Community Partner Update: March 2009

Stimulus Package signed by President Obama!

President Barack Obama signed the stimulus package which includes funding for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) and Independent Living over the next two years. This one-time funding will amount to $20.08 million for VR; $1.41 million for Older Blind; and approximately $580K for Centers for Independent Living in the next two years. DRS will be working with various stakeholders to develop a plan for the efficient utilization of this important, one-time funding. An ad-hoc Stimulus Committee has been developed to formulate a strategic plan for disbursement and utilization of independent living funds when they are made available. The Committee consists of representatives from the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living, SILC, and the Division of Rehabilitation Services' Independent Living Unit. The first meeting was February 24, 2009.

DRS Employment Services Unit Report

The unit continues to assist with the placement efforts of individuals with disabilities. In conjunction with the Section for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the unit is hosting "Education + Employment = Your Future 2009". At this event individuals who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, late Deafened or Deaf Blind will be able to interact with others with similar communication needs and learn how to prepare and perform to the best of their abilities in job interviews. "Education + Employment = Your Future 2009" will be held March 13, 2009 from 9:30am to 12:00pm at Harper College, Building J 143, 1200 West Algonquin Road, Palatine.

DRS Career Fairs will be held March 4, 2009 at the iWireless Center in Moline, Illinois; March 18, 2009 at the Orr Building in Springfield, Illinois; and April 2, 2009 at MacMurray College in Jacksonville. Each event will make available in excess of 25 employers to discuss employment opportunities for our customers.

Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program

WIPA has organized two Social Security sponsored Work Incentives Seminar Events (WISE). The goal of these events is to assist SSA beneficiaries with disabilities and their families to learn more about available work incentives through accessible, informal, learning opportunities about work. The local events took place at the one stop in Mt. Vernon and Champaign. Those locations were chosen to offer work incentive information at a location that offers resources for local employment opportunities.

Client Assistance Program (CAP)

Customers or applicants of the Division of Rehabilitation Services' Vocational Rehabilitation and Home Services Programs may contact CAP for help resolving questions or problems. The types of services that CAP may provide are information and referral; answering questions about rules and services; negotiation to resolve problems; advocacy or representation at informal reviews; and formal hearings. During FFY08, CAP assisted over 2000 individuals. To contact CAP call 1 800 641 3929 (voice), 1 888 460 5111 (tty) or write to: Client Assistance Program, 100 North Street, 1st Floor West, Springfield, IL, 62702 5197

Transition Unit 

The SMART PATH…to a unified DHS is a campaign that seeks to move integration to the forefront of every employee's mind. Using this campaign as a mantra, DRS' Transition Administrator Marva Campbell-Pruitt approached each division within DHS that provides service or support to youth, and asked that they participate on a panel, "DHS' Youth Initiatives Panel for this season's Regional Consortiums on Transition." DRS convenes quarterly Transition Consortiums in each of five regions to address transition-related issues, provide networking opportunities, and facilitate information sharing. Each consortium is a collaborative effort involving DRS' vocational rehabilitation staff, school educators, post-secondary schools, community partners, state agencies, Transition Planning Committee members and consumers. Presenters were from DHS' Division of Developmental Disabilities and their PAS agents, Division of Mental Health, Community and Health Prevention, and DRS' Marva Campbell-Pruitt the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program. The DHS' Youth Initiatives Panel continues with representatives from each of the afore-mentioned divisions along with Bureau Chiefs and Associate Directors from Child & Adolescent Health, Youth Services & Delinquency Prevention, and Youth & Adult Services on the following dates:

  • Region 4 - March 4, 2009, at DHS/DRS Field Office, 1124 North Walnut, Springfield, IL
  • Region 5 - March 18, 2009, at IETC, 333 Potomac, Mt. Vernon, IL

The Illinois School for the Deaf

ISD in Jacksonville celebrated its 170th anniversary last week. ISD is one of the oldest such institutions in the nation, providing a well rounded education to nearly 200 full time students.

As part of being named the Golden Apple Award winner, ISD's Science Educator Sheila Stephens is currently participating in an educational sabbatical at the University of Illinois' Literacy and Language Department to begin work on a Master's Degree in Curriculum/Language and Literacy, with a focus on Second Language Acquisition.

Twenty students and six staff from ISD attended the inauguration of the newly- elected President, Barack Obama. These same students attended both the initial announcement in Springfield when Obama announced he was running for president, and later the announcement of Senator Joe Biden as the vice presidential candidate. These students are involved in student government clubs at ISD and have been following the presidential campaign as part of their government and civics classes. Senator Deanna Demuzio was instrumental in getting the students' participation at both events in Springfield, as well as the tickets to the inauguration celebration in Washington, D.C. Thanks again, Senator Demuzio!

Marcos Rodriguez, 18-year old senior at ISD, entered the Lincoln Stamp Art Contest, sponsored by the Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration Committee and the Lincoln Library and Museum. His "stamp" was chosen as the winning entry for category 8th through 12th grade. The art envelope contest also caught the attention of the U.S. Postal Service and the first issuance of the Lincoln Bicentennial Stamp was held in Springfield on February 9, 2009. Marcos, his parents and teachers were special guests at the first issuance of the postage stamp ceremony on February 9, 2009, at the Old State Capitol. The U.S. Postmaster General, Senator Richard J. Durbin, Springfield Mayor Tim Davlin, Superintendent Lauderdale, and other dignitaries were in attendance.

Community Rehabilitation Program Procedure

In July 2008, DRS initiated several changes in procedures relating to community rehabilitation programs (CRPs), including introduction of two new forms: the Notification of CRP Services and the Successful Closure Report. The purpose of the forms was to increase the accuracy of service referrals to CRPs, reduce billing errors and eliminate the need for year end repayments by providers. In addition, a new internal procedure was developed for tracking billing problems and providing feedback to field staff for necessary corrections. Comparing data from July to data for February, DRS has achieved a significant reduction in billing errors and increased the speed with which errors are corrected by staff. This means that CRPs will receive correct payments and be able to avoid reconciliation issues later in the fiscal year.

PA Payment via Debit Card 

DHS is in the process of awarding a contract to a respondent to a Request for Proposal, who will have the opportunity to be a pay agent for personal assistants paid through the Home Services Program. Currently, personal assistants have the option of being paid through the mail via paper check or via direct deposit to their individual bank; however, many of these workers have no experience with personal banking and are reduced to paying exorbitant fees for utilizing currency exchanges. A debit card, essentially a credit card with a finite amount of funding on it (the worker's paycheck), will be safer for the personal assistant as well as saving them on check cashing fees. This option of payment should be available by July 1.

Division of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services 

On February 18, 2009 training was provided to BBS staff at ICRE Wood on how to work with customers who are deaf blind. SDHH's deaf-blind specialist, Mike Parvis, discussed the definition of deaf-blind, reviewed communication tips and techniques, and demonstrated assistive devices for this population. This training was developed in response to an increase in customers who are deaf-blind being served by the division.

Bureau of Disability Determination Services 

DDS has been working with medical providers to submit medical records electronically to the Social Security Administration. SSA also provides a toll-free fax number or bulk transfer option. The Bureau regularly provides outreach to encourage use of these options. The use of electronic means to submit medical records eliminates mail time, is very secure and is supported by HIPPA. These options can reduce processing time for cases and improve customer service. In addition, DDS continues to process both Quick Disability Determination Cases and Compassionate Allowance cases in a special unit of experienced Disability Claims Adjudicators. At receipt these cases are identified as likely allowances and often contain medical evidence. Over the past twelve months, the processing time for these cases is 7.7 days. It's a great initiative that provides important customer service.

Legislative Update 

Legislation was passed that provided Governor Pat Quinn a one month extension to present his proposed 2010 Budget to the Illinois General Assembly. The Governor's Budget Address is scheduled for March 18 at noon; there will be a DHS Budget Debriefing immediately after the Governor's address.

Regarding legislative measures, the Division is monitoring several bills that impact individuals with disabilities. Ones of particular interest so far include:

  • Family members/spouses providing care to customers in the Home Services Program.
  • Changes in Medicaid eligibility requirements.
  • Increases in wages/health insurance for workers in the Home Services Program.
  • Hiring incentives for individuals with disabilities in state government.
  • State public service accountability.
  • American Sign Language as a foreign language credit in state universities and secondary schools.
  • Funding for the Newborn Hearing Screening Program.
  • Insurance coverage for hearing aids.

Rules Update 

The Division is in the process of reviewing and updating its rules. The rules that have been recently submitted for processing include:

  • The Educational Services Unit has submitted recommended rule changes that are consistent with recent changes to the Illinois State Board of Education rules.
  • The Business Enterprise for the Blind Program, in conjunction with the Illinois Committee of Blind Vendors, have updated their rules and submitted the proposed changes.
  • The VR program has updated and submitted proposed changes for rules pertaining to Authorizations (Part 520), Recovery of Misspent Funds (Part 527), Assessment for Determining Eligibility and Rehabilitation Needs (Part 553), and Comparable Benefits (Part 567).

It is important to note in the Part 553 changes, the Rehabilitation Services Administration required the Division to change the criteria for individuals who receive SSDI/SSI benefits. Under the federal regulations, these individuals are considered to be an individual with a significant disability, while DRS automatically considered them to be an individual with a most significant disability.

  • The Home Services Program has submitted proposed rules to implement a rate increase for homemaker agencies who provide health insurance benefits to eligible employees.

DRS Community Reintegration Program

The Community Reintegration Program has reintegrated 111 individuals with disabilities back into the community this fiscal year.

  • The Money Follows the Person (MFP) program has officially begun. Center for Independent Living staff will work with customers in Nursing Facilities to return them to live independently in the community. This Medicaid funded program will also bring additional funds to the state to be used for rebalancing long-term care.

Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP)

DHS will be conducting a series of trainings for interested individuals on the application process and provision of technical assistance for NSP. Workshops will be held from 9am 4:30pm on the following dates:

  • Monday, March 9 Peoria
  • Tuesday, March 10 Springfield
  • Wednesday, March 11 - Marion/Carbondale
  • Thursday, March 12 - Alton/East St. Louis
  • Monday, March 15 - Rockford
  • Tuesday, March 17 - Chicago

For training locations and additional information, please go to:

Bureau of Field Services

A new Supervisor for the Mt. Vernon DRS field office has been named. Bryce Hampton was a rehabilitation counselor in the Harrisburg field offices prior to his new position. As a counselor, Mr. Hampton specialized in serving customers with mental illness and has had extensive training with this population. Mr. Hampton was a great counselor who we are certain will make a wonderful supervisor. Congratulations Bryce!

Illinois Imagines

IL Imagines is a sexual assault systems change initiative designed to strengthen the service delivery system infrastructure and develop a statewide model for integrated community response to sexual violence against women with disabilities. This initiative will assess the system's strengths and challenges and identify opportunities for enhancement, such as policy development, enhancement of a regional support system, improved training requirements, and resource development. DHS provides funding to service providers as well as direct services to women with disabilities through its Divisions of Community Health and Prevention, Developmental Disabilities, Mental Health, and Rehabilitation Services.

DRS Contract Unit

The DRS Contact Unit has processed over 600 Community Service applications for FY2010. The contracts will hopefully be sent to providers the beginning of May for services to start July 1, 2009. This includes services through DRS Home Services, Independent Living, Blind Services, Community Resources, Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and Lekotek programs.