Rehabilitation Services Annual Report 2014

State of Illinois
Department of Human Services

Message from the Chair...

On behalf of the members of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) appointed by the Governor to serve on behalf of individuals with disabilities in Illinois as a liaison, advisor, monitor and support to the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS/DRS), we are pleased to provide in tandem with our DRS partners the Annual Report for the Fiscal Year 2014 Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) program. The update will provide progress made this year in program services and identifies outcomes and trends.

Council members are particularly pleased to report the following points of focus in its efforts in 2014:

  • Enhancing State Agency employment of persons with disabilities assuring appropriate accommodations particularly in light of the recently-passed legislation: Employment First.
  • Establishing an even closer working relationship with DRS Administration with an emphasis on strategic planning and the role the Council can play to support and assist those goals coming to fruition.
  • Active education of State and Federal legislators of the positive and negative effects of pending legislation.
  • Refining the infrastructure of the Council to assure that it uses members' skills optimally.

I invite you to visit the DRS SUCCESS website at and enjoy the wonderful stories from our customers and community and business partners that will encourage and educate on how to make it happen at your house or in your community. Numerous helpful resources are also provided for your use.

It has been my honor to serve as the Chair of the SRC and assure you that your Council members are serious and hard-working on your behalf throughout the year. We are devoted to the ongoing partnerships with IDHS, DRS, consumers and community stakeholders to better ensure that the services that DRS provides are those that people with disabilities need and that they are delivered in a fashion that is most useful for our audience. Please know that you have true advocates in the form of the Council watching out for, speaking to and promoting the needs and quality of services in Illinois on behalf of all persons with disabilities.


Diane M. Crutcher, Chair
Illinois State Rehabilitation Council

Program Descriptions

Vocational Rehabilitation Services

We assist people with disabilities in preparing for, finding, and maintaining quality employment that pays a living wage and offers opportunities for advancement. Our staff work closely with state, regional, and local employers, offering individualized placement services that bring employers and qualified employees together.

Home Services

We provide services to people with the most significant disabilities so they can remain in their homes and live as independently as possible. Our customers are empowered to live self-directed lives, to be actively involved in their communities, and to retain control over the services they receive.

Educational Services

DRS operates three residential schools for children with disabilities:

  • Illinois School for the Deaf (Jacksonville)
  • Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (Jacksonville)
  • Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Roosevelt (Chicago)

We offer information and transition training to parents of children with disabilities and professionals through our NEXT STEPS program.

Our staff work closely with high school students with disabilities, empowering them to successfully transition from high school to post-secondary education and employment.

Specialized Services

Our specialized services are designed for:

  • Persons who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

We empower adults who are Blind or Visually Impaired to rediscover their independence and freedom. Our customers find and maintain employment and achieve their education, training, and independent living goals.

The Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Wood in Chicago also offers a 10-week residential vocational and independent skills

training program.

  •  Persons who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.

We help people who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Late Deafened, or DeafBlind find employment, attend education and training programs, and learn about other community resources.

  • Persons with disabilities who are Hispanic/Latino.

Our bilingual staff assist Hispanic/Latino people with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment, applying for IDHS/DRS programs, and connecting with community services.

Independent Living Services

We empower people with disabilities to make informed choices by funding Centers for Independent Living (CILs) throughout Illinois. These CILs offer advocacy, peer counseling, independent living skills training, and information & referral.

Disability Determination Services

We determine the eligibility of people to receive benefits from Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Client Assistance Program

The Client Assistance Program (CAP) helps people with disabilities who have questions or problems with DRS services. For more information, call

1-800-641-3929 (Voice/TTY).

Information and Referral Services

Our staff share information about programs and services available through IDHS/DRS and other state agencies. We also connect individuals and their families with services they need in the community.

You can find the closest office using the IDHS online office locator at: or by calling toll free:

1-877-761-9780 (Voice) or

1-866-264-2149 (TTY) or

1-866-588-0401 (VP)

 Message from the Secretary and Director....

As the state's lead agency in serving persons with disabilities, the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (IDHS/DRS) plays a vital role in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities and empowering them to reach their employment, education, and independent living goals.

Our qualified staff work one-on-one with individuals who have disabilities and their families, tailoring services to meet their unique needs. In addition, we work with state, regional, and local employers, offering individualized placement services that bring employers and qualified employees together.

At DRS, we recognize the value of these partnerships and for the second consecutive year have assisted over 5,000 individuals with disabilities become gainfully employed and are pleased to report positive growth in total outcomes for the third consecutive year.

Through the use of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) and Customized Employment service models, we are expanding services to youth with mental illness, youth and adults with developmental and other intellectual disabilities, and individuals who are Deaf.

This report provides an overview of the array of programs and services DRS provides, offers insight into the lives of a few of our successful customers, and highlights initiatives designed to increase opportunities for underserved populations of individuals with disabilities to explore career options, follow their dreams and reach their full potential.

We sincerely appreciate the support of Governor Pat Quinn, the Congressional Delegation, and the members of the Illinois General Assembly. In addition, we wish to commend the IDHS/DRS staff, our community and business partners, and especially our customers for their dedication and continued commitment to full participation in society.


Nelida Smyser-DeLeon
Assistant Secretary

Illinois Department of Human Services

David Hanson
Director, Division of Rehabilitation Services

Program Highlights

Employment First

The Illinois Employment First Act was signed into law on July 16, 2013 by Governor Pat Quinn and is part of the state's agenda to make Illinois the nation's leading employer of people with disabilities. The legislation became effective immediately and requires all state agencies to coordinate efforts to ensure that State programs, policies, procedures, and funding support competitive and integrated employment of persons with disabilities.

The philosophy behind Employment First comes from a national movement that believes integrated, competitive employment should be the first and preferred option for individuals with developmental and other intellectual disabilities. The Illinois law takes that mindset a step further and recognizes that competitive employment outcomes should be a priority for individuals with all types of disabilities.

IDHS/DRS looks forward to working with all state agencies to establish measureable goals and objectives, streamline the employment processes, and share data amongst themselves to ensure all policies and practices are supportive of their programs and services.

The law also charges the Employment and Economic Opportunity for Persons with Disabilities Task Force with monitoring progress towards measurable goals and objectives and to include a progress report on the implementation of the Act, along with recommendations with respect to its implementation in their Annual Report.

The National Employment Team (NET)

Through leadership and support from the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR), the national network of 80 public VR programs participate in a united or "One Company" approach to working with business customers in both the public and private sectors. Each of the VR program Directors has named a business consultant that functions as the designated Single Point of Contact for their State or agency and together they form the NET.

The model or approach capitalizes on the collective support of 25,000 specially trained VR staff nationally in coordination with their community partners and a $3.5 billion annual budget to train and employ the talents of people with disabilities while meeting the employment needs of business.

DRS is an active participant in the program adding approximately 35 new NET partnerships across Illinois and reporting 442 employment outcomes from those businesses in Fiscal Year 2014.

The NET program is proving to be a win-win-win situation as Businesses have direct access to a pool of qualified applicants and the support services provided by the public VR system and their partners; VR Customers have access to national employment opportunities and career development resources; and VR Agencies have a national system for sharing employment resources, best practices and business connections.

Balancing Incentive Program (BIP)

The Balancing Incentive Program (BIP) is a Federal program that authorizes grants to States to increase access to non-institutional Long-Term Services and Supports. Illinois has been granted over $90 million in BIP funds and DRS has been awarded over $4 million to support their Employment First efforts.

To date, a total of 19 Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP) across the state have been contracted with to assist youth with mental illness as well as adults and youth with developmental and other intellectual disabilities to find employment opportunities using two employment service models: Individual Placement and Support (IPS), and Customized Employment.

An additional $500,000 was recently awarded to DRS specifically to serve customers who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing or DeafBlind. The funds will be used for two distinct projects. Two IPS programs will be established for this population; one in Chicago and one in Central Illinois. The second project is to renovate a facility to provide communication access and safety measures for customers who are DeafBlind and enrolled in the training programs.

Through BIP there is also an entrepreneurial piece and DRS has partnered with the University of Illinois at Chicago to develop and implement business start-up curriculum. A total of six individuals have completed the program and three of them will be receiving the equipment that they need to start their businesses.

Project SEARCH

Project SEARCH is an internationally trademarked and copyrighted program model that focuses on preparing transition-age youth with disabilities for employment opportunities and rewarding careers. The initiative is a unique, business-led, one-year, school-to-work internship program that takes place entirely at the "host" workplace. This total workplace immersion facilitates a seamless combination of classroom instruction, career exploration, and relevant job-skills training through strategically designed internships.

When a project is started, whether in a hospital, business, or government agency, a partnership is formed that typically includes a Host Business, High School, VR Program, Developmental Disability Program, Supported Employment, Student, and their family.

Currently there are three Project SEARCH programs in Illinois:

  • Northwestern University - the first interns graduated June 12, 2014 and all four of them are presently employed. There are currently six interns enrolled in the program;
  • Adventist LaGrange Hospital - there are currently 10 interns enrolled in their program; and
  • Central DuPage Hospital - there are currently 11 enrolled in their program.

DRS believes the Project SEARCH High School Transition Program can bring about long-term changes in business culture that have far-reaching positive effects on attitudes about hiring people with disabilities and the range of jobs in which they can be successful.

Meet Some of the People Working with DRS

Matt Buchi

What do you get when you mix a passion for teaching and a love for basketball? The answer is the University of Illinois Men's Wheelchair Basketball Coach, Matt Buchi. At the age of 29, Matt is one of the youngest college wheelchair basketball head coaches in the United States. Matt is also a past Illinois Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation (DRS) customer.

Matt's story is one of working hard and battling from a very early age. At 9 years old he sustained significant injuries from a car accident, the result of which was a spinal cord injury and paraplegia. After nearly a year of rehabilitation, Matt decided to explore different sporting interests, and basketball caught his eye. "The first time I saw a practice, I rolled in, just in time to see two kids slam into each other for a loose ball. Though my mom was hesitant, I could tell that this was the sport for me."

Matt says that wheelchair basketball eventually took the place of his physical therapy (PT), and after high school he was offered the chance to play for the University of Illinois while majoring in Recreation Sports Tourism (RST). After graduating with his RST degree he was offered the assistant coaching position for both the men's and women's wheelchair basketball teams at the University of Illinois.

Matt subsequently held various college coaching positions including Alabama, Oklahoma, and Vancouver British Columbia. In 2009 he was named the Assistant Coach for Team USA Women's Wheelchair basketball, the team that eventually represented the United States in the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Finally in the summer of 2013, Matt was hired as the head coach of the University of Illinois Men's Wheelchair Basketball Team.

Matt speaks highly of the services he received from DRS. Says Matt, "It was great to know that DRS would be there for me in a supportive role when I needed them. I always make sure that my players have connected with DRS when they arrive so that they can receive the services I received, like adjusting to campus life and career counseling. I feel like I am in a position to help others by sharing my success story".

Laura Martinez

Chef Laura Martinez's dream of opening her very own restaurant, La Diosa which is Spanish for "The Goddess" has come true! Located in Chicago's affluent Lincoln Park District, La Diosa's menu is a fusion of Mexican and French cuisine inspired by her family, her mentor - the late Charlie Trotter, and her training at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts in Chicago.

Martinez, who has been blind since infancy, has always had a passion for cooking. She was initially referred to DRS through Moline High School, and went on to successfully graduate from The Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI). DRS then assisted Martinez with training at Le Cordon Bleu, College of Culinary Arts and provided job placement services. This assistance led to Martinez eventually being hired by world renowned chef Charlie Trotter.

Once Martinez was hired and working full-time, DRS provided additional support and services to assist her with being stable in her career. These included the purchase of adaptive devices, orientation and mobility, a transportation allowance, a personal assistant for on the job training, and Activities of Daily Living (ADL) services and devices.

Laura has always wanted to start her own business so when Charlie Trotters closed down in 2012, she began her quest to open La Diosa. Through a 2 year partnership between DRS and the Illinois Small Business Developmental Center (SBDC), a business plan was developed and DRS supports for initial stock, equipment and assistive technology were provided to make her dream a reality. And though the process has had its challenges, Martinez has kept persistent and focused on her goal.

Martinez speaks highly of the SBDC and their assistance with helping her to develop her business plan as well as the assistance through DRS. Says Martinez, "DRS has given me the opportunity to develop my skills and knowledge to the best of my ability. I am also more independent economically and personally".

Allen Sugar

Allen Sugar loves to cook, read and has been a fan of chess his whole life. A dedicated and devoted husband and self employed business man, Allen seems to have it all. But it's what he doesn't have that makes this story of success so intriguing. Allen was born Deaf due to a disability known as Usher Syndrome in Chicago in the 1940's. With little to no supports in the public school system, Allen's parents made the difficult decision to send him to St. Joseph's school for the Deaf in St. Louis.

Upon graduation from high school, Allen began working full time at his family's steel warehouse business. In a rather short period, he began to notice his vision was significantly deteriorating. Discouraged but determined to maintain as much of his independence as possible, Allen enrolled in The Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults in New York. While there, he gained the skills necessary to remain independent at home and in the community.

Upon his return from The Helen Keller Center, Allen attended Prairie State College in Chicago and earned a degree in Accounting. Determined to seek out a new career, Allen sought the assistance of DRS. Counselors reviewed his skills and matched him with the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind (BEPB) to be trained on how to run and operate a successful vending business.

In 1995, Allen was recognized as the first DeafBlind graduate of the BEPB and in 2012 was recognized by his fellow vendors as "Vendor of the Year", a prestigious award for continuing to go above and beyond expectations in job performance.

Allen employs one staff member who is also Deaf and owns 12 different vending machines in two different federal buildings in Chicago. Allen is a firm believer that people with disabilities should contact DRS to help them be successful in obtaining or maintaining employment just like they have done with him.

Nancy Swisher

Hearing loss can be a challenge in any aspect of life, but for Nancy Swisher it proved especially difficult in following her passion in caring for seniors. With help from the Illinois Department of Human Services' Division of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), Nancy has been able to maintain her job as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) doing what she loves.

Nancy was first referred to DRS after it was discovered that her hearing was deteriorating. Hearing loss is common in her family, with her mother and six of her eight siblings suffering some degree of hearing loss. 

Nancy and her rehabilitation counselor began to meet and discuss her interest in becoming a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and the supports to help her maintain this career. As a result, Nancy was able to find and maintain work as a CNA. "[They] helped me keep my job by keeping my hearing aids up and working, sending me to the audiologist when new ones were needed, and making sure I had the things I needed for my job." Tools made available to Nancy included an alarm clock and blood pressure cuff that did not rely on the ability to hear.

With her hearing at only 10 percent functionality and continuing to decrease, Nancy decided to get a cochlear implant in 2011. Her mother, who has had two of the implants, was her inspiration, but DRS was there to guide her through the process. "The best was all the work we did together to get through all the paperwork," Nancy said.

The best sound came the day the implant was turned on and she was able to hear her son's voice. "My son was very nervous because he was afraid it wouldn't work for me. [The audiologist] told him to say something without me looking at him so I didn't read his lips. He then said, 'I love you, Mom.' I couldn't answer I was crying so hard; so I gave him the 'I love you,' sign. It was the best day ever!"

Since her surgery, Nancy has found she can do her job even better than before. She has encouraged co-workers and family members in need to contact DRS.

FY 2014 Final Data Summary

Service Data

Category Referrals Applications New Plans Total Served Outcomes
Region 1 7,536 4,854 3,921 12,574 1,313
Region 2 5,002 3,520 2,795 9,851 1,212
Region 3 3,663 2,741 1,586 7,631 1,024
Region 4 2,391 1,823 1,334 4,543 644
Region 5 2,555 1,977 1,265 4,971 679
BBS 1,600 1,143 1,198 2,751 283
Statewide Total 22,747 16,058 12,099 42,321 5,155

Customers By Service Category

Category STEP Non-STEP Transition SEP College
Region 1 3,104 350 3,454 597 463
Region 2 2,791 460 3,251 339 288
Region 3 958 251 1,209 240 367
Region 4 713 237 950 51 168
Region 5 794 204 998 101 207
BBS 49 74 123 32 145
Statewide Total 8,409 1,576 9,985 1,360 1,638

Customers By Age Group

Category Served Outcomes
< 20 years 21,334 2,021
21-30 years 6,066 1,003
31-40 years 4,138 666
41-50 years 5,002 721
51-60 years 4,545 624
61 or more years 1,217 120
VR Total 42,302 5,155

Earnings Data

Average Earnings Weekly Monthly Annual
Case Opening $61.06 $264.57 $3,174.88
Case Closure $302.65 $1,311.38 $15,736.59
Average Increase $241.59 $1,046.81 $12,561.71
Total Increase $1,245,396.00 $5,396,303.00 $64,755,634.00
Estimated Taxes $5,704,324.00
Estimated Taxes Percent 8.809

Customers by Disability Category

Category Served Outcomes
Blind-Visual Impairment 3,150 294
Deaf-Hard of Hearing 2,830 446
Physical Disability 3,626 408
Mental Illness 5,357 810
Intellectual Disability 5,610 592
Learning Disability 11,687 1,491
Alcohol-Drug Abuse 36 7
Brain Injury 555 69
Other Condition 9,451 1,038
VR Total 42,302 5,155

Customers By Race/Ethnic Group

Category Served Outcomes
White  24,948 3,471
African American 11,542 1,104
Hispanic/Latino  4,476 418
Asian 654 72
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 51 6
American Indian 88 7
Multi Racial 543 77
VR Total 42,302 5,155

Comparison of Data by Race/Ethnic Group FY 2010 to FY 2014

Competitive Employment Outcomes

Race/Ethnic Group FY 2010 FY 2014 Percent Difference
White 3,338 3,471 4.0
African American 911 1,104 21.2
Hispanic/Latino 340 418 22.9
Asian 53 72 35.8
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 4 6 50.0
American Indian 14 7 -50.0
Multi Racial 27 77 185.2
Total 4,687 5,155 10.0

Average Monthly Earnings

Race/Ethnic Group FY 2010 FY 2014 Percent Difference
White $1,256 $1,278 1.8
African American $1,271 $1,258 -1.0
Hispanic/Latino $1,171 $1,208 3.2
Asian $1,325 $1,484 12.0
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander $1,823 $1,145 -37.2
American Indian $1,384 $793 -42.7
Multi Racial $1,073 $1,211 12.9
Total $1,235 $1,269 2.8

Rehabilitation Rate

Race/Ethnic Group FY2010 FY 2014 Percent Difference
White 63.8 57.4 -10.0
African American 47.1 40.8 -13.4
Hispanic/Latino 54.2 45.0 -17.0
Asian 51.8 50.9 -1.7
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 44.4 49.6 11.7
American Indian 63.6 38.5 -39.5
Multi Racial 58.0 71.4 23.1
Total 58.7 51.4 -12.4

Vocational Rehabilitation Program

Race/Ethnic Group FY 2010 FY 2014 Percent Difference
White 26,073 24,948 -4.3
African American 11,806 11,542 -2.2
Hispanic/Latino 3,674 4,476 21.8
Asian 538 654 21.6
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 61 51 -16.4
American Indian 78 88 12.8
Multi Racial 304 543 78.6
Total 42,534 42,302 -0.5

Home Services Program

Race/Ethnic Group FY2010 FY 2014 Percent Difference
White 18,770 15,152 -19.3
African American 17,215 15,581 -9.5
Hispanic/Latino 2,525 2,914 15.4
Asian 474 520 9.7
Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 40 38 -5.0
American Indian 117 894 664.1
Multi Racial 165 394 138.8
Total 39,306 35,493 -9.7

Data Summary

Vocational Rehabilitation Program

In FY2014 the DRS vocational rehabilitation program assisted 5,155 people with disabilities in achieving a competitive employment outcome, an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous year and the third consecutive year with positive growth in outcomes. These individuals earned an average of $15,737 at case closure, an increase of $12,562 over earnings at case opening. Taken together, this equals annual increased earnings of $64.75 million, which resulted in an estimated additional $5.7 million in taxes paid as a result of employment.

A total of 2,021 outcomes were achieved by individuals who began receiving services prior to age 21, or 39.2 percent of all outcomes. This demonstrates the continuing emphasis of the DRS VR program on serving transition age youth with disabilities. Transition youth represented 50.4 percent of all persons served in FY2014.

Demographic changes in Illinois are reflected in the competitive outcome data, with 33 percent of competitive outcomes achieved by minority customers, an increase from 29 percent in the previous year. Average wages for minority customers increased by 5.7 percent from FY2010 to FY2014, while wages for white customers rose by only 1.8 percent in that time period.

Home Services Program

The total number of persons served in HSP declined by 3.1 percent in FY2014 compared to the previous year. The number served in the General waiver program decreased by 1.9 percent to 28,742 individuals. The number of persons served in the AIDS waiver decreased by 4.1 percent to 1,667, while the number served in the Brain Injury waiver declined by 8.8 percent to 5,084. This is the result of the transfer of individuals to the General waiver based on reduced need for specialized services.

A total of 118 individuals were moved from nursing homes into the community through reintegration efforts of DRS contractors. This number was 18.6 percent less than the number for the previous year.

HSP began implementing the Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) initiative as a response to the SMART Act of 2012. The telephone and computer-based timekeeping system is part of a continuous improvement process designed to make the call-in/call-out reporting procedure for Individual Providers (IPs) and Customers faster, easier, and more accurate. Despite initial growing pains, the usage rate is up to 85 percent.

Programs, activities and employment opportunities in the Illinois Department of Human Services are open and accessible to any individual or group without regard to age, sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic origin or religion. The department is an equal opportunity employer and practices affirmative action and reasonable accommodation programs.

DHS 4195 (N-12-14) DRS Annual Report 400 copies

Printed by the Authority of the State of Illinois P.O.#15-0937 $0.45 cost per copy