Community Partner Update: April 2006

Budget Dealings

Originally scheduled to leave town by next Friday (4/7), the Illinois General Assembly has not yet been involved in serious budget negotiations with the Blagojevich Administration. DHS has had its budget hearings in both chambers; the Division of Rehabilitation Services continues to hope that the final budget package will contain the $700,000 restoration for GRF Match for Vocational Rehabilitation and the $418 million for the Home Services Program which were in the Governor's budget. Other than these important investments in Illinoisans with disabilities, the budget introduced by the governor was pretty much a maintenance budget for DRS.

Affordable Housing Trust Fund

Governor Blagojevich has promised to provide $2 million out of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for Community Reintegration program. This money was first referenced more than a month ago at a meeting between Governor Blagojevich and ADAPT-Chicago. DHS is working with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to figure out a way to make this money available to Centers for Independent Living to provide housing for people with disabilities transitioning out of nursing homes. The governor also earmarked $1 million from this fund for Home Modifications for people with disabilities and older Illinoisans. FYI - According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there are more than 13,000 individuals between the ages of 18-59 living in nursing homes in this state.

Region V VR Meeting

Jeff Standerfer, Kris Smith, Vicki Draksler, and Doug Morton joined Rob Kilbury at a regional meeting March 28-29 in Chicago. The meeting was coordinated by the Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program, and included representatives from IL, OH, WI, MN, and MI. A number of issues were discussed and acted upon, including ongoing advocacy around the Reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act. Carl Suter, Executive Director of the Council of State Administrators on Vocational Rehabilitation, gave a comprehensive Washington Update at the beginning of the meeting. He seemed uncertain whether or not it would be possible for WIA to be reauthorized this year.

Disability Hiring Liaison Update

DRS has been working with a number of stakeholders to create a position within DHS to help qualified people with disabilities attain state employment. This disability hiring liaison position will be an Executive II position, reporting directly to the Director of the DHS Office of Human Resources. Interested parties should work on obtaining an Exec II grade from CMS, so that when the job is posted they will be ready to apply. We are hopeful that this position will enhance the percentage of people with disabilities in the state workforce. Stay tuned...

Substance Abuse Screening in Vocational Rehabilitation

DRS is partnering with Wright State University in the development and implementation of a screening process to identify VR customers with possible substance abuse problems. Wright State is tailoring the widely used Substance Abuse Subtle Screening Instrument (SASSI) to address the unique needs of VR customers through a grant received from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. Several DRS local offices were involved in preliminary research related to the SASSI-VR screening instrument with approximately half of DRS' local offices expected to participate in the evaluation trial. It is anticipated that the SASSI-VR evaluation trial will be conducted in Illinois beginning in August 2006.

Request for Proposal Update 

In February 2006, DRS issued a request for proposal (RFP) for establishing a new system of funding job placement services for people with disabilities. The intention is to replace the current system of a single, lump-sum payment for a successful job placement with a series of payments for achieving each of the milestones that lead up to a successful placement. There were two categories of applicants: community rehabilitation agencies with existing job placement contracts who wished to convert to the milestone system; and agencies who do not have job placement contracts who were competing for $150,000 in new funds. Three awards of $50,000 each will be made to applicants in this category. Seven teams of reviewers were established, each with two DRS staff and at least one external reviewer not affiliated with DRS. A total of 22 proposals were received, with 15 in the competitive category. All reviews have been scored and the results are being compiled. A decision on the awards is expected by mid-April.

2006 Career & Employment Expo

If you are in the Jacksonville area this Thursday (4/6), try to stop by the 2006 Career & Employment Expo held at the Illinois College Bruner Fitness and Recreation Center, King Field House from 9:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. DHS/DRS is one of numerous sponsors of this great event which will feature more than 90 local and national employers. Sign language interpreters will be available and there will also be a complimentary shuttle to the event from the Illinois College campus. Congratulations go out to Paula Ferguson, Supervisor of the Jacksonville DRS office; Tim Preston, Rehab Counselor for the Deaf, and Monica Jibben, Rehab Case Coordinator for all their hard work on this expo!

Institute on Rehabilitation Issues Study Group on VR-Business Partnership

Tom Minta, Manager of the DRS Employment Unit, is actively involved in the development of the 32nd Institute for Rehabilitation (IRI) Prime Study Group's publication on the VR-Business Partnership. The issues addressed in this publication include: cultivating state, regional and national networks between VR state agencies and employers with a multi-state presence; enhancing career opportunities for customers; taking the VR-Business partnership to the next level of commitment and service delivery; reinforcing and improving informed choice with enhanced knowledge about potential employers, and incorporating business input "up front" in the rehabilitation process to impact informed choice, empowerment, and career outcomes. This publication will be disseminated to a broad national audience, including VR counselors, consumers, and advocates this summer.

Assessment/IPE/Documentation Training

As part of DRS' effort to continually enhance the knowledge and skills of its staff, DRS is offering a new Assessment, IPE, and Documentation (AID) training. The theme of the training is the "story of the customer" and how VR provides significant services in order for the customer to achieve independence. This training provides an overview of case work procedure with emphasis on content of the assessment and IPE as it relates to federal regulations and "good" casework. Case documentation content and good casework content are also discussed.