Meeting of the Board of Regents | June 2008
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
June 4, 2008
Goals 1, 2 & 4
Issue for Discussion
The implementation of new vocational rehabilitation initiatives and interagency activities 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 December 2007 presentation of the implementation of the VESID “Designing our Future” recommendations and will focus on key initiatives and interagency activities designed to expand VESID services to individuals with disabilities transitioning from post-secondary institutions, attending college, 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 first 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 and interagency activities. An extensive status report on the implementation plan was presented at the December 2007 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), 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, $64.2 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 14,000 over the next three years.
Model Transition Program (MTP)
The Model Transition Program (MTP) provides funding for 60 projects that include more than 150 private and public high schools to develop school-wide plans, activities and programs 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. At the end of this three-year project, successful transition strategies will be identified and shared with high schools throughout the State.
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.
During the first academic year, significant progress has been made in the following areas: the implementation of transition activities; formation of partnerships; training; and data collection/analysis, as described below. As a result, more than 1,500 referrals have been made to VESID.
MTP projects were selected to ensure the development of a wide variety of transition strategies including:
- Job shadowing, internships, work-study, job development, job coaching, job placement, and workforce readiness;
- Advocacy training, benefits advisement and understanding, learning about the changes that occur from entitlement programs to non-entitlement programs;
- Assistance with college-related activities, FASFA applications, self-reporting to the disability office, college visits and shadowing;
- Travel training, Driver training; and
- Career and College Fairs.
The 60 projects have over 200 community-based partners that include two-year colleges, four-year colleges, independent living centers, community rehabilitation programs and vocational training programs, One-Stops, and organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce. Parents also play an integral role in each of the projects.
The University of Buffalo has been providing training to each of the project teams. Training has also been offered to MTP partners, parents and students on topics related to vocational rehabilitation and the transition process such as Whole Life Planning, Self- Determination, Navigating Adult Services, and The College Process.
Data Collection and Analysis
Cornell University is providing support to the MTP projects in the areas of data collection and analysis. To date, TransQual, an organizational assessment tool, and a Transition Impact Data System have been developed and implemented. Further, Cornell University is conducting the evaluation of the MTP with a sustainability study.
Linking Employment, Academics, and Disability Services (LEADS)
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been developed with the City University of New York (CUNY), providing funding to 17 campuses throughout the five boroughs of New York City. Through this MOU, VESID and CUNY are collaborating to provide employment-related services to students with disabilities enrolled on designated CUNY campuses. Funds are being used to support employment teams to provide services on each campus, facilitating both the educational and employment process of students with disabilities with the goal of competitive employment. It is expected that 3,000 students with disabilities over a three-year period will become VR eligible and available for competitive employment. Funding for this initiative is $7.8 million.
During the first two quarters, significant progress has been made in the areas of staffing, training, and outreach, as described below. As a result, over 90 referrals have been made to VESID since March 2008.
The majority of the hiring was completed by the beginning of March, 2008. As a result of an extensive recruitment effort, 20 LEADS counselors have been hired; 15 have been placed on CUNY campuses and 5 have been placed in the non-degree components of the project.
LEADS counselors were trained in late March on the VESID Case Management System (CaMS). Two cross training sessions were held to develop a mutual understanding of the LEADS and VESID counselor roles in the project, along with a richer organizational understanding of CUNY and VESID.
Utilizing the resources of the campus disability services offices, outreach activities took place including mailings, phone calls, individual meetings with students, and collaboration with staff from other campus offices including career services. Information about CUNY LEADS has been distributed through placement of brochures and flyers, student newspapers, college bulletin boards, student development courses, student clubs information tables, visits to high schools, and participation in CUNY Disability Awareness Month activities in April.
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 to increase training and employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
As of May 2008, over 200 individuals with disabilities have been served by the One-Stop pilot. Although there were significant start-up challenges, the program is now fully staffed with increased utilization at all of the One-Stop Centers. Additional outreach efforts have resulted in increased utilization of VESID and One-Stop services by consumers who have been referred to VESID by both the Workmen’s Compensation Board and CUNY programs. Job placement activities, now being coordinated for our consumers by VESID Integrated Employment Specialists and One-Stop staff, have resulted in 38 successful placements to date. As a result, we are looking forward to the continued success of this project.
Employment of Inmates with Disabilities Returning to Communities
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) has been in development with the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DoCS) and the New York State Division of Parole (DoP), through which VESID, DoCS and DoP would collaborate on referral, training and placement activities for inmates with disabilities returning to the community. This initiative would target inmate populations in New York City, Nassau, Suffolk, and Erie counties that have been determined eligible for VESID services and involved in pre-release activities.
The objective of this MOU would be 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.
Approximately 2,000 inmates would be eligible for VESID services under this program. Federal funding for this initiative included $2 million for DoCS and $2.5 million for DoP over a two-year period. The expectation of 1,600 inmates with disabilities trained and employed via this MOU would reduce recidivism and result in significant State savings of the prospective costs of incarceration for those who might otherwise return into custody. This initiative was included in the Regents 2008 Budget Proposals which requested permission to hire additional VESID staff at no cost to the State but was not included in the final budget bill. At the present time, this MOU has been developed, reviewed, and approved, but not signed due to State spending controls that have impacted DoCS, DoP, and VESID’s ability to hire project staff.
Description of Interagency Activities
VESID believes that strong collaboration among all of the New York State agencies charged with providing services to various disability groups, as well as other workforce partners including advocacy groups, is vitally important for the vocational rehabilitation program and employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. Since January 2008, VESID has been active in organizing and leading the Interagency Council and the MISCC Employment Committee.
The Interagency Council is a newly established workgroup, chaired by VESID that includes State agencies that have responsibility for employment of individuals with disabilities. The objective of the Council is to share resources and develop strategies to increase the number of individuals with disabilities competitively employed. The State agencies represented include: the Education Department (SED), the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD), the Office of Mental Health (OMH), the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH) of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), the Office of Temporary Disability Assistance (OTDA), the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), the Workers Compensation Board (WCB), and the Department of Labor (DOL).
MISCC Employment Committee
Through legislation and executive action, New York State has established the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) to implement the Supreme Court Olmstead Decision, which requires states to provide services to individuals with disabilities in the least restrictive community settings. The MISCC is led by Commissioner Ritter of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD). The MISCC initially established two committees, one on housing and one on transportation.
Recently, Commissioner Ritter, at the recommendation of the full MISCC, asked VESID to lead an executive-level interagency committee focused on employment of individuals with disabilities. VESID, in cooperation with Commissioner Ritter and the MISCC, established the MISCC Employment Committee. Assistant Commissioner Edward Placke is the designated chair for the Employment Committee.
The MISCC Employment Committee consists of participants from over 25 organizations including State agencies, schools, community rehabilitation programs, independent living centers, advocates, and persons with disabilities. The Committee is focused on facilitating systems change to close the employment gap for individuals with disabilities through executive, legislative and budgetary action. The committee has met twice since March 2008, and is in the process of establishing specific recommendations for major policy initiatives in New York State. When these policy initiatives are defined, the MISCC will ask the Governor, the Legislature and the Board of Regents, as appropriate, for their support in considering and executing the proposals.
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.