Community Partner Update: September 2011

Smith Named as Interim Director

Kris Smith was named as the Interim Director of the DHS Division of Rehabilitation Services effective August 8. She is replacing Rob Kilbury, who stepped down after working in this capacity for more than eight years. Smith has had a tremendous amount of experience working for the Division and is committed to moving the agency forward in her new role.

ADD Proposal

DRS worked with DisabilityWorks, the Division of Developmental Disabilities, the State Board of Education, and the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities, among others, on a federal proposal to the Administration of Developmental Disabilities within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant proposal, which could bring approximately $500,000 per year to Illinois for five years, will help the state more competitively employ transition age students with cognitive and developmental disabilities in "real jobs for real pay." The proposal was submitted on August 15 with funding to begin with the new federal fiscal year (October 1). Stay tuned.

RSA Monitoring Review

Illinois has recently completed their periodic Monitoring Review by the Rehabilitation Services Administration. These findings are available on the RSA Website ( In short, the major findings outlined in the report include the utilization of unqualified staff in VR case management, a new Intergovernmental Agreement with the Illinois State Board of Education, STEP policies and procedures, and the utilization of program income consistent with the 1973 Rehabilitation Act as amended. DRS is working with RSA on a Corrective Action Plan to remedy these findings, which will also be posted on the RSA website.

State VR Plan

DRS submitted its annual State VR Plan to RSA in June. The Plan includes three new initiatives for the upcoming two-year period (FY2012 and FY2013):

  1. the transition momentum initiative, designed to make more effective use of resources and ensure that students are occupied with work, college study, or vocational training in the year after leaving high school;
  2. the business partnership initiative, which calls for each DRS office to develop new business partnerships as a mechanism to increase employment options for VR customers; and
  3. the outreach to underserved populations initiative, which focuses on making VR services available to individuals of all racial and ethnic backgrounds across the state.

The Plan also includes the goal of achieving 6,000 competitive outcomes statewide in FY2012.

DRS Contract Unit

For FY12, the Community Service Agreements (CSA) were established for 4 months. These contracts will be amended to extend the end date to

June 30, 2012, and add contract language along with the remaining funding. The CSAs that are not rate or fee based are required to submit to DHS a Budget form reflecting 100% of their funding, which is due to DHS by August 31, 2011. All contractors that receive federal funding are required to also submit a Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) form to DHS no later than August 22, 2011. Both of these forms can be found at the DHS Webite Contracts section.

ARRA Update

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects for Independent Living (IL), Older Blind (OB) and Voc Rehab (VR) are beginning to wrap up their contracts and initiatives. IL and OB are very close to spending all of their allotments. VR has approximately $4 million of their $20 million left to spend. ARRA funding will cease on September 30, 2011.

One new endeavor is the Rate-Setting Project. The Public Consulting Group will conduct an analysis of current rates paid by the Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS) for vocational rehabilitation (VR) services, as well as an analysis of the costs to community agencies of providing those services, in order to recommend a reasonable rate structure for DRS to consider in the purchasing of services in the next five years. The analysis will focus on job placement and job retention services, supported employment services, and vocational evaluation services, along with other VR services specified by DRS.

The Home Services Program has been taking a number of steps to modernize and streamline. In addition, it is worth noting the hourly rate earned by Personal Assistants has become increasingly competitive and the availability of health insurance for those working over 30 hours/month make the work even more attractive.

  • Debit Card - All of government is moving rapidly away from paper checks to more safe and secure electronic means, either direct deposit or debit cards. The State of Illinois is no different. After months of preparation and cooperation all Personal Assistants who have not specifically filed to receive their payments via direct deposit or a paper check will start receive their pay via a debit card starting with the payment they receive on September 20. This will impact around 16,000 workers.
  • Electronic Prescreening - The move from the submission of prescreening documents on paper to an electronic format where CCUs submit all prescreens through a single Department on Aging portal has been slower than we had hoped, but we are making progress to working out the bugs and should be able to make the move soon. This will allow for more sharing of the information more quickly and for analysis of prescreening data for the first time.
  • Personal Assistant Rate Increase - On July 1, 2011, the Personal Assistant Hourly rate increased from $11.20/hour to $11.55.
  • Personal Assistant Health Insurance - It is not new but it is worth reminding people that if a Personal Assistant works 360 hours in a quarter, they are eligible to enroll in premium free health insurance. They can continue to be eligible as long as they work at least 180 hours in a quarter (60 hours/month).

Services for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDHH)

SDHH will host "Deaf Awareness Day" on Wednesday, September 21, 2011 at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph Street, Chicago from 10:00 to 2:00.

On the Atrium level exhibitor table will showcase the agencies and businesses that provide a variety of services and products to people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, late deafened and deafblind. During the noon hour, students from Chicago's Columbia College ASL-English Interpretation Department will perform.

Legislative Unit

DRS is monitoring several bills that impact DRS and the customers we serve.

House Bill 1485

Each State human services agency shall collaboratively adopt joint rules to establish a cross-agency prequalification process for contracting with human service providers and establish a cross-agency master service agreement of standard terms and conditions for this contracting. (Signed into law to become P.A. 97-0210)

House Bill 1656

The Department of Healthcare and Family Services and the Department of Human Services shall report on the feasibility and potential consequences of centralizing administrative functions for applicants applying only for medical assistance offices. (Signed into law to become P.A. 97-0172)

SB 170

Requires the superintendents of the Illinois School for the Deaf and the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired to be appointed by the Governor. Hiring of certified and licensed staff will be completed at the schools. The measure also authorizes the Department to establish a locally held account to be administered for the Therkelsen/Hansen College Loan Fund for students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and who are seeking a post secondary education. (Governor submitted an Amendatory Veto revising the Therkelsen-Hansen Fund language to include provisions for interest earned on the locally held account)

SB 1802

Among other things, amends the Disabled Persons Rehabilitation Act to require the Department of Human Services to complete a financial analysis on each student attending the Illinois School for the Deaf or the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired and to ask parents or guardians to participate, if applicable, in the cost of identified services or activities that are not education related. (Signed into law to become P.A. 97-0074)


The Vocational Rehabilitation rules, Part 521

Definitions and Part 590 - Services have been placed on 1st Notice in the August 19th edition of the Illinois Register at

The Vocational Rehabilitation rules, Part 562

Customer Financial Participation and Part 572 - Individualized Plan for Employment were submitted for 2nd Notice on August 18th. They will be identified in the Illinois Register in the near future.

Rules submitted to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules may be viewed on the Illinois Register website

Training Unit

Planning for the Regional Forums on September 20, 21, and 22, 2011, is well underway. The focus this year will be on customer service and teamwork and will illustrate how they are critical to the success of our customers. Strategies to increase outreach and referral efforts will be examined, and the State Plan for VR programs and services will be reviewed as well. HSP staff will also participate this year and in-home employment opportunities will be shared.

The DRS Public Service Announcements that first aired from November 2010 through February 2011 were renewed for a second term that started July 1st and will run through September 30. The initial term of these announcements yielded almost 500 referral calls from persons wanting to receive DRS services. These calls were directly linked to the office most appropriate to the caller. Hopefully we will see an even larger volume of calls for customers interested in seeking services.

TV spots will feature two PSAs that will give employer testimonials of their work with DRS. and two that give customer testimonials and show our customers working. The TV PSAs will be featured in "Prime Time" slots, meaning they will be shown between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 11:59 p.m.

The radio spots will feature three 60-second customer testimonials and three 30-second spots related to myths associated with returning to work for individuals with disabilities and the "Community College Tuition Initiative," which is money set aside to help defray the cost of tuition for our customers. There are over 200 radio stations that will be airing the PSAs. All TV and radio PSAs include Closed Captioning and a Spanish Speaking option.

To view the PSAs, please visit our website at and look under the "media" heading in the bottom right hand corner of the page.

Illinois Framework Project

The State of Illinois has begun an initiative of planning for a new health and human services information delivery system, the Illinois Framework Project, and is seeking input via a series of events across the state to gather the ideas and concerns of service recipients, community-based providers and advocates. These conversations will be an important part of how the system is built. For more information on how you can contribute to this effort, please visit the website at Events will be held in Rockford, Moline, Joliet, and Springfield to solicit ideas and information. Three virtual meetings for people who are unable to attend in person are also planned. If you are interested in attending any of these events, you must register at the website above.

Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD)

The 67th Parent Infant Institute was held at ISD on June 12-17 with 23 families and 24 "little ones" attending. This is a multi-agency/ community provider initiative that provides information and support to families of infants and toddlers who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing to assist them in making informed decision on behalf of their child using a multi-disciplinary approach. Services provided included diagnostic testing and evaluations of the child, sibling/parent sign language classes, and parent classes specific to legal rights and responsibilities of having a child who is Deaf or Hard of Hearing, the phenomena of deafness, psycho/social implications, child development, etc.