Community Partner Update: January 2011

Budget Update

We continue to work with the DHS Budget Unit and the Governor's Office of Management and Budget on refining the FY11 budget and developing a proposed spending plan for FY 12. The Governor's Budget Address to the General Assembly is scheduled for February 16.

Field Services

Changes, changes, and more changes. Several personnel changes have been made in the past several weeks. Louis Hamer has been named Acting Bureau Chief for the Bureau of Field Services, replacing Jeff Standerfer, who will retire December 30th. Mr. Hamer assumes his new duties on January 3, 2011. Mr. Hamer has over a quarter century of experience in the field of rehabilitation. He has been a Rehabilitation Counselor, Manager of Community Resources Unit responsible for over 600 contracts, and Assistant Bureau Chief for Region 2. The Bureau Chief job is a major responsibility, and we are very confident that Lou is up to the task. We wish him the best in this new role!

Dorothy Neal has been named Acting Assistant Bureau Chief for DRS Region 5. Dorothy is the Rehabilitation Services Supervisor in Olney. We thank Dorothy for stepping up to the plate and assuming these additional duties. At the same time, we wish to thank Paula Ferguson for her leadership as Acting Assistant Bureau Chief for Regions 4 and 5. Paula did a yeoman's job and will settle back to her duties as Rehabilitation Services Supervisor for the Jacksonville DRS office.

As part of a recent BFS restructuring, Ron Sazone is now the Assistant Bureau Chief for Regions 3 and 4. Ron is a very good manager and will perform very well with his additional responsibilities.

The Return of Mike Scott

Mike Scott has been hired as the Manager of the Rehabilitation Technology section at DRS. Mike is an important asset to our field staff in providing technical assistance for individual customer issues and leading the Tech Unit into the next decade. Mike, who has worked for DRS previously, has his formal training as a Rehabilitation Engineer and is a national expert on accommodating individuals with disabilities, especially those who have Visual Impairments. Welcome home, Mike!

A Big HSP Thanks

Sharon Johnson will be retiring from her job at the Home Services Program this year. I remember working with Sharon and some of her cohorts for the past twelve years. Sharon has been instrumental in working with the Centers for Independent Living on the Community Reintegration Program. We wish Sharon the best in her retirement status and thank her tremendously for her contributions to HSP over the past couple of decades.

News Update

The Illinois Tollway Board of Directors approved a new license plate image review contract that will bring 100 new jobs to Illinois and provide employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and veterans. In addition, the new contract is expected to reduce costs to the Illinois Tollway by more than $1 million annually. Under the new $9.7 million, three-year contract, Bridgeway will hire new employees for facilities in Galesburg and Rockford to review approximately 46 million license plate images annually as part of the Illinois Tollway's toll violation enforcement system.

The contract brings together two not-for-profit companies with established reputations for providing employment opportunities for workers with disabilities: Bridgeway through its Galesburg location and Loves Park-based Illinois Growth Enterprises (IGE). Bridgeway is a not-for-profit human services organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals with disabilities in west central Illinois and southeast Iowa. IGE is a not-for-profit corporation that has been providing comprehensive vocational services to persons with disabilities since 1970.

Letter of Appreciation

DHS' EEO/AA Officer, Anna L. D'Ascenzo, writes "Because of everyone's commitment, hard work and efforts, we can say that we began our year with an underutilization for people with disabilities at 33. In October we hired 7 Persons with Disabilities, November we hired 13 and to date in December we have hired 5. This brings our total just in FY11 second quarter to 25 people! We had an underutilization of 33 and we've addressed that underutilization 25 times! I think this is an awesome achievement which shows DHS' dedication and desire to reach our goals."

Home Services Program

SEIU Local 880 notified DRS that "fair share" for non-union Personal Assistants increased as of January 1, 2011. The rate has been increased to 78.82 percent of the full members' dues. As of January 1, 2011, 2.6 percent of gross monthly pay with a maximum of $29.56 per payroll has been withheld from the Fair Share contributor's checks. There is no change in the union member dues.

The Fletcher Arbitration decision continues to present challenges to the management of the Home Services Program as we deal with turnover and vacancies. However, the program continues to do its best to move forward with important chances and improvements. Here are a few highlights:

  • In recognition of the great need to get information and training out to the field, HSP will start weekly webinars for field staff. This will allow us to communicate with field staff regularly on the most important issues as well as provide training. This technology can be used to get information out to the field while being cognizant of the need to limit travel costs. It also is a very flexible tool.
  • HSP and VR are using technology to minimize the amount of paper we must transfer back and forth. Both programs feel the pressure of dealing with cumbersome, expensive, paper-intensive processes. Technology exists to help address this problem.
  • We have received approval to make changes to the way our CRP/Money Follows the Person program operates. Some changes have already been implemented. Over the next year we will be moving to manage the CILs the same way we manage other case managers in terms of process, technology, and financial reimbursement.

Community Reintegration/Money Follows the Person

Cathy Buchanan left her position as CRP Coordinator in October. We are in the process of requesting to fill this position. Effective December 1, all consumers eligible for Money Follows the Person were served in this program operated by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services. The Community Reintegration Program, which DRS has managed for the past fifteen years, will be available only for those individuals with disabilities who do not meet MFP eligibility requirements. Training will be provided to Center for Independent Living staff relative to MFP, upon request.

Division of Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing

DRS purchased UbiDuos using American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) monies to improve communication in offices. The UbiDuo is a two-screen, two keyboard electronic communication device. It is completely portable, wireless, stand-alone and operates in real-time. The UbiDuos are at the VR offices.

Each person using the device has a keyboard and attached screen, and the conversation appears in front of both of them in real time. The UbiDuo is a tool which provides communication access between hearing and deaf or hard of hearing people. Here is a real life example of how the UbiDuo was used to assist a customer in obtaining their employment outcome:

"A deaf customer called his counselor early in the morning to let him know that a job interview was scheduled for the same day. The counselor agreed to meet the customer at the Old Country Buffet with the UbiDuo in hand.

The customer arrived for his interview with the food service manager. The counselor and customer provided a brief demonstration to the prospective employer on how the UbiDuo provides communication access. The customer and the manager used the UbiDuo to effectively communicate during the interview process. The manager was impressed with the customer and offered him a job."

This is a great communication tool and we look forward to receiving more success stories!

ARRA VR Update

DRS has now implemented 91 ARRA VR Phase 2 contracts in the areas of job placement for adults with disabilities and services to transition age youth with disabilities. These projects will create over 500 direct service jobs in community agencies to serve VR customers through the end of the ARRA funding period. In addition, there are three new ARRA initiatives directed at specific populations of people with disabilities to promote employment and education. The largest is the Community College Initiative, which provides up to $2,500 per year for tuition and fees at an Illinois community college for VR customers. Launched in November, this project has already begun supporting students who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to attend college. We have also implemented the Employer Training Initiative, which provides a subsidy to employers to assist with the costs of training a new employee placed by DRS. The third initiative is the Job Stability Pilot Project, which provides community service providers with funding to support long-term job stability to individuals with a serious mental illness. These initiatives will continue through September 2011.

DRS' Asians with Disabilities Outreach Project

DRS has embarked on an 18-month "Asians with Disabilities Outreach Project Think-Tank" to assist Chicago-based Asians with disabilities gain meaningful access to the state VR system and to increase the quality of service through culturally and linguistically relevant outreach efforts. Funded by ARRA, the project was awarded to the Center for Capacity Building on Minorities with Disabilities Research (CCBMDR) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), which is collaborating with DRS and many local Asian-serving agencies.

Asians with Disabilities are under-represented in the U.S. rehabilitation and disability system. In Illinois, the proportion of Asians being served by the state VR program is less than 1.09%. To address this service gap, the project has established a strong network of Chicago-based immigrant and disability groups that support Asians with Disabilities who are striving to achieve self-sufficiency, community integration, and a better quality of life, by identifying outreach strategies to secure access to employment and training.

For more information, contact Rooshey Hasnain, Ed.D., Visiting Research Assistant Professor and Project Director, CCBMDR,, 312-413-0416 (Voice) or 312-413-0453 (TTY).

Independent Living Unit

The Federal 704 Report for Centers for Independent Living has been completed and submitted to RSA. Highlights of the report include that over 7,600 direct services were provided to persons with disabilities by Independent Living Centers in Illinois. This is slight decrease from last year because of funding reductions and funding delays which resulted in staff lay offs in some Centers.

Training Unit

The training unit has been busy fielding incoming calls from the Media and Advertising Initiative. This initiative was designed to educate the public about DRS services through television and radio commercials. In just the first month, DRS has received and referred over 250 customers to offices throughout the state. In addition, DRS has replaced its Annual Report Calendar with a new website titled "Success: Making it Work Together." This website incorporates DRS Annual Report information, as well as success stories from customers and employers, and other important related links. In just the first month, the website has had well over 1,250 visitors. Please feel free to visit our website at

In addition, the training unit is preparing the final report to RSA on activities and expenditures for the 2005-2010 In-Service Training Grant. This was a five-year award and enabled DRS to develop and implement training sessions that provide opportunities for all staff to enhance their knowledge and skills. Funds were also used to conduct the Director's Statewide Regional Forums, New Employee Orientation, sponsor conferences, and establish a resource library loan program. An In-Service Training Grant for 2011-2015 was applied for and approved, and trainings are being developed for next year.

Award Winners/Nominees for 2010

The following staff have been recognized by their peers as deserving awards this year. As we have been unable to convene regional meetings this fall and winter, DRS would like to recognize the following individuals for their commitment to the Division:

  • Against All Odds - Region 1 - BFS Julie Somers, Avalon Park

    Also nominated: Berta "Mae" Richard Wood St.; Motise Jones-Baker, Milwaukee Ave.

  • Values/Passion - Region 1 - BFS Charlene Black, Evergreen Park

    Also nominated: Pamela Geddes, Wood St.

  • At Your Service - Region 1 - BFS Nicole McNeal-McGee, Evergreen Park
  • Team Work - Region 1 - BFS

    Nominated: Michelle Rainey, Avalon Park

  • At Your Service - Region 2 - BFS Ardath Randle, Aurora

    Also nominated: Terri Mock, Sterling

  • Against All Odds - Region 3 - BFS Community Resources Unit Project Officers
  • Rookie of the Year - BFS Carlynn "Quinn" Edwards, Harrisburg (Region 5)

    Also nominated: Jennifer Escorcia, Galesburg (Region 3)

  • Rookie of the Year - BBS Mary Watkins, Arlington Heights (Region 1)

    Also nominated: Carmen Calderon, Wood Street (Region 1); James "Les" Dillow, Decatur (Region 4)

Congratulations to all and here are wishes for a Happy New Year!