State Rehabilitation Council-2006 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
William Doherty

Secretary
Warren Magee

Members at Large
Patricia Sheely
Francis Barresi

Statutory Members

Francis Barresi - Disability Advocate
Warren Magee, Jr. - Disability Advocate
Lusa Lo - Secondary/Higher Education-Disability Services
Sandra Houghton - MDD Council Representative
Mary Margaret Moore - SILC Representative
John Beach, M. Ed. - Business/LD Advocate
Antonia J. Torres - Disability Advocate
William Doherty - Provider/Substance Abuse
Toby Fisher - Mental Health Advocate
William McCarriston - Provider/Parent Advocate
Karin Williams - Deaf Advocate
Patricia Sheely - Disability Advocate
Owen Doonan - Disability Advocate
Serena Powell - Employer/Provider
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

Kevin Goodwin, Wayland
Anne Guterman, W. Newton
Inta Hall, Hingham
Keith Jones, Somerville
Jenna Knight, Worcester
Hang Lee, Milton
Lisa Matrundola, DOL/WIB Representative
Ann Marie Paulson, Lakeville
Ventura Pereira, N. Dartmouth
Carol Perlino, Lynn
Katherine Piccard, Charlestown
Doris Richardson, Mattapan
Angelica Sawyer, Cambridge
Barry Sumner, Onset
Hartmut Teuber, Arlington
Francis Verville, Fall River
Dwight Woodworth, Worcester

Chairperson's Message
William McCarriston, Jr.,
MRC State Rehabilitation Council

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

An important responsibility of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) is to be the lead advocacy voice for people with disabilities who want to go to work. This year our State Rehabilitation Council has continued to perform its duties and responsibilities with the purpose of being heard loud and clear.

We did that:

  • by building partnerships with the State Independent Living Council (SILC) and nearly 25 other disability-concerned organizations
  • by giving testimony in Congress and in our State House
  • by including the general public at hearings on the VR State Plan and meeting in our different regional communities
  • by creating a strategic plan that incorporates concerns of those we serve
  • by celebrating the MRC's 50th anniversary
  • by holding an annual Consumer Conference, and most importantly
  • by giving a voice and presence of the people served to the administration of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

When the SRC sees people with disabilities going unserved, the need for funding increases becomes a gnawing problem, a specter shackling all we hope to accomplish for people who seek to go to work in Massachusetts. With recent studies completed by competent third parties for the Commission, the economic nature of our program with its concomitant return on investment makes one wonder why resources for this program should be in so short supply.

At a time when, on a statewide and national level, employers are being recruited to employ people with disabilities in increasing numbers, one must ask," Is cutting back on the resources that lead to creating economic self-sufficiency a good public policy?"

Despite having to tighten the demographics on those who might be eligible for services and despite extending our waiting list because of curtailment of funding, numbers of persons entering employment and remaining there continued to increase significantly over the past two years. Our accomplishments with inadequate monies for VR services exceeded the expectation of the Congress' Appropriation Committee. Our SRC has sent a strong message to our Congressional delegation, and we received promises of support.

Our able VR Administration leader of 30 years, Commissioner Elmer C. Bartels, continues to write in our regional newspapers about the importance and validity of hiring persons with disabilities in all sectors of work. One of his newspaper articles is reprinted in the back of this report.

Therefore, I am pleased to report the accomplishments of the SRC standing committees, the outstanding work of our issue orientated task forces, and most importantly, the regional staff relationships with our Regional Consumer Advisory Councils and Area Consumer Advisory Councils.

I also write to acknowledge my deepest gratitude to the SRC Statutory members and Ex-officio members who have directed my leadership for the past 6 years. As I must leave the SRC and its chairmanship, I know the Council will continue to focus its energy on accomplishing its goals through our strategic planning process.

Please be sure to listen carefully to all the voices raised by those we are sworn to serve, and as you do this, I know your work will continue to benefit all who seek services.

It has been an honor to chair the SRC with a rich commitment and enhanced dedication to public service.

Sincerely,

William T. McCarriston, Jr., Chairperson

SRC Strategic Planning Committee Outcomes

Members:
Andrea Bader
Francis Barresi
Owen Doonan
Suzanne Doswell
Mr. Toby Fisher
Kevin Goodwin
Inta Hall
Brooke Heraty
Betty J. King
Jenna Knight
Hang Lee
Lusa Lo
Barbara Lybarger
Warren Magee
Lisa Matrundola
Mary Margaret Moore
Carol Perlino
Katherine Piccard
Serena Powell
Patricia Sheely
Barry Sumner
Charles Vernon
Francis Verville
Dwight Woodworth

MRC Staff:
Elmer C. Bartels
John Chappell
Emeka Nwokeji

At the October 19, 2006 SRC Strategic Planning meeting, Mr. McCarriston, SRC Chair, in his brief remarks, informed the SRC members that the MRC Consumer Involvement program is unique when compared to the functions of other SRC's in the nation.

In addition, he presented a report outlining the three primary domains of the SRC Strategic Plan. He advised the Council to consider, for each domain, the SRC objectives for the year. In prioritizing the objectives under each domain, the members were asked to be mindful of how the MRC's resources will be needed to support the year's prioritized objectives.

Through the consensus-building process, the Council voted favorably to prioritize:

DOMAIN #1

Priority 1 - The SRC will create a visible presence at both the State House and on Capitol Hill with a legislative agenda.

Priority 2 - The SRC will strengthen and promote MRC inter-agency relationships through multi-agency collaborations.

Priority 3 - The SRC will establish a public relations committee which will include the agency's marketing program to work on the role and functional activities of the SRC.


DOMAIN #2

Priority 1 - The SRC will work to strengthen its relationship with mandated representatives in accordance with the Rehabilitation Act, Section 105, including, but not limited to, the Department of Education and Special Education, state agencies such as the Department of Mental Retardation (DMR), Department of Mental Health (DMH), Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB), Department of Public Health (DPH), Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (MCDHH) and Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council (MDDC).

Priority 2 - The SRC should have a presence at State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB) meetings including extending invitations to the SWIB to participate in SRC meetings.

Priority 3 - Also, will ensure that Regional/Area Consumer Advisory Councils become members in the Regional Workforce Investment Board.

DOMAIN #3

Priority 1 - The SRC will create upper mobility in career and professional jobs, including, but not limited to, continuing to promote home-based and self-employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

Priority 2 - The SRC will assess Career Center services and training programs through the Career Center navigators.

Priority 3 - The SRC will enhance consumer involvement and the SRC's working relationship with people who have multiple disabilities.


SRC-Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee

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

MRC Staff:
Mary Esther Rohman
Andrea Tull
William Noone
Charlene Coombs

Mission :
In accordance with federal regulations, the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) has been mandated to conduct annual surveys of consumer satisfaction since 1995. In Massachusetts, this is a consumer-led, cooperative effort between the MRC staff and consumers on the SRC Committee for Consumer Satisfaction.

Over the past eight years, this collaboration has led to the creation and distribution of a survey methodology and questionnaire, followed by a careful analysis of the results and production of a final report. Some consumer members' duties were compensated through the MRC Consumer Involvement Program's Individual Consumer Consultant (ICC) budget.

In FY 2006, there were 1,129 responses to the Consumer Satisfaction Survey (CSS) for a response rate of 22.3%. The 22.3% response rate is good for a mailed questionnaire without follow-up or incentives. It is a few points lower than the response rate for last year (25%).

There are fewer people reporting psychiatric and substance abuse disabilities, and proportionally more learning, orthopedic, medical and hearing disabilities coded in the 2006 CSS than in the MRC population as a whole. This may be because consumers make their own estimation of their primary disability type in the CSS, while VR counselors code the disability type in the MRC VR database. This difference has been noted in other studies and has implications for research using disability type as a variable of import.

About one-quarter of the respondents in 2006 had their cases closed unsuccessfully (status 28). Unsuccessful closures tend to be dissatisfied since they leave the MRC before they achieve their goals; 86.3% of the successfully closed respondents were satisfied with the MRC vs. 62.1% of those from unsuccessful cases.

Excellence in the quality of services best describes what respondents think of overall consumer satisfaction.

The overall satisfaction variable along with the variable regarding recommendation of MRC services to others are combined to create an index for quality improvement. During the last year, each Area Office used this index regularly as a measure of program performance.

Over 80% of successful respondents (status 26) agreed that the MRC met their expectations. However, when the MRC did not meet a respondent's expectations, it sometimes had to do with a lack of up-to-date information on the impact of certain disabilities on the job search and employment. Specific mentions were dyslexia, depression and brain injury.

Counselors still received the highest satisfaction scores. They are the crux of the MRC VR program. Compliments revolved around kindness, skill, excellence, dedication and helpfulness; 91.5% of successful and 73.6% of unsuccessful consumers were satisfied with the respect (87%) and understanding (83.1%) of their VR counselors.

Services were, as always, seen as effective and positive, but sometimes tinged by a feeling that opportunities were limited by financial constraints of the agency, leading to delays in funding and/or receipt of services.

This year, the MRC received higher scores on consumer empowerment. In 2006, 73.6% of the respondents (80% of the successfully closed respondents) were satisfied with what they learned about advocating for themselves- higher than last year's total score of 71.2% and higher than the 2004 score of 66.9%.

Two-thirds of all respondents and 82.8% of successfully closed respondents were working at the time of the survey. Those who were not working were most likely to be looking for a job, being homemakers, volunteering or neither working nor looking for a job.

Respondents who dropped out of the VR program before achieving their goals (status 28) and subsequently found work were far less satisfied with every aspect of their jobs -pay, hours, co-workers, opportunity for advancement, type of work, etc. - when compared to successful closures (status 26). This finding speaks for itself regarding the employment benefits of the MRC Vocational Rehabilitation program.

The Committee met twice at the MRC administrative offices in Boston.

SRC-Joint Committee on the State Plan and Interagency Relations

Members:
Patricia Sheely, Chair
William Doherty
Brooke Heraty
Sandra Houghton
Denise Jackson
Lisa Matrundola
Melody Whitman
Warren Magee
Kevin Goodwin

MRC Staff:
Teresa Walsh
Emeka Nwokeji

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

The Rehabilitation Act and its mandates require the development of the State Vocational Rehabilitation Plan and a VR needs assessment to outline how the state will comply with and implement the provisions of the law.

The SRC, in partnership with the MRC, held two public hearings to consider the proposed State Plan amendments.

The joint committee revisited the 2005 public hearing recommendations and requested from the agency updated responses as follows:

Recommendation 1:
Maximize the use of one-stop service providers and Career Centers.

Commission Response to Recommendation 1:
The Code of Federal Regulations, relative to the Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program, requires that the Commission participate in the one-stop system by carrying out certain functions consistent with the Rehabilitation Act, the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), and applicable regulations. Additionally, the WIA implementation regulations state "…the resources of each partner may only be used to provide services that are authorized and provided under the partner's program to individuals who are eligible under such program."

The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) has found the Commission to be well positioned in the WIA environment. The most recent Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) annual review, relative to Commission VR participation in the WIA and the impact on eligible individuals with disabilities, complimented the Commission for maintaining WIA efforts, especially under changing financial and service delivery conditions. The RSA noted required changes and recommended improvements that will assist the Commission in continuing to provide efficient and effective VR services to persons with disabilities seeking the high-quality employment opportunities intended by the Rehabilitation Act. Specifically, the RSA noted:

1) The Commission's VR Program has a presence at the Massachusetts Career Centers. One area office, the Cape and Islands office located in Hyannis, is currently co-located in a Career Center. Statewide, each Area Director has a formal relationship with at least one Career Center and many Area Directors are on local workforce investment boards. Commission VR counseling staff make frequent visits and often conduct interviews at local Career Centers.

2) The Commissioner continues to serve on the State Workforce Investment Board (SWIB), receiving and providing useful program information at Board meetings. The Commission does not financially support the operating costs of the Board.

3) The Commission has not yet entered into cooperative agreements at the State level with other components of the statewide workforce investment system due to differences in data collection, reporting systems and performance information. Many local workforce investment boards, however, have developed and implemented memoranda of understanding with the Commission.

4) The Career Centers, established under WIA are, for the most part, fully accessible to persons with disabilities. The RSA recommends the Commission work with the Department of Workforce Development's Division of Career Services (DCS) and others to continue to address needed accessibility measures at Career Centers as they arise, including computer adaptability, reception experiences and other areas. One Career Center in New Bedford, in consultation with the Commission's New Bedford Area Office, remedied its accessibility problems by creating more HP parking and installing an electric door opener. The center and the area office are continuing to meet to discuss how they can work better as a team with and for individuals with disabilities.

Overall, while improvement is noted there remains a need for better service coordination in order to provide more effective services. As of February 2007, DCS had 18 Disability Program Navigators currently working in the Career Centers. These individuals, trained by the Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration through a contract with the Institute for Community Inclusion, work with individuals with disabilities and the Commission to ensure more comprehensive services. Massachusetts was the first in the country to implement the Disability Program Navigator Initiative, designed to strengthen connections between disability agencies like the Commission and the Career Centers.

There is a continued need for job seeking skills training through both the Career Centers and through the Commission. The Commission job placement specialists and other assigned Commission staff are members of the DCS Disability Action Team that is working together to make the Career Centers more responsive to the needs of individuals with disabilities, including the need for assistance in preparing for job interviews.

The Commission recognizes that job seeking skills and follow- along services can be critical to successful attainment and maintenance of an employment outcome so the VR program will continue to strive to maintain its job seeking skills training and post-placement services.

The Commission has job placement specialists available in most of the Commission's area offices who have established relationships with the Career Centers. These specialists conduct job searches, job networking and interview skills workshops for VR consumers, in addition to working with consumers on a one-to-one basis in both setting up and preparing consumers for employment interviews.

The Commission will continue to review relationships with Career Centers, identify problem areas, and modify strategies in order to use Career Center services more effectively.

Recommendation 2:
The Commission should continue to conduct public education regarding how to maintain Social Security Administration (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income and medical benefits while trying out full or part time trial work.

Commission Response to Recommendation 2:

The Commission has a three (3) year grant from SSA to do SSI/DI benefits counseling in some parts of the state (The Resource Partnership has a grant for the remainder). This new award continues the activities which began during the first of two five year grants awarded to the Commission from the Social Security Administration (SSA). These grants were designed to assist consumers to explore and utilize work incentives such as Plans for Achieving Self-Support (PASS) and Impairment Related Work Expenses (IRWE). Information regarding SSA's programs and work incentives is provided via the "benefits counseling" process. Benefits specialists from the Commission and Resource Partnership visit the Career Centers on a regularly scheduled basis to meet with interested consumers. Commission benefits specialists have written more than 4,000 benefit plans since November 2000. This past year, 1,743 new consumers have received benefits counseling services through the Commission's program, with 799 of them receiving individualized benefits plans.

The Commission has been rated "number one in the country" by the Social Security Administration for the number of benefit plans written. Data is collected by the Commission, evaluated and the project design is modified as needed to enhance the benefits planning service. The Commission receives an annual statistical report.

For the last two years, the SRC Annual Consumer Conference has held workshops for Commission staff and consumers about Social Security Administration programs, work incentives and benefits counseling.

These workshops, presented by staff and consumers, have proven both helpful and popular with conference attendees interested in returning to work.

Recommendation 3:
The Commission needs to address the issue of self-employment, as the growth of technology makes it imperative that the Commission explore entrepreneurial potential.

Commission Response to Recommendation 3:
An informational memorandum, entitled "Self-Employment Guidelines," was distributed to Commission staff on August 9, 2004. This memorandum, part of the Commission policy manual, provides guidance on procedures and requirements, Individualized Plan for Employment (IPE) development and the scope of necessary services.

In 2006, the Commission reported on two existing contracts available to counselors and consumers to assist in the exploration and attainment of self-employment outcomes. These contracts with the National Telecommuting Institute (NTI) and Jewish Vocational Services have been renewed, and outreach to VR area managers, supervisors and counselors concerning access to these services, has been completed.

Also in 2006, the Commission stated it hoped to open the process of providing appropriate contract services to additional vendors in the area of self-employment. One additional resource is now operational. A private vendor, Co-Operative Productions, has been added to the list of qualified providers. Their services have already been engaged to assist consumers with self-employment vocational goals. Also, the benefit specialists of Project IMPACT are available to consult with VR consumers (program/service area restrictions may apply) who have interest in self-employment and benefit concerns.

The Commission's Plymouth Area Office has identified a most useful resource for its consumers - self-employment exploration and education courses offered through a local community adult education program. Mentor-One, a long time provider of home-based and self-employment consultation to the agency, provides these classes in a community-based setting that has proven popular with consumers.

A new contract was entered into in FY 2007 with Commonwealth Corporation. The scope of service on this agreement is to design a new self-employment tool for counselors available on disc and/or shared drive to access training and resources to more effectively assist consumers. Consumer input and initial surveys of counselors have already been obtained.

The Martha's Vineyard Self-Employment Demonstration Project continues to progress in its work with underserved members of the Native American population in a unique rural environment of the Commonwealth. The Commission has supported this project in various innovative ways.

The Annual Consumer Conference in December 2006 had a workshop on self-employment that was heavily attended and offered a variety of resources to all participants. The Commission is fully engaged with the State Rehabilitation Council Task Force on Self-Employment and Home-Based Employment with multiple liaisons to its meetings and active participation in all projects. The Task Force has recently concluded work on a new Consumer Handbook on self-employment and distribution is expected in FY 2008.


Recommendation 4:
The Commission should enhance its agenda on outreach to un-served, underserved and multicultural populations.

Commission Response to Recommendation 4:
Well attended workshops on outreach to diverse populations have been conducted at the last two annual Consumer Conferences. These workshops included both consumers and Commission staff and offered strategies on how best to conduct area and district office outreach efforts.

In the 2004 Consumer Satisfaction Survey, one recommendation was that counselors need to improve their skills to better address the unique needs of ethnic and racial minorities and immigrant groups in Massachusetts. Generally, it is anticipated that Massachusetts will continue to see an influx in the Hispanic, Asian and Russian communities with a growth rate of 28% in the Hispanic community, 22% in the Cambodian community and 6% in the Russian community by 2005. Outreach to those communities was seen as a crucial need. One important factor was the need to focus on more direct job placement efforts. Toward that goal, the Commission's Training Unit received a RSA In-Service Training Grant to conduct intensive diversity training focusing on job placement for minorities. The grant was awarded to the Commission in October 2005.

The training was conducted in 2006 by MRC staff, consultants and faculty from the Region 1 Rehabilitation Continuing Education Program for in-house workshops including: Train-the Trainer, Job Placement, Development and Marketing Skills, O*NET (database of information regarding more than 950 occupations) and Labor Market Information, Employment and the Law: ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Related Legislation, including State Legislation and Reasonable Accommodation in the Workplace.

In addition, MRC staff participated in three training sessions with an emphasis on: Counseling Strategies for Individuals with Multicultural Backgrounds, strategies for dealing with Substance Abuse, and Personality Disorders, for a total of seven days in the summer of 2006.

The Commission also has a grant to conduct outreach to brain injured consumers from multicultural backgrounds. The Bilingual/Bicultural Counselor Group continues to expand its membership and meet on a regular basis to discuss and share resources.

Recommendation 5:
The Commission needs to address concerns relative to the transportation and work-related expenses of consumers who have attained employment. Central to this recommendation is that the Commission ensure vocational rehabilitation counselors and consumers work together to explore and continue to 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; and
c) Each consumer is advised regarding how the Commission provides transportation support to them in order to acquire education, training and going to work.

Commission Response to Recommendation 5:
The primary responsibility of vocational rehabilitation counselors is to assist eligible individuals with disabilities to attain and maintain appropriate employment outcomes. The Commission recognizes that assisting individuals to identify and solve problems of employment, associated transportation expenses and work related expenses, is often critical to success in employment. To that end, the Commission established a transportation program to assist Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors in addressing transportation and work-related expense concerns of consumers who have attained employment. In April 2004, the MRC began a pilot project with Good News Garage (GNG) to provide options to consumers whose transportation issues were barriers to their success. GNG receives donated vehicles and either sells them at auction to support the program or has the car inspected and repaired so it can be given to someone in need. Cars receive a 72 point inspection and, on average, get about $1,000 worth of repairs with a goal for a consumer to receive a car that will pass the state inspection and be repair-free for a year to 18 months. On May 1, 2005, the Commission implemented the Donated Vehicle Program as an alternative solution to help connect people with disabilities to work. The MRC, in cooperation with the Good News Garage Donated Vehicle Program, provided no-cost, refurbished, donated vehicles to job ready consumers who otherwise could not afford the cost of purchasing their own. VR consumers who lived and worked where there was little or no public transit, and had no other reliable transportation, were referred to the program by their VR Counselor. Good News Garage supplied a limited number of vehicles to eligible consumers. In FY06 and FY07, 82 vehicles were given to VR consumers. This program is scheduled to end in September 2007 due to financial constraints.

Commission Transportation Options Specialists function as resources to VR counselors, placement staff and consumers. The transportation options specialists provide information and advice on available community resources and work directly with consumers using a person-centered transportation planning process to assist in identifying public/private transportation resources, such as regional transit authorities, and provide travel training in the use of public transit. In FY08, although the Transportation Option Specialists will no longer be available in the VR area offices, transportation resource manuals are available electronically and a hard copy is in each area office and on the agency website. The Commission has applied for a three-year grant from the Department of Education to continue to conduct travel training.

The SRC Transportation Task Force continues to meet to explore transportation options for consumers and to make recommendations to the SRC and the Commission on transportation issues.

The Joint Committee met three times in different locations and regions.

SRC-Unserved/Underserved Population Committee

Members:
Betty J. King, Chair
Eileen Brewster
Larry Espling
James Hanna
Denise Jackson
Keith Jones
Hang Lee
Warren Magee
Cheryl Ravalli
Antonia Torres
Joslaine Vital
MacArthur Williams
Tony Williams
Sabrina Yao

MRC Staff:
Bill Noone
Mary Esther Rohman
Emeka Nwokeji

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 or economic status.

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

Goals & Accomplishments:
The Committee reported that the survey instrument was edited and mailed out on March 1, 2006 to more than 1,800 randomly selected MRC consumers.

The name of the survey instrument was changed to "Consumer Quality Survey." The agency changed the name in order to make the survey more reflective of what the SRC Unserved/Underserved Population Committee is trying to achieve.

Furthermore, the edited survey did not change the substance of the Committee's goal, which was to gather usable information about how the agency has continued to provide critical vocational rehabilitation services in order to meet consumer needs.

On September 20, 2006 the Committee voted to review the individual responses of the Quality Services Survey.

One committee member felt that the MRC works well for those who have physical and/or severe mental disorder(s). She recommended enhanced training for MRC VR Counselors in areas related to consumers with higher levels of functioning, including how to stay in touch, and strongly advocate for consumers. In addition, she suggested the Commission establish support groups for those consumers who are having difficulties in the workplace.

It was observed that transportation, funding and understanding public benefits and work incentives were attributes that affected the survey responses.


COMMENTS:

The Committee Chair summed up her observations as follows:

1. Salem office - MRC's VRS Program could serve more consumers by hiring more VR Counselors. This will lower the high caseloads of each counselor.
2. Salem office- Some consumers felt that, because they did not receive the services they requested, they would not recommend anyone to the MRC.
3. Area office unknown - There is a pattern that the consumers did not understand the wording of the survey questions. Their answers did not match the questions.
4. Somerville office - Consumers expressed transportation was a big problem for obtaining and keeping a job.
5. Malden office - Some consumers found their job by themselves. They felt they had issues with their counselors.
6. Brookline office - There was a consumer who was told that, because he/she had a Bachelor Degree, he/she did not need any additional schooling.
7. Brookline office - This consumer did not receive services because of a lack of funding for services.
8. Springfield office - Consumers did not understand the survey questions.
9. Springfield office - Consumer needed transportation to get around and he needed help like PCA services, but not given, nor explained.
10. Pittsfield office - Consumer was not happy with the way he/she was treated.

In the spring of 2006, a 6-page questionnaire was mailed to 2,440 present and former consumers of VR services (status 10-eligibility, 12-IPE/Counseling and Guidance, 26-closed rehabilitated, 28-and 30-closed, not rehabilitated). After a period of about four weeks, only 208 useable responses were returned from consumers with both open and closed cases.

Some demographic observations included, but were not limited to ethnicity, age, disability and primary and secondary disability status.

The Committee recommended that a correlation be made regarding "how consumers were greeted at the office visit," and "the effects and relationship of language, education, …, etc. to the quality of services provided by the MRC and/or its vendors."

The Committee tabled its deliberations on an in-depth analysis until the next meeting. The Committee will review an executive summary and recommendations at that time.

The Chair expressed that a few members of the Committee examined the returned surveys and believed that they needed to be organized by area offices. The response rate, unfortunately, did not allow for such a detailed analysis.

Furthermore, the preliminary findings indicate that each VR office practices the delivery of services a little bit differently. Also, the answers frequently did not match the questions intended to be asked. In agreement, some consumers apparently did not understand the questions as stated.

Because the Committee discussed the pros and cons of holding focus groups versus a mailed survey, Ms. King advised the Committee to study and compare the survey instrument originally prepared by the Committee to that modified by MRC staff.

In conclusion, the Committee agreed that the Quality Analysis Survey met some part of the Committee's intent, but the Committee will hold back from making any final recommendations. The Committee will finish reviewing the survey responses returned so far and meet again.

SRC-LD/ADHD Task Force

Members:
Angelica Sawyer, Chair
Jenna Knight, Co-Chair
Anthony Gray
Charlene Neu
Joseph Panciotti
Cheryl Ravalli
Doris Richardson

MRC Staff:
James Fratolillo
Mark Cowell

Mission:
To promote the self-advocacy of persons with LD/ADHD. Further, to enhance their opportunities for community inclusion, appropriate employment, independent living, economic self sufficiency and the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Goals:
To continue to improve the Task Force's effectiveness and visibility
To identify the needs of consumers with LD/ADHD and the services that exist to meet those needs
To increase the promotion of programs that provide services to consumers with LD/ADHD

Accomplishments:
Website Review and Redesign
This project's initiatives in the past year include taking inventory of the existing web links on the Additional Resources section of the LD Webpage. A list of the duplicate websites was made and it was determined which LD/ADHD web links would need further research. Through this procedure we noted that many titles no longer met the needs of users and subsequently came up with alternative headings. The Project Chair also met with the MRC advisor, Jim Fratolillo, and the MRC Webmaster, Alison Scher, ultimately deciding that if a user wanted to provide feedback, it would be easier for them to contact us through our E-mail address rather than use a form provided in advance.

Support Group for Adults with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder
The Task Force was funded by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission for a second year. The funding provided an administrator and a group leader and speakers on issues concerning what it means to have these hidden disabilities. Support group participants exchanged information on helpful accommodations and gained comfort from each other on ways in which each had met various challenges in the workplace. The Task Force hopes that this unique support group will be funded in the coming fiscal year and seeks expansion of its services.

Consumer Conference Participation
The Task Force is constantly looking for new and better ways to serve consumers with LD/ADHD. At the 2006 Annual Consumer Conference, the Task Force members stocked an exhibit table with a large number of articles focusing on success in meeting the challenges of job selection and retention for adults with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder.

Task Force By-Law Creation
The LD/ADHD Task Force established the By-laws Subcommittee at its regular monthly meeting in July 2005 and charged the Subcommittee with the development of a well-structured set of By-laws. These By-laws, completed in 2006, are a product of many hours of hard work and deliberations with input from numerous members of the Task Force.

Projects 2007:
Outreach
It is imperative the LD/ADHD Task Force educate the community on the needs of adults with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder in an assertive and effective way. Our outreach work plan for this year will focus on collaborating with Independent Living Centers to help them enhance their services for adults with LDIADHD, and to collaborate and participate in SILC meetings and activities.

We also see the need for our members to meet with Massachusetts state legislators regarding the existence of inadequate services for adults with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Disorder in the areas of employment, healthcare, and judicial systems.

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

MRC Staff:
Ted Mello
Gary Hale
James Fratolillo
Mark Cowell
Larry Espling

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:
In conjunction with the MRC Statewide Employment Services Department, the MRC Training Department and Commonwealth Corporation, staff and members have been involved in the development of an electronic resource manual and training program that will better equip VR Counselors to effectively develop individual plans of employment (IPE) and guide consumers who are interested in exploring self-employment as a job outcome. This initiative may be beneficial to counselors to broaden their understanding of the unique vocational needs of self employed as well as home-based persons with disabilities.

Task Force members continue to explore the current allowable level of funding and the waiver process in order to provide adequate funding to establish individual business ventures. Some of the members suggested that consumers who require a vehicle to operate their business should be considered for an exemption from MRC's "no vehicle purchase" policy.

The Task Force plans to advocate for the establishment of specialized job development services to address the unique requirements of home-based employment, making consumers more aware of the resources of ongoing extended employment supports in order to increase the level of successful outcomes. Seeking the cooperation of state and federal agencies in developing programs that include and give preferential treatment to home-based workers with disabilities is an option to help these consumers to be at least in parity with the preferences provided to other disadvantaged populations.

The Task Force also seeks to establish and nurture consumer support groups comprised of people who have had successful home-based and self-employment outcomes. Such a group could be modeled on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce program and function as a stand alone "disability chamber of commerce" type organization focused on supporting and benefiting the needs and aspirations of our disability community.

Year's Goals & Accomplishments:
Completed a segment on Home-Based and Self-Employment for the newly published Consumer Handbook.

Developed a home-based and self-employment informational resource manual for consumers. The focus was to produce sufficient information to assist consumers in making an informed choice regarding home-based and self-employment as a vocational outcome.
Supported the development of a MRC Home-Based and Self- Employment resource manual and training program for VR counselors.

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

SRC-Transportation Task Force

Members:
Kevin Goodwin, Chair
Denise Jackson
Betty J. King
Warren Magee
Katherine Piccard

MRC Staff:
Roger Thomas
Tony Nosike

Mission:
The Task Force will advocate, educate and empower people with disabilities and the general public regarding transportation options and issues.
Goals:
Identify transportation barriers as related to MRC consumers and employment.

Study why there is a lack of transportation.

Study the state transportation systems budget which is distributed in accordance with a predetermined formula.

Outcomes:

This year the Task Force held a public hearing in Hyannis. The outcome of the public hearing was to:

Recommend the Hyannis Transportation Authority establish a Consumer Advisory Council such as the GARTA Advisory Council.

The Task Force will plan to conduct a 90-minute workshop at the 2006 Annual Consumer Conference.

The Task Force will review a proposal presented to the SRC by Mr. Owen Doonan, in an effort to form an unconventional transportation service in unserved and underserved areas of the state.

The Task Force recommended the SRC take the initiative to be involved and seek legitimate partnership or dialogue to gain subsidies for consumers with reference to the Un-traditional Transportation Business Proposal.

The Task Force must have an advocacy presence in order to provide feedback regarding the distribution of transportation funds. The outcome of such plans last six years. The Metropolitan Planning Authority determines the plans for the MBTA.

Transportation was overwhelmingly identified as the single biggest obstacle to employment.

Meetings:
The Committee met five times during the year. Meetings were held at various locations across the state.


SRC-Artists with Disabilities Task Force

Members:
Veronica McSherry, Chair
Maryan Amaral
Lisa Corfman
Jennifer Eggers
Carol Freitas
Andrea Jacobs
Keith Jones
Raine Newman
Mei Lin Po
Gregory Rogers
Mary T. Rogers
Joseph Russo
Cynthia Segal
Janice Weiner


Overview:
The Artists with Disabilities Task Force is a group of people from diverse disciplines working toward 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 continuing to produce its annual calendar. It is searching for artists statewide to submit their work for consideration.
The Task Force has begun hosting "Open Studios" events to market the work of its members and to increase outreach.

Accomplishments:
The 2007 Calendar was created, printed and distributed to MRC stakeholders and affiliates. At the time of this report, one contributing artist has sold her work as a direct result of the marketing efforts from the calendar.

The Task Force is increasing marketing and outreach efforts to promote its Open Studio events which are currently held twice a year in Cambridge. Efforts are underway to plan future events in the various statewide regions.

The Task Force meets approximately five times a year in various locations throughout the state.


SRC-Handbook Task Force

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

MRC Staff:
Robert Donahue
Leslie Wish

Mission:
To update and enhance the present MRC Consumer Handbook, which was first completed in 1995.

Projects:
The Task Force's projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Revising and redesigning the current Consumer Handbook to include
  • Information on all MRC services:
  • Vocational Rehabilitation services,
  • Community Services
  • Disability Determination Services.

This year, the Task Force finished rewriting the Handbook and had it translated into Spanish. The two versions of the Handbook have been distributed to all MRC offices and Independent Living Centers.

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

The Task Force recommended the cover be printed in color and spiral bound.

The Task Force members suggested the Handbook be translated into other languages to meet present consumer demographics as budget constraints allow.

Meetings:
The Task Force met twice during 2006. Meetings were held at MRC's administration offices in Boston.

SRC-Taunton Area Advisory Council

Members:
Ann Marie Paulson and William Parks, (Co-Chairpersons)
David Murphy
Judy Griffin
Frank Verville
Ron Wainrib
Kathleen Simpson
Theodore (Ted) Silva
Audrey Butterworth
Nathan Carr
Vicky Carr
Renee Desper
Richard Colantonio
Tracy Tavers
Debra Murphy
Thomas Linnehan

MRC Staff:
Marcel Dube,
Area Director


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.

Accomplishments:

The TAC was instrumental in planning and organizing the Taunton MRC's Open House to honor the agency's 50th Anniversary. This event took place in October with approximately 75 people attending. The theme of the event was to honor present and former MRC Taunton employees for their work with MRC consumers. Commissioner Bartels was the primary speaker and many members of the TAC were in attendance.

At their annual awards breakfast, the Taunton Area Committee on Disability Awareness also publicly honored the MRC for its 50 years of serving individuals with disabilities in November 2006.

TAC members were also made aware of ongoing progress in helping the local Career Center serve individuals with disabilities. The Taunton Area Director continues to serve as the Chairperson for the local WIB's Disability Action Committee.

In April 2006, the MRC Director of Protective Services, Sabrina Cazeau-Class, was the guest presenter for the spring quarterly meeting. Sabrina provided TAC members an overview of the Protective Services law and policies.

The membership was made aware of all legislation (national & state) impacting the delivery of VR services. The need to serve as advocates of the VR Program was addressed and methods of advocacy were reviewed.

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 member served as co-chair of the conference planning committee. Another associate served on the SRC Budget Committee and one member also serves as a SRC Self-Employment Task Force participant.

George Brocke, MRC South District Director, provided the members with a listing of all consumer-related activities in place within the district at our summer quarterly meeting.

During our meeting, members were made aware of the new Medicare Part D policies. Kim Thacker, MRC Benefits Specialist, provided an overview of this new program.

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

SRC-MetroWest Consumer Council

Members:
Kevin Goodwin, Chair
Nan Kurtz
Gloria Lanspery*
Patricia Laughlin
Patricia Prell*
Dennis Polselli
Nancy Sullivan

MRC Staff:
Janice Ngau
Robert Donahue*

*Deceased


Mission:
The mission of the MetroWest Consumer Council is to improve opportunities for people with disabilities throughout the MetroWest communities. The Council advises the SRC regarding ways the MRC could improve service delivery, identifies and addresses issues of importance to MetroWest area consumers and supports and advocates for consumer priorities and resources.

Accomplishments:
The MetroWest Consumer Council is pleased to report on its achievements in 2006. In January, the Council presented Nancy Sullivan with the first Phillip Castellano Consumer Involvement Award in recognition of her advocacy efforts on behalf of consumers in the MetroWest area. Phil was a founding member of the MetroWest Council and the award was established in his honor.

Increasing membership was identified as a priority and Kevin Goodwin took a leadership role. He developed an outreach strategy and presentation. He has identified local disability commissions to contact and he plans to have the project completed in 2007.

Transportation continued to be an important need for Council members. Kevin Goodwin attended several meetings with the MPO and brought back the materials to share with other members. He also chairs the SRC Transportation Subcommittee and will be updating the MetroWest Transportation Resource Directory.

Kevin Goodwin continues to represent the MetroWest Council on the SRC and on the planning committee for the Annual Consumer Conference.

Emergency preparedness was a topic of considerable interest and discussion. Nan Kurtz prepared materials for residents with disabilities living in the Town of Hudson.

Council members were active in supporting agency initiatives. They attended public hearings, the annual SRC and SILC meetings at the State House, the Annual Consumer Conference and MARAN meetings.

Kevin Goodwin provided testimony on the MRC budget at the Community Meeting on Social and Human Services convened by the Patrick/Murray Transition Team.

Meetings:
The MetroWest Consumer Council represents 22 communities in the MetroWest area and meets on the last Wednesday of the month at the Natick VR 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
Walter King
Donna Folan
Donald Summerfield

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

MRC Staff:
April Anderson, Case Manager
Katherine Chesebro, Case Manager
Liz Morin, Case Manager
Paulina 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
Christine O'Brien, Case Manager
Robin Kellet, Case Manager

Felix Jordan, Supervisor
Angela Cipriano, Supervisor

Betty Maher Director
Angie Chin-Hoskins, Intake Coordinator

Overview:
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 purpose of the Advisory Committee is to provide consultation to HCAP staff on ways to improve services and set priorities for program development.

Accomplishments:
The accomplishments of the Committee during FY06 may be summarized as follows:

Developed a Certificate of Appreciation sent to all consumers 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.

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.

Advised program staff on steps to improve self-directed care options.

Meetings:
The Committee met four 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 Planning Committee met for the first time on March 13, 2006. The Committee wanted to emphasize the importance of breaking down barriers to employment for people with disabilities and voted that the theme of the Conference should be "Pathways to Employment and Beyond." The Committee voted to hold 20 workshops held over four sessions, the majority of which were on topics related to the main theme of employment. In addition, the Conference included its first informational job fair which hosted employers from several fields as well as self-employed individuals who shared their stories of how they successfully maintain their careers.

The Conference took place on November 30 and December 1, 2006 at the Marriott Hotel in Quincy. Ten workshop sessions were held on each day. Workshops covered employment related topics as well as social networking and recreation, substance abuse and HIV, and hidden disabilities. Twenty-three exhibit tables were staffed by a variety of organizations offering Conference attendees information regarding many items of interest to the disability community.

The MRC offers a special acknowledgement to its conference vendors and thanks them for their support:

  • Easter Seals
  • Community Rehab Care
  • Adaptive Driving
  • Disability Policy Consortium
  • Dr. Diane Stoler
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • New England Index
  • Perkins Talking Book Library
  • VSA of Massachusetts
  • Deafblind Contact Center
  • Partners for Youth With Disabilities
  • Resource Partnership

In addition to the valuable information offered in the workshops and by the vendors, the conference provided a wonderful opportunity for networking during meals, social hours, and before and after workshops.

The MRC is very pleased to have been able to provide such a wealth of information and opportunity for the 26th Anniversary Conference. Reflecting back on the planning process, it was noted that many of the important elements to the Conference's success were dependent on extensive outreach by the MRC VR and Consumer Involvement staff and the many Individual Consumer Consultants (ICC's). They worked together to help in identifying and inviting new consumers, friends, providers and presenters, including new MRC staff. It is with this effort that such an achievement was realized for the 2006 Annual Consumer Conference.

Conference Demographic Information:

People registered for the conference: 385
Boston 168
Central 18
Metrowest 17
Northeast 82
Southeast 50
Western 38

Consumers 191
Staff 76
Service Providers 82
Other 36

Requests for transportation 71
Requests for PCA 32
Requests for language interpreters 19
Requests for CART reporters 4
Requests for large print materials 26
Requests for quiet space 24

SRC In Memoriam

The MetroWest Consumer Council experienced some significant losses in 2006 - the loss of Gloria Lanspery, Patricia Prell and Robert Donahue. These individuals each made significant contributions to the Council and will be missed.

Gloria Lanspery brought the experience gained from her many years of consumer involvement to the Council.

Pattie Prell will be remembered for her political activism on behalf of the Council and the Disability Policy Consortium at both the local and state levels.

The passing of Bob Donahue left a huge hole in the hearts of Council members. Bob was an enduring friend whose brand of humor, kindness, advocacy, leadership, mentoring and enthusiasm never wavered and who inspired us all.

The Council is committed to carrying on the ideals and principles exemplified by these individuals.

Mitt Romney
Governor

Kerry Healey
Lieutenant Governor

Timothy R. Murphy
Secretary, EOHHS

Elmer C. Bartels
Commissioner

For more information, contact:
Emeka Nwokeji, Director
MRC-Consumer Involvement Program
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.