Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2007
THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234
Rebecca H. Cort
Designing Our Future
New Vocational Rehabilitation Initiatives
October 10, 2007
Goals 1, 2 & 4
Issue for Discussion
The implementation of new vocational rehabilitation initiatives in response to VESID “Designing Our Future” recommendations.
Reason for Consideration
To inform the Regents and obtain their support for the actions being taken to implement the Design recommendations that will significantly change how VESID provides rehabilitation services in New York State.
This report is a follow-up to the May 2006 presentation of the implementation of the VESID “Designing our Future” recommendations and will focus on key initiatives designed to expand VESID services to individuals with disabilities transitioning from post-secondary institutions, attending college, exiting correctional institutions, and entering directly into employment.
In November 2003, VESID presented to the Board of Regents a plan to review the design of its vocational rehabilitation process and functions to meet changing needs, respond to changes in the larger federally funded vocational services system, and for better use of resources. The intent was to follow up on redesign efforts made over the past 15 years and to conduct a comprehensive examination of VESID’s vocational rehabilitation program with input from consumers, staff, providers, employers, public agency partners, and other stakeholders. The “Designing Our Future” report was presented in January 2006. In May 2006, VESID presented a plan to implement its recommendations. Since May 2006, VESID has taken steps to implement the “Designing Our Future” plan, as well as initiating several key initiatives. A more extensive status report on the implementation plan will be presented at the December Board of Regents meeting.
The “Designing Our Future” report included 15 recommendations on ways to improve service delivery in New York State. The implementation plan concentrates on several key themes of the recommendations:
- Improve marketing of VESID services to consumers and businesses;
- Enhance collaboration with stakeholders;
- Expand and diversify outreach to consumers; and
- Redesign district office staffing structures.
This report describes several key initiatives that VESID has undertaken with USNY partners and other State agencies that will assist in improving services and employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities through collaborative partnerships with stakeholders and expanded outreach to consumers.
Description of the New Vocational Rehabilitation Initiatives
VESID is partnering with the City University of New York (CUNY), Department of Correctional Services (DOCS), Division of Parole (DOP), One Stops of New York City and designated high schools to implement the following initiatives developed to assist New Yorkers with disabilities in entering the workforce. In total, $68.7 million of Section 110 federal funds will be invested in these partnerships. As a result, the number of individuals with disabilities served by VESID will increase by more than 17,000 over the next three years.
Model Transition Program (MTP)
The Model Transition Program (MTP) provides funding for 60 projects that include 140 private and public high schools to develop school-wide plans to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities to post-secondary placements. These placements include college, vocational training programs and competitive employment with and without supports. The primary goal of the MTP is to facilitate future employment opportunities for students with disabilities. The 60 projects responded to a Request for Proposal (RFP) and represent high schools from urban, suburban and rural areas. At the end of this three-year project, successful transition strategies will be identified and shared with high schools throughout the State.
Each of the 60 projects has a variety of community partners that include two-year colleges, four-year colleges, Independent Living Centers (ILCs) Chambers of commerce, community rehabilitation programs and vocational training programs. Parents also play an integral role in each of the projects.
VESID has partnered with Cornell University and the University of Buffalo in the implementation of the MTP. Cornell University will provide support to the MTP projects regarding data collection and analysis. The University of Buffalo provides the training for each of the projects. Training consists of topics related to vocational rehabilitation and the transition process.
Each of the project teams has begun hiring staff, meeting with partners, and reviewing their MTP with the local vocational rehabilitation district office. Over the three-year period of the MTP, over 12,000 students with disabilities will be made eligible for vocational rehabilitation programs and services. Funding for this initiative is $56 million.
Employment Services for College Students Program
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been developed with the City University of New York (CUNY), providing funding to 18 campuses throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Through this MOU, VESID and CUNY will collaborate to provide employment-related services to students with disabilities enrolled on designated CUNY campuses. Funds will be used to establish employment teams on each campus to facilitate both the educational and employment process of students with disabilities with the goal of competitive employment.
Each employment team will consist of three professionals and provide related services and skills that include guidance and counseling, work experience, internships and job placement. The employment teams will collaborate with the local vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices in facilitating the VR eligibility process. CUNY will also partner with local community vocational rehabilitation programs in conjunction with the VR district offices to address employment outcomes.
Currently, VESID has included in its caseload approximately 10 percent of students with disabilities enrolled at CUNY. This initiative is designed to increase to approximately 40 percent the percentage of students with disabilities enrolled in CUNY who are supported by VESID. It is expected that 3,000 students with disabilities over a three-year period will become VR eligible and available for competitive employment. CUNY has begun to hire staff and collaborate with the VR district offices to develop strategies and timelines. Funding for this initiative is $7.8 million.
Employment of Inmates with Disabilities Returning to Communities
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is being developed with the New York State Department of Corrections (DOCs) and the New York State Division of Parole (DOP), through which VESID, DOCs and DOP will collaborate on referral, training and placement activities for inmates with disabilities returning to the community. In addition, counseling and guidance regarding housing, benefits, and transportation will be provided. This initiative will be implemented in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Erie counties for targeted inmate populations determined eligible for VESID services and involved in pre-release activities.
The objective of this MOU is to successfully place former inmates with disabilities in sustained employment, thereby reducing recidivism and affecting reintegration. Recidivism of inmates with disabilities is primarily based on lack of employment that is impacted by housing, entitlement benefits, community medical supports, and clinical treatment. This population of New Yorkers continues to be underserved. It is expected that through this partnership, DOCs, DOP, and VESID will close the above gaps by developing a coordinated process for interagency cross training, data sharing/analysis, communication and problem solving.
Approximately 2,000 inmates will be eligible for VESID services under this program. Funding for this initiative is $2 million for DOCs and $2.5 million for DOP over a two-year period, beginning in January 2008. The expectation of 1,600 inmates with disabilities trained and employed via this MOU will reduce recidivism, which will save the State approximately $25,000,000 over two years.
The objective of the One Stop pilot project is to establish VESID as the vocational rehabilitation component of the New York City Workforce Career Center System (One Stop Center). One Stop Centers were created as part of the Workforce Investment Act to offer a central location where the public could obtain information on employment opportunities such as job openings and training programs.
VESID’s role in the One Stop is to ensure that job seekers with disabilities are adequately prepared to enter the workforce in New York City and also to provide well-trained individuals with disabilities that meet the needs of the New York City workforce. VESID’s partners include the New York State Department of Labor, the New York City Department of Small Business Services, the New York City WIB, the City University of New York, and the Disabilities Program Navigators.
To meet the above goals, funds are being provided to co-locate Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors (VRCs) at the five main One Stop Centers located in each of the five New York City boroughs and an affiliate Center at LaGuardia Community College, and for the following activities to support individuals with disabilities who enter the One Stop system:
- The development of policies and procedures that meet the workforce development needs as well as the needs of individuals with disabilities seeking employment;
- Training the One Stop Center partners to better provide services to individuals with disabilities;
- Increasing accessibility of the One Stop Center application and combining other applications;
- Sharing data related to consumer and employment opportunities; and
- VESID and these partners have agreed to leverage different funding streams to provide shared consumers with Individual Training Account (ITA) funding and VESID funding and support to obtain training and employment.
Approximately 160 individuals with disabilities have been served since Spring 2007 and 19 individuals with disabilities have been placed in competitive employment. It is expected that the caseload will increase to almost 300 by February 2008. Funding for this project is $400,000 for the first year. Since this is a pilot, progress and outcomes will be evaluated over the next year. At that time, a decision will be made on whether or not to allocate additional funds to continue the project.
The Board of Regents will continue to support VESID’s Designing Our Future Initiative and Implementation Plan.
Timetable for Implementation
With Regents support, the described activities will continue to move forward.