Community Partner Update: September 2009

Employment Unit

October 1 marks the beginning of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Randy Staton and his staff have developed a number of materials to review in planning your NDEAM activities. Please contact Randy and his staff at the Employment Unit if you are interested in doing something creative in celebration of National Disability Employment Awareness Month. Ideas could include Employer Recognition Events, Disability Mentoring Week, job shadowing and job exploration opportunities, job resource fairs, etc. Materials will also be available at the upcoming DRS Regional Meetings.

Bureau of Field Services

Successful competitive outcomes were down this fiscal year compared to last year. In FY2008 DRS field staff had 4978 competitive closures compared to 4804 for FY 2009. The state of the economy was a factor in the downturn in successful outcomes; as was layoffs and plant closings. With the forecast of the recession improving, FY2010 looks to be a much better year for our customers getting jobs that will enable them to become productive, engaged citizens in our communities. We must do better!

Work Incentives

After a somewhat stressful period of time, when WIPA staff were in a state of limbo about their jobs, budget and funding issues were resolved, our WIPA benefit planners are on the job, doing what they do so well. We are proud of the job these dedicated staff do day-to day. The impact they have on the lives of our customers, and other persons with disabilities cannot be measured. The Illinois Assistive Technology Program (IATP) will be the contractor for the WIPA grant this year and in future years. Thanks to IATP and Director Willie Gunther for stepping up to the plate and taking the lead in administering the WIPA program.

Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

September 16, 2009 marks the 15th annual Deaf Awareness Day. The celebration will be held at the James R Thompson Center, 100 W Randolph, Chicago Illinois. This event is co-sponsored by DHS-DRS and the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission. The workshop entitled "No Interpreter - WHY???" will be provided by IDHHC and will start at 10:00 and finish at 12:00 in the JRTC auditorium located on the concourse level. The presentation will include information and discussion about the new Interpreter Licensure law and the license levels required for various situations. Entertainment will be provided by the Traveling Hands Troupe from the International Center on Deafness in the concourse from 12:15 to 1:00. Exhibits will be from 10:00 until 3:00 in the atrium.

Bureau of Blind Services

On August 24th, Senate Bill 2045 (Blind Vendors Act) was signed into law. This bill will give the vending program rights to all vending on state property with some exceptions. Shapiro Developmental Center, property owned by local governments, public school districts, public universities, colleges and community colleges are exempt from the law. The start date for the law is July 1, 2010. This is great news for the vending program. Planning meetings will be scheduled with ICBV to address problems and develop solutions to implement the law.

CIL Funding

The Contract Unit has processed the GRF increases to the Centers for Independent Living based on the revised Governor's budget. This returned GRF funding for each CIL contract to 90% of last year's funding level. Unfortunately, at the same time the contracts for personal assistant recruitment, referral and training were eliminated and the Community Reintegration contracts were reduced slightly. These and other GRF reductions were necessary to meet the budget passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Quinn. See related changes to the Home Services Program below.

Community Reintegration Program

In FY09, 210 individuals previously residing in Nursing Facilities were reintegrated into the community through the Centers for Independent Living (CILs). This is an increase from FY08. Congratulations to the Center staff for all their hard work and commitment to customers and the program.

Money Follows the Person

To date, thirteen individuals have been reintegrated under the Money Follows the Person program. This program specifically targets those individuals who are Medicaid recipients who have lived in a Nursing Facility at least six months or more. There was a very productive meeting held on August 27 with the stakeholders who are implementing the DRS part of MFP related to people with disabilities under the age of 60.


Regional meetings, scheduled for September 22, 23, and 24 will be red letter days for vocational rehabilitation staff throughout the State of Illinois. The featured speaker is Mr. Bill Santos of Employment Outcomes, Inc. Mr. Santos will address the strategic challenges and opportunities facing vocational rehabilitation staff. Mr. Santos plans to engage staff in the continued practice of strategic thinking and action emphasizing the key actions of contacting employers, setting appointments with employers, and obtaining placements.

The one day program will focus on four areas important to job development:

  • using customized employment strategies reflecting candidate's employment barriers
  • building relationships with employers
  • selling solutions to employers' needs
  • handling employers' objections

Employment Services Division

The Division of Rehabilitation Services will be coordinating the Statewide Disability Mentoring Day in October. One of the easiest and most effective ways to establish working relationships with employers is to setup a Disability Mentoring Day (DMD) activity. The DMD activity can take the shape of workplace tours, employer presentations, work experiences, on-the job evaluations, information share luncheon, etc. DRS has set the goal of 2 DMD participants per VR counselor. The Employment Resource Specialists (ERS) will be presenting marketing materials at local office staff meetings and all ERS's have been advised to assist in the local office's DMD success.

ARRA (Stimulus) Funding Initiatives

DRS recently notified community partners about financial awards for VR projects funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Overall $2.8 million was awarded to 45 organizations for 56 projects utilizing ARRA VR funds. The organizations which received ARRA VR funding include 21 community rehabilitation program agencies, 12 school districts or cooperatives, seven centers for independent living, and five other organizations. Of the projects receiving funds, 16 were designed to provide employment to persons with disabilities, 21 were designed to provide work experiences or internships to youth with disabilities, 13 involved purchasing equipment and assistive technology for use by persons with disabilities, and six projects involved providing training to staff working for schools or community provider agencies. The organizations submitting the proposals estimated that 852 jobs would be created, including employment for persons with disabilities.

Over 125 project outlines were received by DRS after a notice was sent to our community partner mailing list. Each proposal was evaluated based on several factors, including: the reasonableness of the budgeted costs; the provider agency's record of effectiveness; number of employment outcomes projected relative to cost; other benefits (persons trained or work experiences developed) relative to cost; the likelihood of having a direct economic impact; the number of individuals likely to benefit from the project; and the number of other (non disabled) persons to be employed.


The following legislation has been signed by the Governor:

  • House Bill 39 (P.A. 96 0351) Directs the Home Services Program to develop a pilot project to reimburse spouses who provide care to eligible customers of the Home Services Program.
  • House Bill 655 (P.A. 96 0368) Creates the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force and requires the Task Force to analyze programs and policies of the State to determine what changes, modifications, and innovations may be necessary to remove barriers to competitive employment and economic opportunity for persons with disabilities.
  • House Bill 746 (Amendatory Veto) Amends the Disabilities Services Act of 2003 and adds provisions for a Rapid Reintegration Pilot Program, to be operated by the Department of Human Services. The Governor's amendatory veto recommends the Department of Human Services and the Department on Aging shall both operate the Rapid Reintegration Pilot Program and also recommends the operation of the pilot program shall be subject to appropriation.
  • Senate Bill 40 (P.A. 96 0078) Requires the Department of Human Services and the Department of Employment Security to develop and implement programs to increase the number of individuals with a disability employed by State government and to submit an annual report.

PA Debit Card Initiative

For the past year and a half, the Division of Rehabilitation Services, in partnership with Human Capital Development, have been working to offer an electronic payment process to their in home care providers. The project will soon be coming to fruition with the roll out of the Illinois Debit Mastercard for PAs and Child Care workers. Once implementation has been completed, PAs will be able to receive their paycheck directly onto a debit card with immediate access to their funds. All PAs are encouraged to review the material on the Debit card and decide if this new option fits their lifestyle better than the traditional paper check.

HSP Update

The Home Services Program is in the process of implementing a strategy that will make the program more uniform and consistent statewide. After analyzing some of our internal data, it has become evident that we have a number of outliers in some of our services, specifically 'laundry', 'housekeeping', 'outside the home', 'food preparation', and 'money management'. By setting some parameters for these five services, there will be enhanced quality assurance and equity within HSP. There was another HSP Stakeholder Meeting held on 8/31/09 where this strategy was discussed and fine tuned with a broad group of advocates. There will be much staff training in September with a targeted implementation date in October.

Ticket to Work

The Ticket to Work Unit recently compiled a complete list of all tickets assigned to DRS since February, 2002. The unit manager is meeting will all regional staff to implement a new procedure for identifying customers who have gone to work since January, 2007 in order to begin processing the employment network phase of Ticket to Work. Once completed, DRS will have an understanding of how much reimbursement can be captured since implementation of EN Milestone Payment system.


DRS continues to be successful in identifying about 1,800 students statewide who benefit from the cooperative agreement with school districts. DRS recently developed a new procedure for staff to follow that will ensure at least 90 % of the students exiting the system will have either an IPE developed or the student's case closed prior to IPE development.

Community Rehabilitation Program

Due to the state budget crunch, DRS has seen many of its community partners laying off staff which could affect the outcomes of customer placements. In scattered areas of the state, some community organizations are closing their doors. DRS has been communicating with the programs statewide to develop a system for capturing reimbursements for social security through the Ticket to Work program.

Bureau of Disability Determinations Services

As a result of fund raising efforts, Illinois Association of Disability Examiners raised over $3,000 for various charities throughout the community. These charities were very pleased to have received the donations from our office.

Quick Disability Determination Initiative benefit Illinois Citizens

Quick Disability Determination (QDD) cases are initial Electronic Disability Collect System (EDCS) cases that are electronically identified as having a high potential that the claimant is disabled, evidence of the claimant's allegations can be easily and quickly obtained, and the case can be processed quickly in the local Disability Determination Services (DDS) office.

Social Security Commissioner's Compassionate Allowance (CAL) Initiative benefit Illinois Citizens

The Social Security Administration (SSA) launched the Compassionate Allowance (CAL) initiative. This initiative allows Social Security to quickly target the most obviously disabled individuals for allowances based on objective medical information that can be obtained quickly. Commissioner Astrue has held four Compassionate Allowance public outreach hearings. The hearings were on rare diseases, cancers, traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke, and early onset Alzheimer's disease and related dementias.

In the month of July, the fourth Compassionate Allowances Hearing on Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease was held in Chicago. Testimony was presented from some of the nation's leading experts on early onset Alzheimer's disease and related dementias about possible methods for identifying and implementing Compassionate Allowances for people with early onset Alzheimer's. The Commissioner will hold the fifth public outreach hearing on schizophrenia in November 2009.