New Secretary Hired at DHS
Dr. Carol L. Adams has left DHS, she is being replaced by Michelle R.B. Saddler, who came from the Governor's Office. Secretary Saddler was unanimously confirmed by the Senate last week. Secretary Saddler is an impressive individual with a tremendous amount of experience in human services, business and academia. She previously worked on Governor Pat Quinn's staff when he was State Treasurer. We look forward to working with Secretary Saddler and wish Dr. Adams the best in her new role with the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
Services for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
DRS is moving forward with the purchase of 83 UbiDuos for the field and Central Office. These are the infrared devices that enable persons with a hearing loss to communicate with hearing people. This is really a cost savings because it could be used in lieu of an interpreter. The intent is to also loan to customers on a job interview so that they can show an employer how efficient and reasonably priced an accommodation can be.
SDHH and the Illinois Deaf and Hard of Hearing Commission (IDHHC) celebrated the 15th annual Deaf Awareness Day at the James R. Thompson Center on Sept. 16th. The day started with an interactive workshop designed for high school transition students. The four levels of interpreter licensure and which level is required for various settings was presented. The Traveling Hands Theatre Troupe from the International Center on Deafness and the Arts provided entertainment. It was fun and rewarding to watch many gifted young people express themselves through music and dance. Over thirty exhibitors distributed information about the services and programs that are available to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, late deafened and deaf-blind.
Staff Development Section
Local office training centering on customer service, casework procedure, and employee growth continues to be the focus of training opportunities offered through DRS. Staff are concentrating on OJE/OJT efforts, specifically the approach to potential employers as well as incentives and services that DRS counselors can offer in hiring persons with disabilities. In addition, training is also being offered on College Cases, Platinum Customer Service, Writing Effective Case notes, Time Management, etc.
Through federal grant funds, a "resource library" is being developed for DRS local offices. A listing of available resources for checkout is posted on OneNet. These resources focus on disabilities and vocational implications, working with customer in the job seeking and placement effort, and the like.
"I Am" is the theme of this year's DRS Annual Report and focuses on the strengths and abilities of DRS customers and their individual experiences working with DRS. This annual publication has become a signature of DRS and is evidence of the important work that DRS does in getting jobs for persons with disabilities.
Mr. Bill Santos of Employment Management Professionals was the featured speaker at the Regional Meetings held September 22, 23, and 24 and focused on the four areas of job development: using customized employment strategies reflecting candidate's employment barriers; building relationships with employers; selling solutions to employers' needs; and handling employers' objections. Through funding from ARRA, Mr. Santos will return in the spring and as a follow up on employment activities and offer additional information and practical skill building exercises to enhance skill levels of DRS staff and increase employment outcomes.
VR Field Services
Despite the continued down economy, DRS field staff improved competitive outcomes by 1.29% this fiscal year. While not a substantial increase, hopefully, it is an indication of better things to come. We are off to a good start in FY 10 as well.
Disability Awareness Month
October was very busy among the VR program staff and customers. DRS set a target for every Rehabilitation Counselor to identify two customers to benefit from the mentoring program, giving customers first hand opportunities to experience what a day at work in their chosen career is like and employers getting first hand experience with working with a person with a disability. More than a hundred of our customers took advantage of this opportunity.
Accessible Assets: Bringing Together the Disability and Asset Building Communities
The Sargeant Shriver National Center on Poverty Law is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, November 11, 2009, 1:00 PM 3:00 PM CST, to provide information on how asset building tools can be effectively used to increase the financial stability and independence of individuals with disabilities. Speakers will discuss the current research on disability and poverty, successful national and local programs, and the continued challenges and opportunities in policy and program design. Participants will gain an understanding of how potential partners, including state asset building coalitions, disability rights organizations, and financial institutions, can help in these efforts. You can register at:
Once registered, you will receive an email confirming your registration with information you need to join the webinar.
On Time IPE Development
MIS has developed a new, more accurate report for on time Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) development. VR Rules require that an IPE be developed within 90 days of certification, except for transition cases, where the time frame is relative to graduation from high school.
Statewide 87.8% of IPEs were developed on time in FY2009, very close to the standard of 90 percent set by RSA. A total of 21 offices met or exceeded the 90 percent standard for Fiscal Year 2009, with another 12 offices between 85 and 90 percent on time for the year. The Bureau of Field Services Region 2 also achieved this important milestone, as did BBS Regions 3, 4, and 5. Thanks to all staff who have worked so diligently to get this percentage closer to where it needs to be. DRS (and the Rehab Services Administration) look forward to when our statewide average reaches this important standard of 90%.
DRS recently completed data analysis which showed that the timeliness of services increased to new levels during FY2009. VR rules require that individuals who apply for VR services must receive a determination of eligibility within 60 days, unless they agree to extend that timeline. For FY2009, 89.4 percent of eligibility decisions were made within the 60 day time limit, very nearly matching the 90 percent criterion established in the rules. In all, 28 individual offices met or exceeded the 90 percent standard for the fiscal year. DRS rules also require that individuals who are certified as eligible for the VR program must have an Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) developed within 90 days, unless the individual is a transition age student. In FY2009 87.8 percent of IPEs were developed within the 90 day time limit, an improvement over the previous fiscal year and approaching the 90 percent standard. A total of 21 DRS offices met or exceeded the standard. Both of these results are encouraging news for DRS customers, and demonstrate a strong effort by DRS staff to improve the quality of services they provide.
Money Follows the Person
As of this date, MFP continues to be placed on "hold" until the revised Operational Protocol is completed by HFS. Fourteen individuals have been transitioned since the beginning of the program under MFP. Seventy seven individuals have been enrolled in the program. The Community Reintegration program continues to operate providing services to those individuals who do not meet the eligibility criteria under MFP. Year to date transitions for CRP: 31.
HSP staff and designated CIL staff located in Springfield, Boone and Winnebago counties continue to work with Memorial Hospital and Swedish Memorial Hospital, respectively. These two areas have been conducting pre-screenings and linkages with the Home Service Program and CIL reintegration services, in an effort to increase community based services for those transitioning from nursing facilities. This is a new pilot program which preceded the passage of legislation on the topic.
The division is working with the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules to complete proposed rules that have been submitted for approval. They are Part 686, which pertains to the Enhanced Rate for Health Insurance Costs and Part 650, the Business Enterprise for the Blind Program.
The Comptroller's Office has advised that payments out of the General Revenue Fund will continue to be delayed in FY10 due to the lack of sufficient revenues. At this time, these delays are in excess of 100 business days and are expected to increase over the next several months. DRS strongly encourages its vendors who are experiencing a financial hardship to consider DHS' Hardship and Emergency Payment Process. Information regarding this process can be found at http://www.dhs.state.il.us/page.aspx?item=31633.
Vendors are also encouraged to use the Electronic Funds Transfer process for receiving payments rather than relying on paper checks. This process can be found at http://illinoiscomptroller.gov/office/ec.cfm.
The Home Services Program (HSP) and Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) will be working over the next few months to finalize the development of a pilot program to allow spouses who meet specific criteria to become paid caregivers for eligible HSP customers. The pilot will operate in select counties and will serve a maximum of 100 unduplicated customers. More details will be shared as the program is developed.
Informational materials concerning the ACS Debit Card for Personal Assistants (PA) were recently distributed to all field offices and all current PA's. As a reminder, this initiative was developed in an effort to offer immediate remuneration and access to funds for providers. An electronic enrollment process is being finalized and debit cards should be available for this purpose some time during the month of November.
Your Healthcare Plus (YHP), a vendor for HFS, has recently extended managed care opportunities to voluntary participants enrolled in the Persons with Disabilities waiver. Through a multi disciplinary team approach, participants are receiving educational instruction, coordinated care and support to promote improved health and wellness. We look forward to the continued collaboration to improve the quality of life for persons with disabilities through YHP.
Recently, the Division of Rehabilitation Services was able to restore funding for the Personal Assistant Training and Back Up grants to 23 Centers for Independent Living across Illinois. This will enable thousands of persons with disabilities to receive vital services for recruiting, training, and managing Personal Assistants.
Independent Living Unit
The first payments of Title VII Part B ARRA Stimulus funds have gone out to the nine earmarked CILs, which allows them to start implementing their approved project plans.
The State Plan on Independent Living (SPIL) amendment has been approved pending minor revisions. This amendment was necessary for our ARRA Stimulus Plan for use of Part C Funding to be validated.