Community Partner Update: September 2006

Dan Dickerson Hired at DHS 

Dan Dickerson, who has served as the Lead Disability Navigator at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity for the past several years, has recently been hired as the Disability Hiring Liaison at DHS. His first day with the agency was August 21. This position was created to help more of our Vocational Rehabilitation customers negotiate the sometimes-complicated state personnel system. Dan has a tremendous amount of experience in the Americans with Disabilities Act; he has also done accessibility surveys at each of the one-stops in the State of Illinois. Dickerson will be paid from Vocational Rehabilitation funds and will work under Liz Gill and Michael Woods at the DHS Bureau of Recruitment and Selection. Dan's number is 217-782-9842 (he is also being set up with Next Talk for communication access).

DRS Collaborates with Partners to Enhance Services to Medically Fragile Customers

Teri Dederer, Bureau Chief of DRS' Home Services Program (HSP), has collaborated with a variety of stakeholders in the development of a pilot program which will help kids aging out of the Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) Technology-Dependent Medicaid Waiver to enter into HSP. Representative James Brosnahan created the legislation, which became P.A. 94-0848, on behalf of families who have sometimes had difficulty making this transition when their medically-fragile child turned 21 and aged out of the DSCC Waiver. Thanks to Rep. Brosnahan, there was a $1 million appropriation for this explicit purpose. Since the DSCC Waiver is based on a hospital rate instead of a nursing home rate (which is the rate for HSP), some of these families have been used to 24 hour per day medical care, which is not possible under HSP. P.A. 94-0848, which will require the development of a new assessment instrument for this population, was designed to make this transition into HSP more seamless.

DRS Seeks VR Reallotment Funding

As other states fail to spend their federal allocation for Vocational Rehabilitation, Illinois annually petitions the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to obtain part of this unspent money. This year, Illinois has requested approximately $2 million in these "reallotment dollars." Since the average customer job costs DRS approximately $10,000 in services, this prospective amount could mean placing an estimated 200 additional VR customers in employment.

Rehabilitation Services Administration to visit Illinois in September

Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) representatives Mary Davis and Carol Dobak from Washington, DC will visit Illinois during the week of September 18-22, 2006. RSA administers the federal Vocational Rehabilitation Program. These two representatives have a heavy schedule, including meetings with VR customers, community rehabilitation programs, Centers for Independent Living, and members of the State Rehabilitation Council. They will also visit local DRS offices in Springfield and Champaign, as well as Central Office staff in Chicago and Springfield

DRS Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Section Spearheads Outreach Activities

The DRS Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDHH) section is partnering with the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission to host the 12th Annual Deaf Awareness Day on September 13, 2006 at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago. The day-long event, which is expected to attract more than 400 people, will include a public forum on a variety of topics (e.g., "How will you succeed as a Deaf person in a hearing world?") as well as an exhibition area with more than 40 exhibitors from social service agencies, businesses, and community resources focusing on services and products for people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Late Deafened.

SDHH is also partnering with the Jacksonville and Springfield DRS local offices and the Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) to offer "The Way to Employment Opportunities for People who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing" at ISD in Jacksonville on October 10, 2006. A representative from CMS will explain the process of completing an application for state employment as well as the Severely Disabled option for people with disabilities who are applying for State employment. In addition, DHS/Bureau of Recruitment and Selection staff will explain the Rutan interview process and interview questions.

A panel of deaf employees will also talk about how they obtained their job, training that helped them become employed, their employers' expectations of them, and the ways in which they communicate with their co-workers and supervisors. Individuals who supervise Deaf and Hard of Hearing workers will also discuss their experiences at work, how they include Deaf and Hard of Hearing employees on the job, and their methods of communicating with these employees. Participants will have an opportunity to take part in a "mock" interview with employers and will receive immediate feedback on improving their interviewing skills, enabling them to be well prepared for future interviews.

Upcoming Institute on Rehabilitation Issues Publication to Highlight Collaboration

While RSA still has the publication draft of the 32nd Annual Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (IRI), participants of the study group are looking forward to the document being distributed at the Fall Conference of the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) in November. This IRI publication will be a much-used document by the VR world because it carries the message of collaboration in our state VR agencies with our partners in employment. It builds on the foundation of previous IRI publications focused on employer partnerships and provides strategic guidance to VR agencies to leverage partnerships at the local, state, and national levels. With CSAVR's recent establishment of the National Employer Network, this publication will no doubt become the road map to success in serving people with disabilities throughout the country. Tom Minta, Manager of the DHS/DRS Employment Unit, was nominated and selected as a member of the Prime Study Group of the 32nd Annual IRI that began its study and research in November 2005.

ISD Cheerleaders Sign the National Anthem at Busch Stadium

Five Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) cheerleaders signed the National Anthem at Busch Stadium in St. Louis before a sold-out crowd at the Cardinal-Cub baseball game on August 25, 2006 Congratulations go out to ISD cheerleaders Marci Brown, Natalie Lies, Monica Frederick, Krystal Staks, and Domonique Wilson, as well as ISD Cheerleading Coaches Carol Christensen and Jill Whitmore!

DRS Gears Up for National Disability Employment Awareness Month

DRS is planning to commemorate National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October with a number of activities, including Disability Mentoring Week and regional employer recognition breakfasts. Disability Mentoring Week is designed to encourage the employment of persons with disabilities through personal mentoring experiences with employers. During Disability Mentoring Week, which will be held throughout the week of October 16-20, DRS plans to match more than 200 individuals with disabilities with employers who will serve as volunteer mentors. One of the advantages of Disability Mentoring Week is that it provides employers with an opportunity to help promote employment of persons with disabilities by tapping into a pool of potential future employees and by giving customers a chance to demonstrate their abilities. We encourage all of our community partners to take part in Illinois' Disability Mentoring Week. If you are interested in participating, please contact Tom Minta, Manager of the DRS Employment Unit, at 312/814-4036 (Voice) or 888/440-8955 (NexTalk).

Success Story

Mark Hennig, Rehabilitation Counselor with the DRS Macomb office, shares the following success story of Steven, a young man he has worked with for over four years. We thank Mark for believing in Steven and helping him get the supports he needed to graduate from college and start a promising career!

"Steven attended high school in the Lake County area and participated in Special Education services throughout his high school years. Services were primarily resource room assistance to address his learning disabilities. Steven had significant limitations in all verbal areas and had grade level equivalents as measured by the WIAT that varied from 3.9 to 6.8 as a junior. He was originally served through the Waukegan office and worked with Lisa Gingham, who I believe has since left the agency. Like many students with specific learning disabilities he wanted to attend college and had originally intended to work as a secondary education teacher.

I first met Steven along with his mother a week or two before school started when they attended an orientation. Though I was impressed by his commitment to succeed and his outgoing personality, I had great reservations as to whether he would make it through a four year program. His mother assured me he was a hard worker and if any one could do it, he would.

Together we made the necessary connections with Disability Support Services to arrange for various educational accommodations and provided linkage to a variety of learning labs and other educational resources. From there he was off and running. Over the course of his four years at WIU Steven not only maintained a strong GPA, but he became actively involved in a variety of student organizations, earned a Peer Ambassador Award, and became a Residential Assistant in the dormitory.

Like many students his interests changed over time and he elected to change his major and vocational goal. Sparked by a friend of the family, he decided he wanted to either enter sales or work in retail management. Either of which appeared a good match based on his outgoing personality and social skills.

Prior to the end of his junior year we met on several occasions to prep for interviews for a summer internship. He was hired for a paid internship with Target near his home. The summer work experience was a great success for him and they expressed an interest in hiring him post graduation. A few months prior to graduation he interviewed for a position and was selected. He was scheduled to start in a management trainee position earning $43,000.

Recently I received a call from Steven indicating that after thirty days in the training program, they promoted him to a position in logistics with the largest Target store in Illinois. He will maintain that role for eighteen months, then enter an accelerated management program for an additional eighteen months and then will receive his first store. He adds that a manager will earn on average $100,000 annually in salary and bonus.

This could not have happened to a nicer young man. He has always kept in touch and expressed his appreciation for the opportunity this agency gave him. However, this story is not about anything this agency did, it's really about a great guy who made the most of every opportunity that he was presented with. And the student who I thought would not survive finished with a 3.3 GPA."