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Meeting of the Board of Regents | October 2008

Wednesday, October 1, 2008 - 9:10am


sed seal                                                                                                 










Rebecca H. Cort



Unified Contract Services




October 1, 2008






Goals 3, 4 and 5






Issue for Discussion:             


The new Unified Contract Services (UCS) for vendors of VESID services.


Reason for Consideration     


To inform the Regents regarding the UCS process, the method by which VESID purchases disability-related services for persons with disabilities. The current UCS contracts will expire on December 31, 2008.

Proposed Handling


              Information will be presented on the redesigned UCS process that will result in improved services to consumers, consistency in service delivery statewide, and improved monitoring of service providers.  These changes will provide a broader array of services for consumers to become employed, as well as strengthen partnerships with community rehabilitation providers.


Procedural History


              The new UCS is, in part, a component of the overall Designing Our Future initiative.  This initiative provided for a review of the design of VESID’s vocational rehabilitation process and functions, made adjustments to meet emerging needs, responded to changes in the larger federally funded vocational rehabilitation services system, and reviewed the utilization of resources.  The Designing Our Future initiative recognized that the current contract VESID uses to purchase services does not:  offer sufficient consumer choice options; adequately compensate for services purchased; assess provider effectiveness, which is critical in assisting VESID in making informed decisions regarding all providers, both current and new; or allow for the timely approval for new providers based on consumer need.  The new UCS will address these issues for many of the key disability-related services that are purchased from vendors. 


Background Information


VESID provides a wide array of vocational rehabilitation services to over 100,000 New Yorkers with disabilities each year.  Many of these services are purchased from community rehabilitation providers and other vendors through the UCS. Purchased services under the new UCS contract include:  services to assist with entry into the VESID program; assessment services; assistive technology/rehabilitation services; work readiness services; job placement services; driver rehabilitation services, and related adjunct services such as benefits counseling, non job-related coaching supports, mobility training, and transportation.


  VESID has undertaken a comprehensive effort to improve its Unified Contract Services to:  better serve consumers with disabilities; enhance consumer choice; assist individuals with disabilities in becoming gainfully employed; clearly define services and develop new programs; shorten the approval time for new vendors when needed; and more accurately compensate providers for services purchased by VESID.  These efforts will also build better community partnerships with the rehabilitation community.


Development Process


              VESID gathered information regarding services, rates, and performance indicators through a process that included both external and internal stakeholders. An initial workgroup appointed by VESID through a Request for Proposal (RFP) and comprised of representatives from provider agencies, VESID Central and District Office staff, and consumer groups was developed to compile background information on the issues hindering the delivery of quality and timely services to VESID consumers. Inconsistent service definitions, low rates, and difficulties approving new providers were cited as major obstacles.  These issues formed the basis for further research into potential contract designs.


By benchmarking with provider organizations, New York State agencies and vocational rehabilitation programs in other states, VESID was able to identify best practices for incorporation into the new contract design.    A comprehensive list of services was identified. Internal VESID workgroups were charged with the task of developing definitions for each of the services, staffing requirements, and monitoring standards for quality assurance.  In order to assign rates that were comparable to the cost of providing the services, VESID sent a survey to over 600 providers requesting their input on what it would cost to provide the services.  The survey information was used to establish service rates that were commensurate with SED budget requirements and the projected cost to providers to deliver the service. Regional rates were established as follows: Downstate, Central, and Western New York, based on the varied costs per region. 


              The new UCS contract process is the result of the collaborative efforts of VESID staff, SED Fiscal Management, and the rehabilitation provider community. VESID and SED staff also met with staff from the Office of the State Comptroller (OSC) to discuss the design concept and results of the benchmarking efforts. This meeting proved invaluable in providing guidance for the project and ensuring that we were developing a system that would be acceptable to OSC.  


Key Components

The significant changes in the Unified Contract Services process include:


  • Clearly defined service definitions which include requirements for staffing, reporting, billing and expectations for outcomes and timelines;
  • Improved payment rates for UCS services that adequately reflect the costs of the services vendors provide;
  • Improved vendor approval process which allows VESID to more quickly approve vendors when services are needed; and
  • Improved mechanism for monitoring the quality for the provided services.


The new UCS system will enable VESID to be more flexible in contracting with vendors as we respond to consumer needs.  The establishment of performance indicators for quality assurance will also be critical in assisting VESID in making informed decisions regarding all providers, both current and new, and the allocation of fiscal resources within the contracting system.  This system will:


  • Enhance consumers’ informed choice of providers from whom they wish to receive services;
  • Provide VESID counseling staff with critical information on key performance areas for providers from whom they seek to purchase services;
  • Enable District Offices to oversee and allocate contract dollars to better serve consumers; and
  • Provide information to providers to improve services and set the expected level of performance for VESID contracted services.


Next Steps


              The release date of the UCS RFP was June 2, 2008 with applications due back to SED by July 16, 2008.  Proposals were reviewed regionally by VESID in July and contracts will be awarded during September 2008. As a result of the RFP, VESID has reviewed and approved vendors which could potentially increase its pool of approved UCS providers from 232 to 377; a 61 percent increase.  The training of VESID staff and vendors will be conducted in Fall 2008.




              The Board of Regents will understand the UCS and support the directions put forth in the Designing our Future Plan.



Timetable for Implementation


              With Board of Regents support, the described activities will continue to move forward with contracts awarded in Fall 2008, with an effective date of January 1, 2009.