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Meeting of the Board of Regents | March 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009 - 9:55am


ded seal                                                                                                 







Rebecca H. Cort



Designing Our Future

New Vocational Rehabilitation Initiatives



February 27, 2009



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.


Proposed Handling


This report is a follow-up to the December 2008 presentation of the implementation of the VESID “Designing our Future” recommendations and will focus on key interagency activities designed to coordinate VESID services to individuals with disabilities with State agencies and community rehabilitation providers to achieve quality employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.  This item was scheduled for discussion at the February Regents meeting but due to time constraints it is being resubmitted for discussion at the Committee’s March meeting.





Procedural History


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.  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 2008 VESID Committee meeting.  


Background Information


              As part of Designing Our Future, VESID has developed strong interagency partnerships and is leading key initiatives aimed at improving employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities in New York State:


  • VESID is chairing the Most Integrated Setting Coordinating Council (MISCC) Employment Committee which is developing a comprehensive statewide strategy;


  • VESID coordinates the Chapter 515 Interagency Implementation Team that focuses on providing supported employment services to individuals with the most significant disabilities in cooperation with the Office of Mental Health (OMH), Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) and the Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH);


  • VESID and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) are forming an OASAS-VESID Statewide Team to create joint policies, procedures and training to better serve individuals with chemical dependencies;


  • VESID-Department of Labor (DOL) Disability Program Navigator Initiative is working to improve the effectiveness of Disability Program Navigators at the One Stop Career Centers across the State to ensure access for people with disabilities; and


  • The VESID Veterans Service Action Plan is working closely with State and federal Veterans' organizations to make sure that veterans with disabilities obtain the services necessary to return to work.


Description of the Vocational Rehabilitation Interagency Initiatives


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 formation of the MISCC was the result of Chapter 551 of the laws of 2002. 


              In January 2008, OMRDD’s 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 Deputy 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 MISCC Employment Committee adopted the following vision statement in May 2008:


All people can work.  New York State, in partnership with the whole community, will exercise leadership to advance prospects for employment and economic self-sufficiency of all individuals with disabilities.  Resources will be directed or redirected to realize this vision of integrated competitive employment. Individuals with disabilities will have the opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the economic vitality of the workforce.  Employers will view individuals with disabilities as valued employees in their recruitment and hiring efforts. 


The Employment Committee developed five objectives to address the MISCC vision statement and formed work groups to act on these objectives:


  • Develop a statewide infrastructure for benefits and work incentives planning, including statewide collaboration on applying for the Medicaid Infrastructure Grant entitled New York Makes Work Pay;


  • Communicate to employers through a collaborative marketing campaign for employment of qualified candidates who have disabilities;


  • Review data and funding sources to explore how existing funding and reporting structures across agencies can be more effectively integrated to better meet the needs of people with disabilities seeking employment; 


  • Develop recommendations to significantly improve opportunities for public sector employment for individuals with disabilities; and 


  • Improve access to employment services for individuals with disabilities across State agencies by developing clear cross-systems partnership policies and procedures.


In December 2008, the MISCC Employment Committee submitted a draft report to OMRDD with a comprehensive set of recommendations for closing the employment gap in New York State.   OMRDD is submitting its final report to the Governor and Legislature.  VESID will continue to play a leadership role on the MISCC Employment Committee as priority recommendations are implemented.


Chapter 515 Interagency Implementation Team


The Chapter 515 Report reflects VESID’s interagency work with OMH, OMRDD,   and CBVH in achieving competitive employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities.   Through this Supported Employment Program, VESID, CBVH, OMRDD and OMH are sustaining more than 24,000 individuals in employment.  The Supported Employment Program focuses on individuals with the most significant disabilities who would not be able to get and keep a competitive job without ongoing supports and services.  


VESID provides funding for the initial intensive phase of training.   For those individuals who are eligible for OMRDD or OMH services, the extended phase of supported employment is funded through OMRDD or OMH State or Medicaid waiver dollars.  For individuals who are not OMRDD or OMH-eligible, extended services are funded through VESID state dollars.


The Chapter 515 Interagency Implementation Team remains committed to continuous quality improvement in employment services.  During 2009, the State agencies will work on revisions to the Supported Employment Memorandum of Understanding that can reflect a renewed commitment to achieving integrated employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities. 


OASAS-VESID Statewide Team


Several years ago, VESID and OASAS established the Brooklyn/Queens Consortium as a pilot project to coordinate and integrate provision of vocational rehabilitation services to persons in recovery.  Based on the successful work of this regional consortium, VESID and OASAS agreed to renew statewide collaboration.  A Statewide Team is being established to undertake the following activities:


  • Evaluate the referral process developed by the Brooklyn/Queens Consortium to determine how this can be a model for statewide implementation;
  • Research current VESID and OASAS data in providing employment services to this population;
  • Update VESID Alcoholism Policy (2001) and develop into a Technical Assistance Brief on Chemical Dependencies;
  • Examine VESID and OASAS collaboration in the context of other Statewide collaborative initiatives (MISCC, OMH and DOL);
  • Develop collaborative VESID-OASAS and Provider Agency cross-training curriculum and training plan; and
  • Update the VESID and OASAS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The existing MOU between VESID and OASAS has been in effect since 1999.
VESID-DOL Disability Program Navigator Initiative


VESID and the NYS Department of Labor (DOL) are in the process of negotiating a Memorandum of Understanding for VESID to contribute toward the statewide Disability Program Navigator (DPN) initiative.   VESID will contribute $1.2 Million in VR funds over the next two years to support the network of DPNs at the local workforce investment areas (LWIAs) across the State.  The role of the DPN is to promote accessibility to the full range of one-stop system employment services for people with disabilities.   VESID funding will support eight full time equivalents, about 23 percent of the total $2,605,000 operating budget for the Statewide DPN program for Program Year 2008.   VESID plans to continue this funding for Program Year 2009.

VESID Veterans Service Action Plan


VESID and other SED liaisons have committed to serve as active partners as part of the NYS Council on Veterans Affairs recently established by executive order.  The NYS Division of Veterans Affairs (VA) and OASAS will lead the Council and will engage some 40 state agencies, including SED/VESID, along with critical stakeholders in development and implementation of a NYS Veterans State Plan.  The Governor has charged the Veterans Council with a State Plan that will:


  • Create a sustained infrastructure to address multiple needs;
  • Facilitate engagement and involvement of returning veterans and their families;
  • Increase the political and public commitment to services; and
  • Develop cultural competencies and improve quality of services. 


VESID supported the successful passage of State legislation to advance employment and training opportunities for veterans including:  an expansion of the Civil Service 55-c program that promotes affirmative hiring practices for veterans in State government; and passage of the State GI bill tuition assistance program that provides full tuition for SUNY/CUNY institutions of higher education.


VESID has convened an internal Veterans Services Workgroup representing all levels of the VESID organization to identify best practices and gaps in services and advance a VESID Veterans Service Action Plan.  The Plan will build on current best practices including:


  • VESID partnership with SED’s Troops to Teachers program that provides technical assistance and a $5,000 federal grant to encourage veterans to pursue teaching careers; 
  • VESID will continue to participate in regional DOL sponsored job fairs targeting veterans and Stand Down Events statewide that link veterans in need with an array of social service supports and sponsored by local Veteran service organizations;
  • VESID’s Central New York district office will continue to provide services for the Fort Drum population and strengthen linkages with the Fort Drum Wounded Warriors’ transition unit for veterans with disabilities; and 
  • VESID’s Long Island district office will continue to co-locate staff at VA hospitals and offer financial management, credit services and other unique service offerings.


The VESID Veterans Service Action Plan will promote best practices statewide and identify new services and/or strategies for effective veterans’ services. Preliminary efforts underway in connection with the Action plan include:


  • Benchmarking against other VR and VA/Department of Defense (DOD) collaborations nationwide;
  • Clarify VESID’s role to complement employment and training services through the DOD Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) program and VA Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program;
  • Enhanced data collection to specifically identify veterans with disabilities returning to New York from various facilities and VA medical facilities from across the nation;
  • Provide Veteran specific VESID orientation/eligibility sessions, promote utilization of the Civil Service 55c program and launch a veterans’ services web page on the VESID and SED web sites;
  • Develop and implement a cross-systems training program for VESID & VR/DOD personnel and other stakeholders to clarify eligibility, service offering with emphasis on access to traumatic brain injury (TBI), post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and family services; and
  • Partner with Troops to Teachers, NYS DVA and a coalition NYS veteran service organizations to craft a NYS Veterans Policy Agenda that will enhance training and career opportunities for veterans with disabilities.


Description of Interagency Activities


VESID believes that strong collaboration among all of the NYS agencies charged with providing services to individuals with disabilities, as well as other workforce partners including advocacy groups and consumer organizations, is vitally important for the vocational rehabilitation program.  In 2009, VESID will promote quality employment outcomes through interagency collaboration.




              The Board of Regents will continue to support VESID’s Designing Our Future Initiative and Implementation Plan and these new interagency initiatives to improve collaboration, coordination and quality employment services for persons with disabilities.


Timetable for Implementation


              With Regents support, the described activities will continue to move forward.