State Rehabilitation Council 2005 Annual Report

Purpose

The Rehabilitation Act Amendments of 1998, which reauthorized the Rehabilitation Act and changed the name of the Rehabilitation Advisory Council (RAC) to the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), mandated such Councils to advise state rehabilitation agencies regarding the operation and delivery of state and federal vocational rehabilitation services.

The major purpose of the Council is set out in the Rehabilitation Act, Section 105, and includes, among other items, the following:

  • To encourage the personal and vocational growth and development of individuals with disabilities.
  • To promote barrier-free access for persons with disabilities.
  • To ensure the full participation of persons with disabilities in their communities.

The Council seeks to work cooperatively with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to ensure the activities of the Vocational Rehabilitation Services (VRS) Program are carried out in a manner that is respectful of individual dignity and recognizes an individual's right to informed choice.

State Rehabilitation Council Executive Committee

Chairperson: William T. McCarriston, Jr.
Vice Chairperson:Z ary Amirhosseini
Secretary: William Doherty
Members at Large: Patricia Sheely, Warren Magee

Statutory Members
Janet Dale, Disability Advocate
Warren Magee, Jr., Disability Advocate
Zary Amirhosseini, Disability/Secondary Education
Sandra Houghton, MDD Council Representative
Lisa Matrundola, DOL/WIB Representative
Mary Margaret Moore, SILC Representative
John Beach, M. Ed., Business/LD Advocate
Antonia J. Torres, Disability Advocate
William Doherty, Substance Abuse Provider
Toby Fisher, Mental Health Advocate
William McCarriston, Provider/Parent Advocate
Karin Williams, Deaf Advocate
Patricia Sheely, Disability Advocate
Ozwald Mondejar, Employer
Betty J. King, Disability Advocate
Mark Murphy, Labor/Employer
Stephen Reynolds, Business
Brooke Heraty, Parent Advocate
Barbara Lybarger, Client Assistance Program (CAP) Representative
Charles Vernon, VRC, ex-officio
Elmer C. Bartels, MRC Commissioner, ex-officio

Ex-Officio Members
Owen Doonan, Duxbury
Suzanne Doswell, Pittsfield
Kevin Goodwin, Wayland
Anne Guterman, W. Newton
Inta Hall, Hingham
Keith Jones, Somerville
Jenna Knight, Worcester
Hang Lee, Milton
Kathy Mooney, Salem
David Mortimer, Sudbury
Ann Marie Paulson, Lakeville
Ventura Pereira, N. Dartmouth
Carol Perlino, Lynn
Katherine Piccard, Charlestown
Doris Richardson, Mattapan
Maria Rosa, Holyoke
Angelica Sawyer, Cambridge
Barry Sumner, Onset
Hartmut Teuber, Arlington
Francis Verville, Fall River
Dwight Woodworth, Worcester

Message from the Chair

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

As I look back on the past year, I found the opportunity to revisit the many achievements of the SRC-Standing Committees that helped strengthen the Council. I also had the occasion to reflect on the work of the SRC Task Forces that fostered the involvement of the public in the mandated business of the Council.

This annual report was prepared by the SRC Committee Chairpersons for your information. We took our obligation seriously, to broaden consumer input and enhance the SRC practices to enrich consumer involvement.

We continue to provide open microphone time at our meetings which are held in different regions across the state. Most importantly, we continue to involve the consumers, advocates, persons with disabilities, providers, parents and employers in all issues of the Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program. Therefore, we are grateful to the friends of the MRC, its staff members and all stakeholders for their valued contributions to our work.

On behalf of all Council members, this report presents and celebrates the hard work and achievements of the Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee, the VR State Plan Committee, the Underserved-Unserved Population Committee, the Homebased/Self Employment Task Force, the Consumer Handbook Task Force, the LD/ADHD Task Force, the "Out of the Box" Transportation Task Force and the publication of beneficial information through The Consumer's Voice newsletter.

I trust you will enjoy reading about the work of the different entities of the Council. Please do not hesitate to contact me or the Council if we can be of any assistance.

Sincerely,
William McCarriston Jr., Chair

2005 SRC Year in Review

At the February 3, 2005 SRC meeting, MRC Commissioner Elmer C. Bartels briefed the Council on the agency's goals. In doing so, he invited the SRC to work with the agency to identify, through a comprehensive needs assessment, how it is meeting the vocational rehabilitation needs of its consumers and stakeholders. The SRC embraced the opportunity and immediately created the VR Needs Assessment Task Force. This task force worked in partnership with the MRC Research, Development and Evaluation staff.

During the year, the SRC Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee voted to shift the timing of conducting the Consumer Satisfaction Survey. The change was to survey consumers year round, shortly after their case was closed, rather than just at year-end. Through the relentless work of MRC staff, Individual Consumer Consultants (ICCs) and Committee members, the survey instrument was sent with a letter of introduction to consumers 14 days after closure. It was anticipated this change would yield a higher rate of response and offer a more "real-time" satisfaction measure from consumers.

Another exciting announcement was presented at the beginning of the year; the MRC Commissioner accepted the Annual Conference Planning Committee's recommendation. The recommendation was for the 2005 Annual Conference to be a two day event in honor of its 25th Anniversary.

This year, five members of the SRC were selected to attend the New England Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program (RCEP) SRC Advocacy training conducted at Assumption College in Worcester. All five SRC members expressed a great deal of satisfaction with issues covered at the conference.

The council continued to hear from the MRC constituency that transportation issues are of the highest concern for VR consumers. This issue is most pronounced in the rural communities of the state. In response to this concern, the SRC created a non-traditional Transportation Task Force. This task force was directed to look into non-traditional ways of providing transportation services. The full Council expects to receive a business plan proposal from the Task Force in 2006.

The SRC voted favorably to hold its spring meeting at the State House on April 7, 2005. This legislative education day was held in conjunction with Massachusetts RehabAction Network (MARAN). It was widely attended by a diverse group of consumers, advocates and providers.

In conclusion, the MRC announced FY '05 was an excellent year of growth for the VR Services Program. The VR Program placed 3,421 consumers in competitive employment, up by more than 400 consumers placed in FY '04.

SRC-Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee

Members:
Zary Amirhosseini, Chair
Angelica Sawyer
Carol Nordblom
Owen Doonan
Frank Barresi

MRC Staff:
Mary Esther Rohman
Andrea Tull
William Noone

In FY 2005 the Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee finalized it's first full year report of the Consumer Satisfaction Survey. This analysis using the Continuous Survey Process by which questionnaires are sent to all consumers whose cases were closed in status 26 (successful closures) and status 28 (unsuccessful closures who received services). Surveys were sent out approximately 2 ½ weeks from the date of closure, so the information collected would be current. Data for the 2005 report was gathered from November 1, 2004 through October 31, 2005.

MRC's Research, Development and Evaluation Department has implemented a process using ICC's to conduct the mailing and perform the data entry.

Altogether, 894 consumers responded to the survey, for a response rate of approximately 21.5 percent. According to the MRC research and evaluation staff this response is quite good for a mailed questionnaire with no incentives or follow-up mailings.

The Committee members will present the report at the May 2006 SRC meeting.

In addition, this year, the MRC Commissioner developed a satisfaction index to help asses consumer satisfaction within each of the VR Area Offices. This information is presented to the VR Area Directors on a monthly basis.

This is the first time survey findings were able to be compiled and continuously applied in day to day practice.

One of the immediate goals of the Committee is to find a new chairperson and recruit more consumers. We thank Zary Amirhosseini for all her hard work and encourage others to join the interesting work of this Committee.

SRC- Joint Committee on the State Plan and Interagency Relations

Members:

Patricia Sheely, Chair
William Doherty
Brooke Heraty
Sandra Houghton
Denise Jackson
Lisa Matrundola

MRC Staff:
Teresa Walsh

Mission:
The mission of this Committee is to assure the SRC meets its obligations with input from consumers in the development of both the MRC Public Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan and the Unified Workforce State Plan.

Projects:
Performed outreach to at least three regional consumer advisory councils and advocacy groups across the state.

As a result of the three regional public hearings on the state plans in Springfield, Worcester and Quincy, the Committee made the following recommendations to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission:

Recommendation 1: Maximize the use of one-stop service providers/career centers.

Recommendation 2: The Commission should conduct public education on maintaining Social Security Administration (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and/or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with medical benefits while trying out full/part time work.

Recommendation 3: The Commission should identify means to speed up methods of equipment purchases for consumers.

Recommendation 4: The Commission needs to better address the issue of self-employment as the growth of technology makes it imperative that the Commission should explore entrepreneurial potential.

Recommendation 5: The Commission should enhance its agenda on outreach to newly disabled people and specifically to ethnic minorities.

Recommendation 6: The Commission needs to address concerns relative to transportation and work related expenses of consumers who have attained employment. Central to this recommendation is for the Commission to ensure Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors and consumers continue to work together to explore and address transportation to and from employment, as well as work related expenses.

Specifically, the following is recommended:

A. Transportation issues be identified in the consumer's IPE and be resolved as a priority during job selection and placement;
B. Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors be transportation advocates for affordable and accessible transportation for consumers;
C. Each consumer is advised on how the Commission provides transportation support to consumers in order to acquire education, training and going to work.

Recommendation 7: Job seeking skills services should be improved by including a component for the education of consumers regarding employer expectations for proper and appropriate attire in the context of the individual's occupational goal. Further, the Commission must create pathways and alternative scheduling opportunities for counselors to visit with and provide VR services to consumers who have attained employment, as well as their family members.

Recommendation 8: The Commission needs to address the problems encountered by consumers receiving vocational training services. Notably, consumers need clear, accurate, and understandable information relative to VR program service provision, payment policies, and practices such as:

A. Consumers need to be provided continuous education and clarification relative to how training services are procured with special attention to fees, and the Commonwealth methodology of purchase of services;
B. The Commission must address the untimely and delayed authorization to purchase training and related services:
C. Consumers need to be provided comprehensive and clear information about in-state post secondary education training policies, including the waiver process associated with access to out-of-state post secondary education training;
D. Vocational rehabilitation counselors need to utilize positive communication in explaining grades and standards required to achieve employment outcomes and associated training goals;
E. All vocational rehabilitation counselors need to be knowledgeable of the needs of consumers who are deaf and hard of hearing and have an understanding of all communication methods, devices, interpreter alternatives (CART or ASL) and when each is best used.

SRC-Unserved/Underserved Population Committee

Members:
Betty J. King, Chair
Jacques Audain
Eileen Brewster
Larry Espling
James Hanna
April Holley
Denise Jackson
Keith Jones
Hang Lee
Warren Magee
Kathy Mooney
Cheryl Ravalli
Maria Rosa
Antonia Torres
Joslaine Vital
Tony Williams
Sabrina Yao

MRC Staff:
Bill Noone
Mary Esther Rohman

Mission:
The mission of this Committee is to advise the MRC regarding residents of the Commonwealth who are unserved/underserved due to their disabilities, culture, ethnicity, race, language, creed, religion, class, sexual preference, age and economics.

In accordance with the mandates of the reauthorized Rehabilitation Act, Titles 1, 6c and 7, this Committee is charged with assuring issues of unserved/underserved populations of the Commonwealth are researched, studied and presented to the State Rehabilitation Council.

Goals & Accomplishments:
The consumer survey will be conducted in 2005.

The question is, who do we have to survey? To find the population to survey, staff reported in detail the difference in statuses of the VR program. They are as follows:

Status 00 - Referrals
" 02 - Completed Applications
" 08 - Not Eligible
" 10 - Eligibility Determination
" 12 - IPE Developed and Signed
" 15 - Restoration Services
" 18 - Training, e.g., On the Job Training
" 20 - Completed Training and Ready for Employment
" 22 - In Employment (Found a Job)
" 26 - Closed Cases (Successful)
" 28 - Closed Cases (Unsuccessful)
" 30 - Closed Cases (After Status 12)
" 32 - Post Employment Services
" 34 - Closed Successfully

The Committee voted to survey 800 consumers from status 12, 26, 28 and 30.

Staff would work with MRC's IT Department to identify 800 consumers from MRC-VR area offices with documented high percentages of multicultural, diverse languages and cross disability backgrounds.

The Committee Chair will make the necessary report to the SRC on June 2, 2005 including making sure the cost of carrying out the objectives obtained by the process are available.

Staff wanted the Committee to come up with clear definitions of unserved or underserved populations.

The Chair emphasized the Committee is not in a position to define the population as such, but the survey instrument was made to find out if such a population exists, and what are the attributing factors to the effect. Therefore, the population to be surveyed should be a random sample from the VR consumer database.

Meetings:
There have been 5 meetings held this year at the MRC's Administrative Office,
27 Wormwood St., Boston, MA 02210

SRC-VR Comprehensive Needs Assessment Committee

Members:
William McCarriston, Chair
Betty J. King
Dave Mortimer
Warren Magee
Keith Jones
Carol Nordblom

MRC Staff:
Terry Walsh
Emeka Nwokeji
William Noone
Leslie Wish
Andrea Tull
Robert Donahue

The agency has a regulatory obligation to the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) to conduct a needs assessment every three years. The Commissioner and the SRC have charged this Committee with developing a comprehensive needs assessment survey to be performed annually and used for quality assurance and the development of a better VR services delivery system.

MRC Commissioner Bartels addressed the Committee and noted that in past years MRC have used the least expensive methods to conduct the VR comprehensive needs assessment. As of this year, the MRC has the talent in-house to do so again.

Therefore, he extended an invitation to the SRC to partner with the MRC Research, Development & Evaluation unit to conduct the 2006 VR needs assessment.

The SRC agreed to this partnership to develop a customized VR needs survey instrument and pilot tested with scale Q.

Bill Noone the Director of Research, Development and Evaluation will coordinate this needs assessment through his department. He was charged to determine which survey program software might be suitable for such a needs assessment.

Program staff was advised to conduct a review of other states' VR needs assessment methodologies and found the only state currently doing a more comprehensive VR assessment is Maryland. The Committee discussed the various survey tools used by Maryland and requested more information on how the tools were administered, survey response rate, data entry and analysis procedures, and an operational definition of "unmet need".

The Committee as a whole believed it would make for good analysis to be able to compare consumer needs across VR statuses. This way the Committee could hopefully show consumer needs are being addressed as they go through the VR process.

MRC staff presented a revised methodology based on the available resources in terms of both staff time and finances. The recommended strategy for the VR needs assessment is to sample individuals from statuses:
02- application
10- eligibility
18- receiving services
26- successful closure
28- unsuccessful closure

In addition to the random sampling of MRC-VR consumers, the Committee will conduct three focus groups (one for each region) and plan to put the survey on MRC's web site to allow input from individuals who are not currently MRC consumers. They also plan to distribute the survey at the MRC Consumer Conference in December 2005.

Another strategy would include providing surveys to the Independent Living (IL) centers throughout the state, and allowing their consumers to complete the survey and return it via a postage paid envelope.

The Committee met three times and all meetings were held at the MRC administration offices in Boston.

SRC-LD/ADHD Task Force

Members:
Angelica Sawyer, Chair
Wayne Davidson
Jennifer Knight
Kathy Mooney
Cheryl Ravalli
Doris Richardson

MRC Staff:
James Fratolillo

Mission:
To promote education and advocate for persons with LD/ADHD, to enhance their opportunities for community inclusion, appropriate employment, independent living, and the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Goals:
1. Improve the Task Force's effectiveness and visibility
2. Identify the needs of consumers with LD/ADHD and the services that exist to meet those needs
3. Increase the promotion of programs that provide services of consumers with LD/ADHD
4. Establish support groups at all MRC regional offices

Accomplishments:
• The LD/ADHD Task Force support group has been extended through the spring. The participants believe having a service such as this for persons with LD/ADHD is valuable. It is a place where consumers feel comfortable talking about their experience living with their disabilities and the different strategies they have developed to make their lives easier.

• We are constantly looking for new and better ways of serving persons with LD/ADHD. At the 2005 Annual Consumer Conference, the LD/ADHD Task Force had an exhibit table with resource information on career choices, guidelines for succeeding in the workplace with ADHD and lists of LD/ADHD organizations in Massachusetts.
• The Task Force's accomplishments include, but are not limited to, the revision of the Task Force's mission, history, goals and objectives, review of the web site links, presentation of summary report on its action plan to the State Rehab Council, and a meeting with the MRC webmaster about the website's format and layout.

Projects 2006:
1. The Task Force has been talking about pursuing an outreach initiative to educate the public, Independent Living Centers, MRC consumers, and staff about issues related to LD/ADHD.
2. We are in the process of updating the information in our resource manual for MRC consumers with LD/ADHD.
3. One of the Task Force members will continue to create a new look and feel to LD/ADHD website that is both usable and inviting to our users. This new look and feel will be accomplished by removing the redundancy and jargon on the LD/ADHD weblink and update the website resource links.
4. The By-laws Committee still continues to finalize the by-laws and is planning to present a well-structured set of by-laws to the Task Force members to review and vote on by the end of the year.

Meetings:
The LD/ADHD Task Force meets monthly at the MRC administration offices in Boston.

SRC-Home Based & Self Employment Task Force

Members:
Owen Doonan, Chair
Bill Corbett
Warren Magee
Kathy Mooney
William Parks
Ann Marie Paulson
Keith Jones
Andy Forman
James Hanna
Zary Amirhosseini
Larry Espling

MRC Staff:
Ted Mello
James Fratolillo
Mark Cowell

Mission:
The Task Force mission is to identify and develop the essential elements needed to assess and train consumers to obtain and maintain home-based employment and/or self-employment outcomes.

Projects and Goals:
The Task Force focused its activities on completing work on its segment of the Consumer Handbook and to finalizing work on its own informational consumer booklet dedicated to assisting consumers in becoming informed as to home-based & self employment vocational outcomes.

The informational consumer booklet is now in the process of undergoing a final rewrite by a single editor in order to make it easier to read for consumers.

The Task Force further identified a need to survey the MRC counseling staff in order to determine their understandings, needs and desires in delivering professional services to consumers who elect or need detailed information with regard to home based & self employment outcomes.

Each Task Force meeting comprised of MRC staff, consumers and vendors completed approximately ten possible questions which were compiled and agreed upon by the Task Force. Submitted to the MRC Training Department for comment, the Task Force was informed that the MRC had arranged with Commonwealth Corporation to develop a similar initiative with the objective of developing training in self employment for its counseling staff.

The Task Force offered to share experience and expertise with this separate initiative on the part of the MRC and it was agreed by all parties that Owen Doonan would represent the Task Force on this separate initiative.

Further, representatives from the LD/ADHD Task Force contacted the Home Based & Self Employment Task Force and MRC Consumer Involvement to request assistance in training LD/ADHD consumers in the area of home based & self employment. Members are currently discussing this among Statewide Employment Services (SES) Program, Consumer Involvement and the Home Based & Self Employment Task Force members.

The Task Force has also been continuing discussions on the need for post outcome supports as well as the current financial limits and methods of purchasing with respect to self employment. Members further feel there should be an exemption on the disallowance of purchasing motor vehicles in certain self employment cases whereby a vehicle is the essential element in closing a case i.e., livery, canteen and mobile service businesses.

Meetings:
There have been 10 meetings held at the MRC VR Area Office in Plymouth, MA.

SRC-Transportation Task Force

Members:
Kathy Mooney, Chair
Kevin Goodwin
Denise Jackson
Betty J. King
Warren Magee
Alex Malvers
David Mortimer
Tony Nosike
Katherine Piccard
Patricia Sheely
Kathleen Simpson

MRC Staff:
Roger Thomas

Mission:
The Task Force will advocate, educate and empower people with disabilities and the general public regarding transportation options and issues.

Presentations made to the Task Force:
1. The Franklin Regional Transit Authority (FRTA) reported the FRTA and Greenfield Montague Transportation Authority (GMTA) is made up of 40 members of cities and towns. It is one of the oldest transportation systems in the state. The combined services of FRTA and GMTA run from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.

  • There are four fixed bus routes:
    The Campus North Route, The Campus West Route, The Gardner/Greenfield Link and The Valley Route.
  • The four routes are augmented cooperatively with the Council of Aging (COA), which does the medical and non-medical rides on demand.
  • There is a Transportation Advisory Council made up of the forty members. There is also a consumer advisory council made up of people with disabilities and elderly citizens.
  • The Task Force highlighted an opportunity to observe the cooperative working relationship among the different community organizations and the FRTA. This area is considered the most rural transit authority and has faced exceptional challenges.
  • The FRTA owns most of the vehicles but they are leased to COA who will hire drivers through other transportation providers. The FRTA maintains, insures and provides gas for the vehicles. Most of the FRTA budget comes from a combination of federal, state and local money.

In conclusion, FRTA staff acknowledged that documentation and record keeping of the route utilization is poor, for example, there is no record of work related trips and/or the number of people with disabilities that use the fixed bus routes.

Consumer concerns are:

  • For part-time workers there is no transportation connection to the industrial complexes to match their working hours. As a result, individuals are limited in employment opportunities.
  • There is no transportation flexibility to accommodate such concerns as when consumer vehicles break down and have to be repaired.
  • There is a Ride-Share Program which helps welfare recipients and those who attend continuing education classes.

Other issues identified include, but are not limit to:
a) For MRC consumers there are no bus passes.
b) Working hours among large companies are skewed.
c) Larger corporations need to establish company contracted transportation for employees.

2. Brockton Area Transit Authority (BAT). Ms. Riddell described in detail a 9 community membership T-System called BAT. This is the first transit authority that is totally accessible in the state. BAT rides and schedules also cover the weekends. The BAT para-transit system is door to door. The BAT is one of the state transportation systems awarded the Smart Growth Award by state legislators.

The implementation of the BAT-ADA plan included, but was not limited to,

  1. Bus parking facilities which are totally accessible and lighted.
  2. Administrative building with accessible public telephones, etc.
  3. BAT has 2 Advisory Committees:
    • Consumer Advisory Council
    • ADA and Appeals Committee

Future plans include an accessible transportation linkage along Route 3 and the identification of gaps in the statewide transportation system.

Discussion:
The committee asked if the Advisory Council had people with disabilities as members; the ADA and Appeals Committees do not have anyone with a disability. Consumers applauded the BAT services. Generally, the Task Force members were impressed with the presentation.

3. GATRA Report by Ms. Kathleen Simpson. Ms. Simpson reported GATRA is made up of 17-23 towns/cities/communities. GATRA is under new management as of 2005. The change in management was necessary to accommodate city growth in Attleboro and Taunton. This was accomplished through a strategic planning process with greater emphasis on safety.

She explained that the GATRA provides broker services to the city of Fall River. The GATRA Advisory Council, on which Ms. Simpson is the Chair, holds open meetings that are well advertised on the buses.

SRC-Artists with Disabilities Task Force

Members:
Veronica McSherry, Co-Chair
Keith Jones, Co-Chair
Cynthia Segal
Mary Rogers
Gregory Rogers
Muriel Gaines
Colleen Flanagan
Jessica Vohs
April Holley

Mission:
The Artists with Disabilities Task Force is a group of people from diverse disciplines working towards creating linkages between artists with disabilities and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. These linkages advance the goals of independence, self-support, and professional development in the art world.

Objectives:
The Task Force is to continue its efforts to spread its activities to the western part of the state.
The 2006 Calendar will be for the 25th anniversary of the MRC Consumer Conference. To celebrate, we will expand the calendar both in size and pages. The size will be larger, approximately 16" by 24", and the pages will have a pull out with a double fold.

We plan to duplicate the art workshop as it was done previously at the Annual Consumer Conference. We need to put out a call for art and literature, for both the break out room and the calendar.

One additional possibility considered is a CD with video of art clips, dancers, music, etc. and a page with a short story.

Channel 5 will chronicle people with disabilities in a program called "Beyond Limits" with Brie Walker as host. The object is to raise disability issues to a platform of discussion.

SRC-Handbook Committee

Members:
Warren Magee, Chair
Kevin Goodwin
Denise Jackson
Keith Jones
Betty J. King
David Mortimer
Jennifer Knight
Adrianna Mallozzi
Katherine Picard
Patricia Sheely

MRC Staff:
Robert Donahue
Leslie Wish


Mission:

To update and enhance the present MRC Consumer Handbook. This booklet was first completed in 1995.

Projects:
The Committee's projects include, but are not limited to:
Revising and redesigning the current Consumer Handbook to include information on all MRC services, including
• vocational rehabilitation services,
• community services and
• disability determination services.

This year, the Committee focused its attention on refurbishing the Handbook and rewriting the handbook in a consumer friendly language.

The cover was designed by Keith Jones, Chair of the Artists with Disabilities Task Force.

We are presently making final edits to submit to the MRC for approval and advising the Commission to have the cover published in color and in a spiral bound format.

We suggest the Handbook be translated into Spanish, Chinese and other languages to meet our present consumer demographics.

The Handbook is an orientation/guide to Vocational Rehabilitation and other Community Services which support living independently in the community.

Meetings:
We met 4 times during 2005. Most of our meetings were held at MRC's administration offices in Boston.

SRC-Taunton Area Advisory Council

Members:
Ann Marie Paulson, William Parks, Co-Chairpersons
Bonnie Allen
David Murphy
Judy Griffin
Frank Verville
Ron Wainrib
Kathleen Cardin
Kathleen Simpson
Theodore (Ted) Silva
Renee Desper

MRC Staff:
Marcel Dube, Area Director
Thomas Linnehan

Mission:
The mission of the Taunton Area Advisory Council (TAC) is to provide assistance, consultation and support to the VR office leadership in the areas of the office environment, the provision of customer services and consumer advocacy.

Projects and Goals:
1. Office renovations
2. Career Center services
3. Serve as Hosts for our regional SRC meeting
4. Mass C-Pass Program
5. Advocacy
6. Office productivity
7. Participate in statewide SRC activities

Accomplishments:

  • The TAC was instrumental in assisting the Area Director with finalizing renovation plans regarding office improvements which took place in late 2004. During the January 05 meeting the TAC members were able to tour the newly renovated areas and were very pleased with the renovations. The new office area now includes a computer resource area for consumers.
  • TAC was also made aware of ongoing progress to help local Career Centers serve individuals with disabilities. The MRC-VR Taunton Area Director continues to serve as the Chairperson for the local WIB's Disability Acton Committee.
  • On 7/11/05, Nilka Rodriguez, from MASS C-PASS, presented to the TAC. MASS C-PASS is a three year demonstration grant, managed by the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR). It is geared toward drafting regulatory and budgetary policy to enhance the PASS system so users can enjoy a higher quality of life and independence in the most integrated setting.
  • The TAC members were made aware of both national & state legislation impacting the delivery of VR services. The need to serve as advocates for the VR Program was addressed and methods of advocacy were reviewed. During our April 2005 meeting, Audrey Butterworth of the Mass. RehabACTion Network (MARAN) provided attendees a briefing on advocacy and an invitation to join MARAN.
  • At each meeting, the members reviewed office productivity and performance.
  • Six TAC constituents attended the statewide Consumer Conference held in Quincy in December. One TAC individual served on the Conference Planning Committee. Another associate serves on the SRC Budget Committee and a member serves as a SRC Self-Employment Task Force participant.

Meetings:
The Taunton Advisory Council meets quarterly and the meetings are held in the Taunton Office conference room. Meetings begin at 4:00 P.M. to allow employed members to participate.

SRC-Metro West Consumer Council

Members:
David Mortimer, Chair
Kevin Goodwin
Nan Kurtz
Gloria Lanspery
Patricia Laughlin
Patricia Prell
Dennis Polselli
Nancy Sullivan
Craig Coleman

MRC Staff:
Janice Ngau
Robert Donahue

Mission:
The mission of the Metro West Consumer Council is to improve opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the MetroWest communities. The Council advises the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission on ways to improve service delivery, identifies and addresses issues of importance to Metro West area consumers and supports and advocates for agency priorities and resources.

Goals:
The Metro West Consumer Council decided the priority activity for 2005 would be to develop a resource guide for consumers, counselors and community agencies cataloging accessible transportation resources in the Metro West area. The Council developed a survey instrument and members volunteered to contact the various community resources.

The Metro West Accessible Transportation Resource Guide was completed in November and is being distributed. Response from users has been overwhelmingly positive and there are plans to keep the guide updated annually.

The Council re-examined its mission and structure and re-committed to meeting monthly and focusing on a specific project each year. During 2005, the Council also addressed legislative issues and advocacy, PCA recruitment and retention concerns and supported initiatives of the State Rehabilitation Council, which included hosting the fall meeting in October.

The Council was well-represented at the MRC Annual Consumer Conference. Nan Kurtz and Frank Noyes from the ADA Committee of Hudson presented a workshop on the successful puppet show performances that they hold at the schools in Hudson to raise disability awareness. Response from workshop participants was highly favorable.

At the Conference, Kevin Goodwin was selected as a recipient of the Moro Fleming Award in recognition of his leadership and commitment to advancing issues impacting the lives of people with disabilities. His efforts in the area of transportation and his significant contribution to the completion of the Metro West Accessible Transportation Resource Guide were highlighted.

The Metro West Consumer Council is planning to work on increasing membership during 2006 by developing an innovative approach to reach out to individuals and organizations in local communities. The Council will be presenting its first annual consumer recognition award in 2006 based on the Moro Fleming Award model. In addition, it will continue its legislative advocacy efforts and impact on issues affecting individuals with disabilities.

Meetings:
The Metro West Consumer Council represents twenty-two communities in the Metro West area and meets on the last Wednesday of the month at the Natick Area Office of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. Anyone interested in additional information can contact Janice M. Ngau, Area Director, at (508) 651-7531.

SRC-Home Care Assistance Program Advisory Committee

Consumer Members:
Maureen Cancemi
Michelle Faison
June Hailer
Cindy Kartch
Betty King
Walter King
Stephanie Parrott
Donald Summerfield

Providers:
Janey Fox - Jewish Family & Children's Service
Lisa Gurgone - Mass. Council for Home Care Aide Services
Emmanual Ugocha - Advanced Home Care
Christopher Jenkins - Home Instead

MRC Staff:
Robin Kellet, Case Manager
Katherine Chesebro, Case Manager
Liz Morin, Case Manager
Paullina Mauras, Case Manager
Jodi Watson, Case Manager
Marian Burns, Case Manager
April Anderson, Case Manager
Eloise Cruz, Case Manager
Maria King, Case Manager
Debbie Visocchi, Case Manager

Felix Jordan, Supervisor
Angela Cipriano, Supervisor
Betty Maher, Director

Mission:
The Advisory Committee to the Home Care Assistance Program consists of consumers receiving home care services, past consumers, program staff and representatives from provider agencies. The Committee meets quarterly at the MRC administrative offices in Boston.

The accomplishments of the Committee during Federal Fiscal Year '05 may be summarized as follows:

  • Developed a Certificate of Appreciation sent to all consumers during the meeting in November (Home Care Appreciation Month). Consumers gave these to their homemakers during the month and expressed appreciation to them for the work they do.
  • These certificates were well-received, with many provider agencies calling to express gratitude.
  • Developed a Consumer Guide to Using a Home Care Assistant, detailing important information for consumers who choose the consumer-directed option of home care services.
  • Designed, contributed to and edited the HCAP Resource Newsletter, which was distributed to all consumers.
  • Consulted and advised program management on potential regulation changes, budget priorities, staffing issues and contracting issues.

Presentations to the Committee included, but were not limited to :
1. Aging and Disability Resource Consortium.
2. DMH operations, the role of service providers and improving collaboration.
3. Fundraising for the Katrina Hurricane victims.
4. MRC-IL department presentation on the statewide housing issues survey results.

Meetings:
The Committee met 5 times during the year. All meetings were held at the MRC administration offices in Boston.

SRC-Conference Planning Committee

Consumer Members:
Peter Burns
Kathleen Cardin
Debra DeBarros
Owen Doonan
Suzanne Doswell
Karen Foran-Dempsey
June Hailer
April Holley
Denise Jackson
Keith Jones
Betty King
Hang Lee
Warren Magee
Veronica McSherry
Kathy Mooney
David Mortimer
Mark Murphy
Michelle Scaramozza
Patricia Sheely
Antonia Torres
Tony Williams
Sabrina Yao

MRC Staff:
Patricia Bushee
John Chappell
Robert Donahue
Emeka Nwokeji
Lisa Weber

The conference planning started on March 24, 2005. The meeting was held at the Town Hall in Milford. The conference planning meeting was co-chaired by Ms. Pat Sheely and Ms. June Hailer. Their leadership led to the identification of the conference theme, which was "MRC Celebrating 25 Years of Consumer Involvement," with the following elements:
• Independent Living
• Employment
• Advocacy
• Assistive Technology
The Planning Committee recognized this year's conference as the "Silver Jubilee" year of the Consumer Involvement Program at the MRC and planned diligently to celebrate it. Therefore, a banquet committee was created and chaired by Mr. Mark Murphy of UPS, a member of our Employer Task Force.

At the second conference planning meeting which took place on May 10, 2005, the Planning Committee voted favorably to hold the 2 day annual conference at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy.

Upon reflecting back on several of the very early planning meetings for the Conference, we noted many of the important elements to the Conference's success were dependent on extensive outreach by Consumer Involvement Program staff, Individual Consumer Consultants (ICC's), and MRC staff. They worked together to help identify and invite new consumers, friends, providers, presenters, and MRC staff. It is with this effort that such an achievement was realized for the 2005 Conference.

People registered
for the conference 294
Boston 132
Central 28
Metrowest 13
Northeast 38
Southeast 39
Western 44

Consumers 172
Staff 74
Service Providers 35
Other 13

Requests for transportation 64
Requests for PCA 22
Requests for language interpreters 6
Requests for CART reporters 7
Requests for large print materials 14
Requests for quiet space 16

Past experience has allowed us a window from which to view the way conferences have been set up in the past and how they have begun to change. The changes are mostly due to the reflections of MRC consumers as reported on evaluation forms. The MRC staff has responded and has been able to gain insight into the consumers' points of view and the consumers' voices.

In December 2005, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission held its Annual Consumer Conference in Quincy, with the purpose of providing information and various workshops to its consumers, their families, and other professionals. Interested participants attended workshops on topics ranging from starting a home-based business to assistive technology. The two-day format of the conference allowed for social networking in the evening after the formal activities were finished. The Planning Committee also decided to have two different formats for each of the two days. On day one, there were activity-based workshops known as Strands. Day two consisted of more formal workshops, spread over two sessions.

At the end of each workshop, participants were given surveys. These evaluation tools were used to measure the satisfaction of the participants in different categories ranging from the usefulness of the workshops given, to the general facilities of the Quincy Marriott. The Conference and the evaluations of the workshops are beginning to allow the consumers an opportunity to tell their stories and express their particular points of view and experiences.

We hope there will be, in future analyses of these conferences, a way of giving conference attendees a workshop, or several workshops, that enable the consumer instruction and a block of time to write about their personal stories. We want to know how they feel about their experience in entering the MRC and moving through the organization to the goal of successfully gaining employment. We think this would be very helpful to consumers, MRC counselors, and staff alike, in thinking and re-thinking a means to successfully streamline each individual consumer's participation in the process of re-entering the world of employment and/or participating in full or part-time work.

It is clear from the responses to the evaluations that many attendees found the Conference to be informative and helpful and want to see more happen with an even greater range of workshops. It also seems apparent there is a less tangible but important benefit to these annual conferences. The conferences create a supportive, collegial atmosphere that some respondents described as "warm," "friendly," "uplifting," and "fun." And one respondent commented that the Conference was "another step towards treating people with disabilities as peers and equals, not clients or patients."

Repeating virtually all the workshops at the 2006 Consumer Conference is recommended largely because of the pertinent and informative content used by presenters. Consumers and other attendees and newly interested prospective consumers and attendees, who did not attend but heard favorable comments via networking, will get the opportunity to further their knowledge base by meeting folks who can improve their life situations, which will bode well as they use new information to become empowered self-advocates.

The two-day annual event definitely is more relaxing and congenial as opposed to the more hurried and harried atmosphere of a one-day conference. Bravo to the planners, presenters, facility and their staff for the festive, fun, and incredibly successful 2005 Consumer Conference!

Mitt Romney, Governor
Kerry Healey, Lieutenant Governor
Timothy R. Murphy, Secretary, EOHHS
Elmer C. Bartels, Commissioner

For more information, contact
Emeka Nwokeji
State Rehabilitation Council
27 Wormwood Street, Suite 600
Boston, MA 02210-1616
Tel: (617) 204-3624
Fax: (617) 727-1354
Emeka.Nwokeji@mrc.state.ma.us



This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.