliminate barriers to employment and close more service gaps in 2024. IDHS-DRS will respond to the results of the Statewide Comprehensive Needs Assessment to eliminate employment barriers and remain focused on and improve upon our service to the community, enhance the disability experience, remain customer focused, and provide excellent, on-time service.
We value human dignity, equity, informed community, urgency, transparency, and kindness. Our accomplishments in 2023 highlight our Department's and the Division's pledge to these values.
Together, let us renew our commitment to upholding the principles of the ADA and championing the rights of individuals with disabilities. By fostering environments that embrace diversity and provide equal opportunities, we can create a society that values and respects all its members.
Rahnee K. Patrick, Director
IDHS Division of Rehabilitation Services