Community Partner Update: October 2008

ADA Update 

President Bush Signs ADA Amendments Act- The ADA Amendments Act (ADAA) of 2008 was signed into law in a White House ceremony on September 25, after identical bills were passed by the Senate (unanimously, on September 11th) and the House (by voice vote, on September 17th). The law's effective date is January 1, 2009. This is a great victory for people with disabilities.

People With Disabilities Ride Free 

The State of Illinois has launched this program which will offer people with disabilities, who meet certain income limits and are enrolled in the Illinois Circuit Breaker program, free rides statewide on all fixed route public transit systems. For more information about the Illinois Circuit Breaker program, eligibility for free rides, and the Illinois fixed route public transit systems, please go to

Disability Employment Awareness Month 

October is Disability Employment Awareness Month in Illinois and we have many activities planned to celebrate. During October, each of our DRS counselors will be arranging a Mentoring Experience for two of their customers. On October 1st, presentations on National Disability Employment Awareness will occur at the Harris Building in Springfield. Part of this event will have persons with disabilities share their experiences with mentoring, their jobs, accommodations required, their lives, etc. The Illinois Assistive Technology Project will present on reasonable accommodations and assistive technology on October 8th. On October 22nd, students from the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired will perform and on October 29th, disability awareness presentations will be made by colleagues from the Illinois Network of Center for Independent Living and the Springfield Center for Independent Living.

American Council of the Blind 

U.S. District Judge James Robertson ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by the American Council of the Blind requiring the U.S. Treasury to investigate ways to help the blind differentiate between $5, $10, $20 and $50 dollar bills. Robertson ordered attorneys for the government to meet with the American Council of the Blind and come up with a schedule that requires changes in the next generation of legal tender. Government attorneys said they plan to argue that Robertson does not have the authority to interfere with the Treasury's printing responsibilities.

Taiwanese Delegation Visits Illinois 

Dr. Robert Kilbury welcomed 17 Taiwan visitors who came to Chicago and were interested in the services provided people with disabilities in this country, primarily through the vocational rehabilitation program. These visitors included legislators and bureaucrats representing the Taipei County Sections of Labor Relations, Labor Safety, Labor Organizations, Entertainment, the Employment Informational Center, Foreign Labor Service, the Division of Labor Examinations and the Section of Employment Consultation for the Disabled. The delegations asked questions about the ADA, reasonable accommodation and the VR program and visited several Community Rehabilitation Programs.

Upcoming Job Fair 

The Springfield DRS Office will hold a Job Fair/ Independent Living Showcase on Wednesday, October 15, 2008 at the Richard Orr Building in the Illinois State Fairgrounds. DRS expects a turnout of over 1,000 people from Sangamon and surrounding counties. DHS has many programs that would be beneficial to attendees at either or both events.

The Independent Living Showcase will highlight Vocational Rehabilitation, Home Services, and Bureau of Blind Services. Service providers such as SPARC, Goodwill, ERC, UCP, and SCIL will also be participating. The Job/Career Fair will feature several of the local employers, universities, and colleges. Illinois WorkNet will also being working closely with us to insure a successful event.

Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 

The 14th Annual Deaf Awareness Day was held on September 17, 2008 at JRTC hosted by DRS and IDHHC. A workshop called "How Do I Advocate for My Communication Needs" was held in a 2nd Floor Conference Room and over 150 individuals from area schools and the community attended Thirty exhibitors set up in the Atrium providing information about accessibility, communication and products regarding deafness. This event was again a great success.

Fourth Annual Transition Conference 

The 4th Annual Transition Conference for high school aged students and young adults with disabilities, their family members and teachers, vocational professionals, caregivers, health care professionals, college students pursuing careers in special education and community advocates will be held in Peoria, Illinois from October 27-29, 2008. The conference, "Transition: Bridge to the Future" at the Peoria Civic Center will invite participants to imagine the possibilities for students with disabilities in the areas of independent living, education and training, employment, community integration, health care, and self-advocacy.

DRS Employment Division has offered assistance to the vendors of the DRS/DMH IPS initiative. DRS Employment Resources Specialists are available to work with DMH IPS vendors to establish meaningful mentoring experiences. These experiences will provide customers with mental health issues information to make informed decisions about the pros of going to work, establishing career goals, and acquiring work experience. Those vendors looking for assistance should contact the Division at 217/785-9339 (Voice/TTY).

"Supermarket of Services" to Illinois Veterans

DRS partnered for a day with the Dept of Veteran's Affairs to discuss the variety of services available to assist veterans and their families in their return to civilian life at the Duquoin State Fair in Southern Illinois on August 24, 2008. DRS staff provided extensive information on the Vocational Rehabilitation Program that assists persons with severe disabilities to secure competitive employment appropriate with their interests and abilities. Staff also provided information on the Brain Injury Program, which provides specialized services and therapies to individuals who may have experienced traumatic brain injury. The coming together of Illinois agencies combined with federal programs such as the Social Security Administration to meet, greet and share stories and experiences was a unique display of collaborative caring. 2008 was the second year for the "Supermarket of Services" event and event organizers are determined to bring this forum back every year until the word is out that Illinois not only cares but also delivers!

Statewide Trainings Held

"Back to the Basics" is good, especially when the focus is on reflection. On September 9, 10 and 11, DRS hosted regional meetings reminding staff of where the Agency has been; where the Agency is now; and where the Agency is going. The intent of this attention to past, present and future is to continue to enhance World Class Customer Service to the customers DRS serves. VR staff from all regions heard Dr. Kilbury address the group on the State of the Agency. Other topics focused on policy and procedure as well as efforts to get quality services to Illinois citizens with disabilities. In addition, the group learned about the recent visit from Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), which is DRS' funding source, and their expectations from DRS. It is in examining ourselves that we heighten the integrity of the VR program. Evaluations are testimony to a renewed sense of pride and commitment in bringing quality services to the individuals with disabilities that DRS serves.

Home Services Program

Community Reintegration Program staff have conducted a series of trainings throughout August and September related to competency skills needed under Money Follows the Person. Center for Independent Living staff were able to take the assessment, go to a one-day refresher training or attend the three day training provided prior to the competency exam.

DRS staff are working with INCIL and selected CIL Directors from the MFP Billing Subcommittee in a time study used to identify activities involved with the provision of reintegration services for billing purposes under MFP. The time study will be conducted throughout the month of September with an analysis to follow.

Recently, HSP was notified that the Persons with HIV/AIDS waiver has been approved by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. This extends service availability to this population for an additional five years. The Persons with Disabilities waiver application is due this spring in order to ensure services continue to an estimated 25,650 customers across Illinois. HSP has begun working closely with Healthcare and Family Services staff in order to identify the means by which we will meet the expectations of CMMS. The new federal guidelines challenge us to creatively develop methods supporting the independent living philosophy while also fulfilling the demands of the new waiver process.

2008 Community Reintegration Program 

KUDOS to all Community Reintegration Program Specialists and their respective Centers for Independent Living. 2008 was the most successful year for individuals moving back into the community. With the assistance of the IHDA funds as well as General Revenue Funds, 203 individuals with disabilities were reintegrated into the community from a nursing facility. CONGRATULATIONS to all... we're looking forward to 2009

Rapid Reintegration Pilot Program Update 

The Home Services Program has continued to work on the all the fundamental tools including a data tracking system and MIS changes in order to implement the pilot in October, 2008. Upcoming training for all participants which includes the hospital staff, Rockford CIL and Springfield CIL, and field staff is scheduled for the week of October 6-10. The concept has been well received and we anticipate great new opportunities for persons with disabilities.

DRS Quality Assurance 

The DRS Quality Assurance unit has been reviewing two sets of randomly-selected VR cases involving services provided by community rehabilitation program agencies (CRPs). The first review is a a set of cases closed rehabilitated in 2007. The purpose of the review is to monitor the quality of casework provided by DRS counselors, to identify any issues relating to communication between DRS staff and CRP staff, and to examine the post-closure success of the customers. Preliminary results from the QA review indicate that communication between DRS and CRPs must be improved in order to assist customers in achieving their goals. Another concern is the lack of longer-term job retention by CRP customers. DRS pays the CRPs for a successful placement lasting at least 90 days, but many customers lose their jobs within the next few months after closure, and in some instances, are opened as a new case by the same CRP. Another concern was the many instances where CRPs were listed as the employer of the customer, although no wages were reported to the Department of Employment Security, raising the issue of whether the job met the criteria for competitive employment. DRS will present the results of the final review to the Facility Advisory Council.

The second review was of a sample of cases closed as competitive outcomes after receiving supported employment services through a CRP in 2007. Preliminary results indicate that both DRS staff and CRP staff need to develop a better understanding of the state and federal regulations governing the supported employment program, particularly in terms of the target population for which supported employment is intended. In many instances, individuals were referred for supported employment services who had extensive employment histories, which is inconsistent with the criterion that individuals have no employment history or a limited work history. CRP staff appear not to distinguish between an SEP contract with DRS and a job placement contract. Often supported employment services were not provided in accordance with the support reduction schedule specified in the individualized plan for employment. DRS staff received training at regional meetings in September as a first step in sharpening the focus on program regulations.

Bureau of Blind Services 

The Business Enterprise Program for the Blind recently completed installation of twelve postal substations along the Chicago Northwest Suburban area with an additional eight locations soon to be completed in the southern Chicago suburbs and three in Decatur. BEPB signed an agreement with Coca-Cola to install pop machines in the postal facilities that are too small for a full vending operation.

Upcoming Fall Vendors Conference

The Fall Vendors Conference will be held at the Crowne Plaza in Springfield from October 24-25, 2008. Guest speakers include Terry Smith, Director of Tennessee Blind Services and the National Council of State Agencies for the Blind's (NCSAB) national Liaison for the Randolph-Sheppard Program; and Catriona McDonald, Chief Executive Officer/President of Linchpin Strategies


The Bureau of Blind Services increased its production rate by 11% for FY2008. There was also a huge increase in rehabilitation plans. We are trying to increase self-employment opportunities for individuals who are blind or have visual impairments. We are increasing our efforts in the area of Accountability.

Contract & Budget Update 

Recently, all DHS Community Service Providers were sent an amendment from the Office of Contract Administration notifying them that the amounts payable or estimated amounts payable are subject to a reduction not to exceed two percent as necessary or advisable based upon actual or projected budgetary considerations

Since DHS has a myriad of services, this revised language provides each division with the flexibility to implement the reserve requirement. DRS has very limited GRF funding, with the bulk of it being tied to the Home Services Program followed by the residential schools. At the present time, DRS is considering several options for meeting this requirement. A decision has not yet been made how the reserve will be implemented. DRS is working very closely with both the DHS administration and the Governor's Office of Management and Budget.

Independent Living Unit Update 

The IL Unit conducted three on-site compliance reviews of three different CILs to insure that state and federal rules and regulations are being followed in terms of administrative, programmatic and fiscal operations. Each review is a three-day process. In addition, the IL Unit has conducted two individualized contract management trainings at two different CILs. The work over the past couple of months is integral in ensuring that the 23 Centers for Independent Living are legally administering the four core services: Advocacy; Information and Referral; Peer Counseling; and Independent Living Skills Training.

New Ticket to Work Program, Employment Network Recruitment 

The Ticket to Work is an employment program that was created in 1999 by the Ticket to Work and Work Incentives Improvement Act and is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The Ticket to Work is a voluntary program that offers beneficiaries who are receiving Social Security Disability (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) expanded opportunities to obtain the services and supports that they need to work and achieve their goals. SSA does this by paying providers of services, referred to as "Employment Networks" or "ENs" for assisting beneficiaries in reaching designated milestones and outcomes associated with achieving self-supporting employment. September 22, 2008 The Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) partnered with Health and Disability Advocates to educate ENs and potential ENs on the updates and improvements in the Ticket to Work program that were implemented July 21, 2008. Marie Strahan, Director, Office of Beneficiary Outreach and Employment Support for the Social Security Administration and Tom Gloss, Ticket to Work Program Specialist, CESSI Program Manager for Recruitment and Outreach, gave a detailed presentation on the benefits of being an EN under the new regulations. The meeting was attended by vocational rehabilitation counselors, senior public administrators for DRS and approximately 100 community organization members who are either an EN or interested in becoming an EN.

National Voter Registration Act 

The National Voter Registration Act requires agencies like DRS to ask folks who come in for social services whether or not they want to sign up to vote. Obviously, the next vote is a relatively important one, November 4. DRS understands that the requisite paperwork must be filled out and be received at the State Board of Elections or the County Clerk's Office in order for the newly interested party to be eligible by November. People with disabilities are disenfranchised enough, please help them over the coming days to vote on November 4, 2008. Please ask each of your customers whether they want to register to vote and help them get the requisite information to the State Board of Elections by Friday, October 3.

Lease Reduction Report 

Both DRS and HCD are reviewing their offices for potential co-locations to help alleviate the $1.6 million shortfall in the DHS Lease line. Two DRS offices that are currently in the process of co-locating are the LaSalle Training Center and the Kankakee local office. The LaSalle Training Center is scheduled to relocate by October 10 to the LaSalle local office. The Kankakee local office is tentatively scheduled to relocate to the Kankakee HCD local office by the end of December.

Other offices the Division has submitted as potential co-locations are East St. Louis HSP into East St. Louis VR; the Rockford North and Rockford South offices into Singer Mental Health Center, including the Rockford HCD office.

The Department is also wanting the Division to explore the possible co-location of the North Pulaski local office, the Belleville local office, and the IIT local office. The East St. Louis offices and the Rockford offices should not pose any accessibility or transportation issues for our customers. DRS has not seen the locations, but understand the recommended location for the IIT office has significant accessibility issues.

'09 Reallotment 

Every year the states have an opportunity to apply to the Rehabilitation Services Administration for what are known as Reallocation Funds. These are federal VR-110 Funds which, for whatever reason, were not spent by other states. This year Illinois will receive an additional $208K for this purpose. Thanks to Cassie Laird and her staff for applying for and working with RSA to get these funds for Illinois!

SIU Technical Assistance and Continuing Education Center (TACE) Funded

The Division of Rehabilitation Services found out this week that Dave Adams' TACE at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale has been funded. Congratulations to John Benshoff, Dave Adams, and Rehabilitation Professionals in Illinois!

BEPB Marketing Expansion 

The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind will be receiving a contract from DRS to expand the marketing efforts of the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind. The notice of award should be posted on the Internet by October 3rd. By law, this notice must be posted for seven days. During this time, Cheryl Bradley will prepare the CAAF and have ready for roundtable review as early as October 7th. It will be ready for Curtis Thompson's sign off when the notice of award posting period ends.

If all goes exactly according to script, the earliest DRS could have a contract ready to start is October 27th. Raven Pulliam and his staff look forward to working with the Lighthouse to expand [private sector] opportunities for blind vendors in the State of Illinois!

Illinois Corporate Partners Annual Conference Held in Naperville

On September 25 the DHS/DRS Employment Services Bureau convened their annual Illinois Corporate Partners Annual Conference in Naperville. The event was attended by Corporate Partners and DHS staff. The agenda included an opening Keynote Address by Carl Suter, previous DRS Director and current Executive Director, Council of State Administrators for Vocational Rehabilitation in Washington D.C., Dr. Meera Adya, of the Burton Blatt Institute, Sharon Rennert, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and Robin Jones, Director of the Disability, Business Technical Assistance Center. Our own Vicki Draksler gave the lunchtime Keynote, and four employer peers shared success stories about working with DRS and our customers.