Community Partner Update: March 2011

Budget Update:

On February 16, Governor Quinn presented his FY12 Introduced Budget. His spending plan outlined many cuts to human services programs, including those administered by the Division of Rehabilitation Services.

The Division's state funded flagship Home Services Program will see several major programmatic changes in FY12. They are:

  • Implementation of a mandatory Medicaid only provision for new customers entering the program. Effective July 1, all new customers must be found Medicaid eligible prior to receiving services. Current customers who have complied with program eligibility requirements will be grandfathered.
  • Implementation of Service Parameters as a way to maximize available resources, improve program implementation, and continue to maintain the Home Services Program for now and into the foreseeable futures - all at the same time. Service Hour Parameters are the greatest number of hours available to a customer per month without special approval in five Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) items from the Determination of Need. The IADLs include money management, meal preparation, laundry, housework and outside the home.
  • Elimination of duplication of services to customers who are being served on multiple waiver programs.

Other areas impacted are:

  • Centers for Independent Living provide a variety of services to people with disabilities. These not for profit organizations will see a $1.6 million, or 36%, reduction in funding.
  • The Community Reintegration Program was reduced by $1.7. The help of Centers for Independent Living, this program provides an opportunity for individuals with disabilities who are in a nursing facility to return to the community to live in their own homes.
  • Funding of nearly $1.1 million for Extended Supported Employment services for individuals who need on going employment support services beyond 18 months was eliminated.

ARRA VR Update:

The DRS Community College Initiative began in November 2010. Through January 31, 2011, 86 students have enrolled in community college through the initiative, which has paid $79,950 in tuition and fees to 28 Illinois community colleges. Enrollment of new students continues each week. Staff are encouraged to enroll students in summer classes whenever practicable to take advantage of the ARRA funding, which ends September 30, 2011.

Bureau of Blind Services: On February 8, Beth Sweeney of the Center for Sight and Hearing in Rockford presented an hour long conference call to present the Captioning Training Program that is currently open to customers. This format allowed Ms. Sweeney to reach all of the Bureau staff and to answer all inquiries of this remarkable training program, which is funded through ARRA funds. Customers train in Rockford for one week and then finish their training "remotely."

On February 10, Leah Gerlach of the Spectrios Institute in Wheaton, presented an hour long conference call to the staff to provide information about upcoming training programs for our customers such as Captured Speech Technology; Employee Interviewing and Disability Disclosure; Social Networking for Non-Visual Computer Users and New Tech Workshops. Ms. Gerlach provided information on how to access services and also offered transportation support to the customers. There was also a question and answer exchange.

Training Unit:

In late November, DHS/DRS launched a new website designed for viewers to have access to DRS program information, while at the same time, highlighting the success that DRS customers experience. The link for this website is The theme of the website is "DRS Success: Making it Work Together."

The current email list of approximately 600 employers and 600 DRS providers is about to see a significant jump in circulation thanks to DHS' Office of Clinical Administrative and Program Support (OCAPS). Both divisions within DHS have partnered together to link the DHS/DRS website with OCAPS' 2600 active providers (almost 2000 agencies) to bring the total circulation to almost 4000 recipients.

DHS/DRS will continue to increase the circulation of the website. If you have an email group that you would like to have added to this mailing, or you yourself would like to receive updates, please contact Nancy Febus at You may also call our dedicated phone line, Monday through Friday, from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm at 1-877-761-9780 (Voice), 1-866-264-2149 (TTY), or 1-866-588-0401 (Video Phone) to speak to a live operator and/or be transferred directly to one of our 45 offices.

Field Services:

On February 15, Star Smith of the Internal Revenue Services met with the Bureau Chief, Assistant Bureau Chiefs, and other field services staff to discuss the return to using Schedule A for individuals with disabilities regarding federal employment.

The federal government will be hiring, and individuals who are certified by VR through Schedule A will have the first opportunity to be hired in many of those jobs. Star also explained that all federal agencies will be hiring and distributed websites for customers to review. A First Page article was displayed for DRS staff to access the information and ABCs have been advised to discuss with Rehab Services Supervisors at their regional meetings.

Contract Unit:

The Contract Unit is in the process of preparing documentation for fiscal year 2012 community service contracts. DHS is anticipating these contracts will be available to providers in May. The Contract Unit has been working very hard to catch up on verification of group billings. They plan to be current within three months, if not sooner.


DRS was recently heralded as a beacon across states for its comprehensive transition initiatives for youth. The NEXT STEP program is one of those transition initiatives and has just completed its 25 year of operation in Illinois.

NEXT STEPS is a training initiative developed in conjunction with the Parent Educational and Advocacy Center in Virginia. The training program is designed to assist parents, families, and stakeholders in preparing for the changes from student life in school to life as a citizen in the community. For all young people, preparing for this change is complicated. For students with disabilities and their families, preparing for such changes can be particularly challenging, overwhelming, and exciting!

For information on where other NEXT STEPS Teams are located or to start a team in your area, contact

Home Services Program:

Over the next few months HSP will be focusing a great deal of attention to make the program more efficient and improve enforcement of some important rules.

  • Medicaid Eligibility Determination - HSP eligibility rules have long stated that customers must apply for Medicaid and must receive a determination of eligibility. Unfortunately, this rule has not been fully complied with and enforced. Because the state loses money when it does not enforce this rule, DRS has begun to address non-compliant cases and will complete this process by June 30th.
  • Enrollment in Multiple Medicaid Waivers - HSP rules state that an individual may be in only one Medicaid waiver program at a time with services being coordinated by one case manager. That principle is reinforced by federal rule that allows Medicaid claiming for only one waiver at a time. In spite of our rules, we find that several hundred individuals are enrolled in HSP and either a Developmental Disabilities (DD) waiver or the Department on Aging waiver. This is costing the state millions in lost federal revenues. We are working with both DD and Aging to consolidate services into one waiver. Customers will be assisted in deciding which waiver they wish to stay with. For many of these customers, we will be able to provide the same level of service by conforming to each programs service cost maximums. This will not be the case for all customers. Our goal is to complete this process by June 30.
  • Electronic Prescreening - Aging CCUs currently do almost all of the hospital pre-screenings for nursing home placements for HSP. We currently receive thousands of pre-screenings via paper form. By the time we receive and process the paper, it is well after discharge, and we do not have the capacity to do anything more with the information. However, in conjunction with our partners at Aging, we will soon be receiving pre-screening forms electronically and almost immediately. This will allow us to analyze and use information immediately. We are very excited about the prospect of getting this information to our reintegration staff in the Centers for Independent Living (CILs). With so many fresh leads, CIL staff will be able to reach out to newly placed individuals more quickly and start helping more of them work towards reintegration into the community.
  • Grant Award: DHS/DRS is proud to announce that the Migrant and Seasonal Farm Workers (MSFW) Program has been awarded a 5-year continuation grant by the U.S. Department of Education. In its past four years of operation, the MSFW program has helped more than 700 migrant and seasonal farm workers with disabilities and their families in central and southern Illinois access DRS services, leading to stabilization and improvement of their health, economic condition, and quality of life. The key to the success of the MSFW program has been the strong working relationships with individuals and community organizations with close ties to the Hispanic population. The program's bilingual outreach workers have become integral members of existing networks and established new networks to help break down barriers to access information and services for the target population. For further information about the MSFW program, contact Francisco Alvarado at or Marco Lenis at


The Transition Unit has begun a program in Chicago Public Schools utilizing some aspects of the vocational rehabilitation program's STEP contracts, but capitalizing on industry's researched-based models of excellence.

The pilot program is designed to identify students who are eligible for DRS programs. Next, coordination with the University of Illinois at Chicago occurs to specify designated activities to be conducted. DRS counselors serving CPS students will undergo extensive training, utilizing what is known as the "Multiple Pathways to Transition Outcomes Model." This model reflects the state-of-the-art in transition planning and implementation. It utilizes case management and wrap-around service supports to address the individual needs of youth and allow them to follow a pathway that focuses on successful outcomes.


DRS is currently tracking several pieces of proposed legislation. They include:

  • SB 1351 - Amends the Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act to address antiquated language in the Division's enabling legislation that is not current with today's programmatic practices and standards. In addition, the measure adds language that will assist the Division with the rulemaking process and implement necessary rules changes related to parity with the Department on Aging's rates.
  • HB 1202 - Amends the New Vehicle Buyer Protection Act to ensure protections are available to buyers of new motorized wheelchairs, including replacement or return of a new motorized wheelchair when the seller, after a reasonable number of attempts, is unable to conform to any of its applicable express warranties. Also provides refund provisions to the administrator of the medical assistance program under the Illinois Public Aid Code, the administrator of the federal Medicare program, and a private insurer.
  • SB 1238 - Amends the Motor Fuel Sales Act and provides that gasoline stations and service stations must provide a minimum of one fueling site with a calling device that allows a person with a disability to request refueling assistance. Provides that gasoline stations and service stations also must let patrons know, through appropriate signage, that customers with disabilities can obtain refueling assistance by using the calling device (instead of by either honking or otherwise signaling an employee).
  • SB 71 - Amends the Illinois Insurance Code, the Health Maintenance Organization Act, and the Voluntary Health Services Plans Act to require coverage for hearing instruments and related services for all individuals when a hearing care professional prescribes a hearing instrument. Among other provisions, provides that an insurer shall provide coverage for up to $2,500 per hearing aid subject to certain restrictions.

DRS Future Direction Survey for Stakeholders:

DRS is conducting a survey of stakeholders to learn more about how they feel regarding the future direction of the agency. Stakeholders are people who are involved with DRS programs in one way or another, and who have an investment in the success of the programs. Stakeholders include our customers, community partner agencies, transition providers, disability advocates, universities and other interested parties.

The survey asks stakeholders to indicate what performance measures should be retained for future use, as well as for specific recommendations on program expansion and special projects that DRS might conduct to improve services to individuals with disabilities in Illinois.

DRS will use the results of the survey in setting strategic goals for the agency. DRS welcomes the participation of any individual who hopes to improve our capacity to serve our customers.

The survey will be available online from March 1 through March 15 at the following address:

Community partner agencies are strongly encouraged to share this link and information about the survey with customers, family members, staff and others who may wish to participate.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.