Community Partner Update: March 2010

Budget Address

On February 11, 2010, Public Act 96 0881 was adopted and provides that the Governor shall submit a State budget by the second Wednesday in March 2010 (March 10, 2010), instead of by the third Wednesday in February. DRS is working very diligently to ensure the preservation of its programs in spite of the current economic climate in Illinois.

Director's Office

The Division of Rehabilitation Services, in conjunction with The Health & Disability Advocates, will be conducting free 1.5 day trainings throughout Illinois on public benefits and the work incentives. For those of you who work with people with disabilities directly on employment or public benefits issues, this is a training you will not want to miss. It will teach you the basics of the rules of how employment income impacts public benefits but will also spend time helping you learn ways to incorporate this knowledge into your day-to-day work. Five trainings around the state will be held for Rehabilitation Providers, as well as five trainings for State Employee staff. Because space is limited, there is a short application process for attending the training. You can apply online at:

The DHS/DRS calendars are still available. Please contact Marjorie Olson at (217) 524-1379 (Voice/TTY) or Supplies are limited, so act quickly.

Bureau of Field Services

We are pleased to announce that Mr. Randy Staton has joined the Bureau as the Chief Policy Advisor for the Vocational Rehabilitation program. Mr. Staton has been with DRS for many years, most recently as the head of the Employment Services Unit.

Mr. Staton has ample experience providing training on VR Regulations and Procedures, including being the chair of the VR Rules Committee and will be writing policy changes, interacting with the RSA on rules, training, handling inquiries, etc. Please congratulate Mr. Staton next time you see him.

Office Moves

Two DRS office relocations occurred in February. The Quincy office moved to 300 Maine Street, Suite 102, Quincy, IL 62301. Their telephone number remains the same, (217) 224-2600 (Voice) or (888) 460-5161 (TTY). The Freeport office moved to 1828 South West. Their telephone number remains the same, (815) 233-5904 (Voice) or (888) 460-5122 (TTY).

Other offices in line to relocate soon are the Benton Office and the East St. Louis HSP Office. Look to the next newsletter for an update.

Bureau of Blind Services

"The Illinois Braille Challenge 2010" is scheduled for Saturday, March 6, 2010, from 8:30am 4:00pm. The Challenge, which promotes Braille literacy and awareness, involves a two stage academic competition designed to motivate school age Braille readers to excel in this vital medium. Last year, 41 Illinois students in grades 1 12 competed in a series of five contests demonstrating skills such as Braille reading and comprehension, accuracy and speed, spelling, and proofreading. Prizes range from $50 to $500 with a chance to compete in the national finals in Los Angeles this summer. Please take note that a significant change was made to the contest this year. Students participating in the Sophomore category will now take the Charts & Graphs contest instead of the Braille Spelling contest. The Braille Challenge National Advisory Committee recommended this change to reinforce the use of tactile graphics at a younger age. This gives students in grades 5 6 the opportunity to demonstrate their competence with raised line drawings in The Braille Challenge contest. Further information about the Braille challenge can be found at

Bureau of Home Services

As many of you are aware, the Governor's Office announced the posting of an RFP by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services on February 8, 2010. The purpose of the RFP is to establish an integrated health care model for all Medicaid funded services on a pilot basis in the counties of Lake, Kane, DuPage, Will, Kankakee, and suburban Cook. The pilot would include individuals over age 17 who are Medicaid eligible but who are not in spend down status and who do not also receive Medicare. The Home Services and Community Care Program customers are to be included in the second year of the pilot. This is expected to be a very complicated undertaking as evidenced by the more than 500 questions that bidders registered regarding the RFP at the February 17 bidders' conference. The closing date for the RFP is April 15, 2010.

Community Reintegration/Money Follows the Person

New CRP/MFP Manager, Cathy Buchanan, started January 19, 2010. Training includes attending MFP training provided by UIC, participating in weekly MFP meetings, visiting all CIL staff statewide, and participating in reintegration activities with the local CILs. Cathy comes to DHS DRS from Healthcare and Family Services where she worked in the Maternal Healthcare Unit. Cathy will be training under Kris Smith who has been the Acting Administrator over the past two years. Please welcome Cathy to DRS!

Maria Carde, who assisted in reviewing and approval of CRP/MFP plans, retired December 31, 2009. Joe Hamlett will be handling approval of cases statewide. There has been an increase in the number of plans approved for reintegration; however, accessible, affordable housing continues to be the biggest barrier facing consumers transitioning to the community.

Independent Living

In conjunction with the Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC), the Designated State Unit (DRS), is in the process of developing the new three year State Plan for Independent Living (SPIL). The new SPIL must be submitted to RSA by June 30, 2010, and when approved, will go into effect October 1, 2010.

As a mandatory component of the SPIL development process, two public hearings will be scheduled in April; one in Springfield and one in Chicago, to solicit feedback on the draft SPIL. In addition, eight public forums will be hosted by eight different CILs statewide to review the results of the 2008 Needs Assessment as well as solicit input on future needs. The information gained from these forums will be incorporated into the new SPIL. The Public Forum dates are:

  • February 18th Access Living Chicago
  • February 23rd SICIL Harrisburg
  • February 24th OFACIL Mt. Vernon
  • March 3rd Illinois Valley CIL LaSalle
  • March 4th Illinois/Iowa CIL Rock Island
  • March 10th West Central CIL Quincy
  • March 11th IMPACT CIL Alton
  • March 18th Will/Grundy CIL Joliet

For more information, please contact the SILC office at (217)744-7777 (V/TTY).

Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDHH)

SDHH and the Employment Resource Unit have partnered to provide students who are deaf and hard of hearing "practice" interviews. The students are currently juniors and seniors attending six high schools in the Chicagoland area. The purpose of this activity is to provide the students with an opportunity to improve their job interviewing skills by interviewing with an employer while using an interpreter. The student will interview with either a human resource staff person from local businesses or with a DRS staff person. In addition to enhancing their interviewing skills, the student will introduce the use of interpreters to the employers. The employers will complete a written assessment of the students interviewing skills. The feedback will be used by the teachers, VR Counselors, and Transition Specialists while providing job readiness training to the students.

Legislative Information

The Division is monitoring legislation that impacts programs and/or individuals with disabilities. We are tracking the following legislation proposals. Bill numbers and primary sponsors follow:

  • HB4679 - Mary E. Flowers - Insurance Code Prohibit Discrimination
  • HB4703 - Rosemary Mulligan - Healthcare Legislative Oversight
  • HB4924 - Rosemary Mulligan - Insurance Code Cochlear and Hearing Implants
  • HB4943 - Suzanne Bassi - Finance Small Business Fund
  • HB4989 - Jack D. Franks - Public Aid Personal Needs Allowance $50
  • HB5054 - Karen May - Medicaid Health Cards
  • HB5081 - Frank J. Mautino - COGFA Medical Care Committee
  • HB5086 - Linda Chapa - LaVia Public Aid AABD Pilot Program
  • HB5095 - Tom Cross - Disabled Pedestrian Safety (replaces the White Cane Law)
  • HB5113 - Mary E. Flowers - Public Aid Health Maintenance Organization
  • HB5132 - Roger L. Eddy - DCFS Disabled Students Abuse
  • HB5174 - LaShawn K. Ford - Trans Fat Restriction Act
  • SB2515 - Ira I. Silverstein - Vehicle Code Seat Belts on School Buses
  • SB2516 - Ira I. Silverstein - Insurance Code Hearing Aid Coverage
  • SB2521 - William Delgado - Special Education Age

Strategic Planning

The DRS Vocational Rehabilitation program has been making significant improvements in meeting timeliness requirements established by federal rules. Cases must be certified as eligible or ineligible no more than 60 days after an individual applies for VR services. Once a customer is certified as eligible, an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) must be developed within 90 days, unless the customer is a transition student in high school. The Rehabilitation Services Administration requires that DRS meet a 90 percent on time criterion for each of these measures. For FY2010 through January 31, 90.3 percent of all IPEs developed for VR customers were completed on time. In addition, 91.1 percent of certifications of eligibility were completed on time.

Training Unit

On January 29th, Vicki Draksler, Manager of the World Class Customer Service and Training Unit retired after 24 years of service. Vicki was a true leader and motivator and was very instrumental in transforming DRS into a "World Class" provider of rehabilitation services.

Regional meeting dates and locations for Vocational Rehabilitation staff have been secured. Region 1 will be held April 13 at the Doubletree Hotel in Alsip; Regions 2 & 3 will be held  April 14 at the Holiday Inn Select in Naperville; and Regions 4 & 5 will be held April 15 at the Northfield Inn & Suites Springfield.

A new version of the Real Colors Training called Real Colors Leadership is currently in the works and will be due out in the summer. Real Colors trainings are based on personality and temperament styles that improve an individual's communication skills while promoting personal and professional development. The training series consists of Basic Colors, Real Stress, Real Issues, Real Teams, and now Real Leadership. Real Leadership enables participants to recognize each color style of leadership strengths and will assist them in developing a plan to successfully lead each color whenever they are in a leadership role.

In March DRS training unit will begin a series of trainings focused on working with customers who have a mental illness and are receiving services through Individual Placement Services (IPS). The target audience will be VR Counselors, supervisors, and staff from community mental health facilities who currently provide IPS services to DRS customers. The training unit is also working with the Technical Assistance and Continuing Education (TACE) Program to bring new trainings to DRS staff based on interest and need.