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: Youcef "Joe" Bellil
Vice Chairperson: Serena Powell
Secretary: Warren Magee

Members at Large
Patricia Sheely
Stephen Reynolds

Statutory Members

Youcef "Joe" Bellil, Chairperson
Mark Murphy, Business
Francis Barresi, Disability Advocate
Warren Magee, Disability Advocate
Lusa Lo, Secondary/Higher Education-Disability Services
Mary Margaret Moore, SILC Representative
John Beach, M. Ed. Business/LD Advocate
William Doherty, Provider/Substance Abuse
Toby Fisher, Mental Health Advocate
Karin William,s Deaf Advocate
Patricia Sheely, Disability Advocate
Owen Doonan, Disability Advocate
Serena Powell, Provider
Stephen Reynolds, Disability Advocate
Brooke Heraty, Parent Advocate
Barbara Lybarger, Client Assistance Program (CAP) Representative
Charles Vernon, VRC, ex-officio
Charles Carr, MRC Commissioner, ex-officio


State Rehabilitation Council

Ex-Officio Members
Maryan Amaral, Newtonville
Andrea Bader, Boston
Andrea Bengston, Cambridge
Lisa Chiango, Billerica
Lori Gonzalez, Allston
Kevin Goodwin, Wayland
Anne Guterman, W. Newton
June Hailer, Pittsfield
Inta Hall, Hingham
Betty J. King, Boston
Jenna Knight, Worcester
Julie Langbort, Ashland
Hang Lee, Milton
Alex Malvers, Bradford
Lisa Matrundola, DOL/WIB Representative
Terry McLaughlin, Boston
Ann Marie Paulson, Lakeville
Ventura Pereira, N. Dartmouth
Carol Perlino, Lynn
Katherine Piccard, Charlestown
Doris Richardson, Mattapan
Angelica Sawyer, Cambridge
John Stokes, Waltham
Barry Sumner, Onset
Susan Ventura, Carlisle
Francis Verville, Fall River
Kevin Wreghitt, Andover


Chairperson's Message

Dear Friends and Colleagues:
The State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) has experienced a great deal of change this year.

William McCarriston, Jr., stepped down as the Chairperson for the Council. Bill led the Council for many years and was its voice at the State House and in Congress. He spent countless hours working to make the SRC what it is today. We all are very grateful for his leadership and dedication.

After thirty years of dedication, Commissioner Elmer C. Bartels has retired as Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). Elmer was a great leader within the Independent Living Movement and the Public Vocational Rehabilitation program. He was well respected both within our state and nationally.

We welcome our new Commissioner Charles Carr. Commissioner Carr comes to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) with an extensive background as an advocate, manager and public policy leader who has dedicated his career to advancing independence for people with disabilities. The State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) looks forward to supporting Commissioner Carr and the MRC as we move forward.

The Council will continue to advise the MRC regarding the operation and delivery of state and federal vocational rehabilitation (VR) services.

I want to thank the MRC consumers, members of the Council, the MRC staff and especially the Executive Committee members for their input and guidance throughout the year. I look forward to continuing our partnership with the MRC.

Sincerely,
Youcef "Joe" Bellil


2007 SRC Year in Review

In accordance with our federal mandate, on October 19, 2006, the SRC held its strategic planning meeting. As a result of this meeting, the SRC determined its first priority is to create a visible presence at both the State House and on Capitol Hill with a Legislative agenda.

At the first SRC quarterly meeting held January 30, 2007 Commissioner Elmer C. Bartels reported the MRC was short about $2 million in VR monies. This shortage is due to the effect of the federal fund allocation formula.

In addition, the MRC is adjusting its 3 month waiting list to a 6 month waiting list.

Last year, the Commissioner sponsored research through the Commonwealth Corporation and Northeastern University (NU) Center for Labor Market Statistics. The research study of the economic status of people with disabilities was headed by Andrew Sum, Ph.D. of NU Boston.

A summary of the study's public policy implications are as follows:

  • On average during the years 2003-2004, there were 509,000 people ages 16 to 74 in Massachusetts with some type of disability. On this disability incidence measure Massachusetts ranked eighth lowest among the 50 states.
  • Women comprised a slight majority (52%) of the adult population with disabilities in the State in 2003-2004.
  • Disability rates varied considerably across race/ethnic, educational and age groups. The disability rate among Massachusetts adults declined steeply as the level of formal educational attainment increased.
  • Members of the labor force with disabilities in the State faced a very high unemployment rate, only 30% of the adults with disabilities in the State were considered "employed" in 2003-2004.
  • Employment rates of adults with disabilities in the State was below that of its counterparts in each of the other New England States and only ranked 3rd highest among the 50 States and D.C.
  • There are geographic variations in the employment rates of people with disabilities for eight counties and two central cities.
  • The mean annual earnings of adult workers with disabilities who worked year round and full-time (40 hours/week) were estimated at $43,272. Massachusetts ranked 4th highest among all 50 States on the mean annual earnings of its workers with disabilities in 2003-2004.
  • Seventy-three percent (73%) of workers with disabilities were employed in private sector wage and salary positions.

On February 20th, the SRC held a special meeting with Commissioner Elmer C. Bartels

Commissioner Bartels re-emphasized that since Federal FY 2001, the MRC-VR Program has been negatively affected by the Federal Grant distribution formula. Nationally the Public VR program has grown at an average of 3-4% per year reflecting COLA but the MRC has increased at an annual average of 1.2%. In addition, had the MRC funding grown by the national average of 3-4%, our Title 1 VR money would be $50 million plus rather than $45 million. So, the MRC is short $5 million in purchasing power.

Presently, the MRC payroll is about $25 million and MRC purchasing money is about $23 million. Despite significant savings realized by reducing the head count in the VR Program, extending the Waiting List to six months, increasing the VR Counselors' caseloads to 210 per VRC, the MRC anticipates a $2.5 million shortfall. Furthermore, the MRC anticipates a hiring freeze and/or lay-offs. The question/need of advice from the SRC is: "Is it better to reduce the number of caseload carrying VR Counselors and save money for purchase of services or continue to increase the number of caseload carrying counselors with increases in the number of people going to work?"

After an in-depth discussion, the Council determined the total number of caseload carrying counselors (FTE) is not proportional to total available VR monies for purchase of services.

Therefore, the following advice was given to the Commissioner:

  • Mr. Murphy advised that a consolidated effort must be made to change the Federal distribution formula by calling a legislative breakfast meeting.
  • Ms. Mary Margaret Moore was advised to brief the National Council of Independent Living to adopt Public VR as one of its priorities.
  • Ms. Powell advised the MRC should re-RFR VR Program Services as performance based (with day rates) versus the cost reimbursement method.

The Council advised that the practice of voluntary attrition should continue and to freeze hiring new staff until the MRC has enough revenue to hire new counselors and continue to manage and balance salary and the purchase of services accordingly. The SRC will take their advocacy to the State and Federal level in order to achieve a 5% total increase of MRC-VR funds.

On March 27th, the SRC held a legislative meeting at the State House. House Representative Bruce Ayers (D. Quincy) welcomed the SRC to the State House. Senator Tolman (D. second Suffolk and Middlesex) spoke eloquently in support of the SRC's quest which is to advocate for adequate funding of the MRC at the Senate Ways and Means Committee budget preparation.

At the next SRC quarterly meeting which was held May 29th, Commissioner Bartels once again asked the SRC to understand the agency's VR funding issue and sought SRC support of an extension of the 6 month waiting list to an indefinite waiting list.

Commissioner Bartels reiterated that for every $1 spent in public VR, there is a $5 return to the state. At the federal level, the MRC-VR funding is eaten up by inflation. The MRC is only getting a 1.3% funding increase yearly, but the inflation rate is at 5%. Therefore, the MRC has 4% less in funds to carry out the services of the public VR program.

The SRC Secretary, Mr. Magee, made a motion for the SRC to support the agency's intent to lift the 6 month waiting list and implement an indefinite waiting list from July 1, 2007. The motion was voted favorably after a lengthy discussion.

At this meeting the SRC chair reported it was his idea not to hold the Annual Consumer Conference this year because of the VR budget crisis.

He recommended we plan two events:

  • To meet the SRC Strategic Plan priority #1, a special event should be held at the State House to educate the Governor and the Legislature about the importance of the public VR program and the need to fund it adequately.
  • To continue to support the Conference Planning Committee and ask the committee to plan a scaled down Annual Conference.

Mr. Doonan, Chair of the SRC Home-based/Self-Employment Task Force proudly announced the release of the draft copy of a "Resource Guidance Manual."

On July 31, 2007 Commissioner Bartels announced to the SRC that it is his official last day. He indicated he had enjoyed his 30.5 years with the MRC and was highly thankful for the opportunity to make a contribution to something so important.

Commissioner Bartels was presented with a framed certificate of appreciation from the SRC and a lifetime pass to the Annual Consumer Conference. The SRC Artists with Disabilities Task Force also presented him with a painting by Ms. Jessica Vohs entitled "Three Apples."

Mr. William Noone, Ph.D., Director of the MRC Research and Development Program, reported the agency, in partnership with the SRC, conducted a VR Needs Assessment as requested by RSA.

  • The response rate was about 39% with the following findings:
  • There was a lower Hispanic population than last year.
  • The Asian population is underserved.
  • Most people are looking for placement counseling and SSA benefit counseling.
  • 77% of VR needs are being met.
  • Transportation is identified as a major barrier to employment.

He highlighted that the Needs Assessment was broadened to include the Community Services Division, and it was discovered that Housing and Home Care Services were identified as top priorities. Also, the unmet needs areas included, but were not limited to:

  • Job search,
  • Housing,
  • Transportation.

At the September 27th SRC annual meeting, the following slate of the SRC Executive Committee and officers were voted in, as follows:
SRC Chairperson Mr. Joe Bellil
SRC Vice Chairperson Ms. Serena Powell
SRC Secretary Mr. Warren Magee
1st Member at Large Ms. Patricia Sheely
2nd Member at Large Mr. Stephen Reynolds

Mr. Joe Bellil introduced the new MRC Commissioner- Mr. Charles Carr.
 


SRC-Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee

Members:
Owen Doonan, Chair
Maryan Amaral
Frank Barresi
Carol Nordblom

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.

This collaboration has led to the creation, fine tuning 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.

Each year the research staff of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has provided guidance and assistance to the SRC in this effort through the sub-committee for Consumer Satisfaction.

Together, these two entities design the questionnaire, cover letter, methodology and mailing materials. They carry out the mailing, enter the data into a data base, analyze the results and prepare the final report according to the methods outlined below.

Overview:
This year we completed another Consumer Satisfaction Survey, but developed a more in-depth examination of the similarities and differences between successful [employed] closures [status 26] and unsuccessful [unemployed] closures [status 28]. Our objective was to develop an insightful report that could function as an analytical tool to determine if the MRC could improve its successful vocational rehabilitation closure rate, with an objective of producing a greater degree of consumer satisfaction through more placements in employment and greater efficiencies in satisfactory consumer counseling.

Objectives:
We view the SRC Sub-Committee for Consumer Satisfaction as a tool not only for measuring satisfaction but as a tool for increasing case management and supervisory efficiencies. Our federal mandate as the SRC is to advise the MRC in meeting its objectives to vocationally rehabilitate its consumers with disabilities in a satisfactory manner. The tools that measure the effectiveness of this consumer service are derived in part by our survey and the subsequent analysis of the findings contained in the data.

Accomplishments:
Our research into "MRC Case Analysis of Unsuccessful Closures in Status 28" has opened the door of opportunity into becoming a more efficient vocational rehabilitation agency. As we continue our analysis of the systemic causes of unsuccessful closures, we will seek to form consumer focus groups to better understand the issues involved and be able to provide meaningful advice that is founded on consumer input.

We on the committee hereby applaud and commend the body of work and professionalism that Mary Esther Rohman exhibited in producing this extraordinary document which is of landmark proportions in the field of VR. We recommend this document for change as a must read report for MRC staff and consumer advocates alike.

The Committee meets 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 Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has an active and productive State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). SRC members, through their area consumer advisory councils, SRC sub committees, task forces, quarterly meetings and the annual consumer conference, have conducted surveys and needs assessments that have provided input to more effectively address the needs of individuals with the most significant disabilities. The SRC, through the SRC State Plan sub committee, has made the following recommendations to the Commission:

Recommendation 1: Maximize the use of one-stop service providers/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 Work Force Investment Act (WIA) and applicable regulations. Additionally, the WIA implementing 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 Service Administration (RSA) has found the Commission to be well positioned in the WIA environment. The most recent Rehabilitation Service Administration (RSA) annual review relative to the Commission's 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. 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 housed 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 the local career center.

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. At this time, all of the 32 career centers have completed a universal access study and have met WIA 188 universal guidelines under the Workforce Investment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

RSA recommends that 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, installing a HP bell and 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 has sixteen Disability Program Navigators currently working in the career centers. These individuals, trained by Department of Labor and the Social Security Administration, work with individuals with disabilities and the Commission to ensure more comprehensive services. Massachusetts is first in the country in its implementation of the Disability Program Navigator Initiative which is designed to strengthen connections between disability agencies, like the Commission and the Career Centers.

Each Disability Program Navigator hosts a monthly disability action team meeting to ensure all individuals with disabilities have equal access to all programs and services under the one-stop career centers system. The Commission's job placement specialists and other assigned Commission staff are members of the DCS Disability Action Team. In addition to Commission staff, the Disability Action Team also includes representatives from the Department of Mental Health, the Department of Mental Retardation, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, the Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the Social Security Administration and community provider agencies. The focus of the Disability Action Team is to build partnerships with local capacity to work 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. The VR Program will continue to strive to improve its job seeking skills and follow along 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 search, job networking and interview skills workshops for Commission 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 on how to maintain Social Security Administration (SSA) Supplemental Security Income (SSI)/Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) income and medical benefits while trying out full/part time work.

Commission response to Recommendation 2:

The Commission has a three year grant from SSA to provide 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 given 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 (IWRE). 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. The Commission's 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 benefit 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 the 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. Two additional resources are now operational. A private vendor, Co-Operative Productions has been added to the list of qualified available 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 many VR consumers (program/service area restrictions may apply) who have an interest in self-employment or 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. Mr. Owen Doonan, 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 CommCorps. The scope of service in this agreement is to design a new tool for counselors available on disc and/or shared drive to access training and resources to more effectively assist their 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 population, Native Americans, 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 at 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 unserved, 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. It is anticipated 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. 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 an 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, external 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( an application for information on over 950 occupations) and Labor Market Information, Employment and the Law: ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and related legislation including related state legislation and reasonable accommodations in the workplace.

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. In addition, in 2007, the Commission offered training with a partner agency, the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind. The topic for the one day training was how to work effectively as a vocational rehabilitation counselor in a cross cultural environment.
The Commission also has a grant to conduct outreach to brain injured consumers from multicultural backgrounds and the bilingual/bicultural counselor group continues to 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:

  • Transportation issues be identified in the consumer's IPE and be resolved as a priority during job selection and placement;
  • Vocational rehabilitation counselors be transportation advocates for affordable and accessible transportation for consumers;
  • Each consumer is advised on how the Commission provides transportation support to consumers 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 the individual 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 Good News Garage Donated Vehicle Program, in cooperation with the Commission, 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 Commission counselor. Good News Garage supplied a limited number of vehicles to eligible consumers. In FY 06 and 07, 82 vehicles were given to Commission clients. This program is scheduled to end at the end of September 07 due to financial constraints.

Commission Transportation Options Specialists function as resources to VR counselors, placement staff and consumers. The transportation options specialists provide transportation information and advice on available community resources and work directly with Commission 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 FY 08, although the Transportation Option Specialists will no longer be available in the Commission's area offices, transportation resource manuals are available electronically and in hard copy in each Commission 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.


SRC-Policy and Regulation Committee

Members:
William Doherty, Chair
Owen Doonan
Serena Powell
Warren Magee
Barbara Lybarger

MRC Staff:
Margaret Flanagan
Teresa Walsh
Emeka Nwokeji

Mission:
The mission of the SRC Policy and Regulation Committee is to assist in the development of the Agency's Policies and Regulations.

Tasks:
Ms. Lybarger, Committee member, provided a draft crosswalk of 107 CMR Chapter 6 ahead of today's meeting.

The Committee recognized Ms. Lybarger's crosswalk and greatly appreciated the work she did ahead of today's meeting.

Chapter 6 Section 6.03 - Participation in cost of Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Mr. Doonan was concerned about consumers who are in a Home-based/Self Employment VR Plan.

Ms. Walsh explained that consumers who are SSI and SSDI benefits recipients would not be asked to contribute to their VR program cost through financial needs assessment.

Barbara's crosswalk showed there is no federal requirement that the financial need of individuals be considered in the provision of VR services. This highlight was acknowledged by the Committee but the Committee is in agreement with the MRC to choose to institute the financial needs assessment. This is one way for the person to commit to his/her VR outcome.

Barbara questioned "Failure to inform the Commission of any changes in financial circumstances may result in termination of paid VR Services." The Committee supports the MRC stance because there is no established in-house procedure to recover debts and/or fraud.

Also, Barbara questioned the sentences in the draft that leads SSDI or SSI recipients to mandatory sign-off of financial needs assessment. The Committee recommended the sentences stay as a reassurance and/or a reminder to MRC staff of having carried out the policy accordingly.

Section 6.04 - Comparable Benefits and Services:
The MRC was advised to add on "such a determination would interrupt or delay the programs of the individual toward achieving the employment outcome identified in the IPE."

Section 6.05 - the Committee reserved its comment since it observed the MRC-SES Program's Community-Based Employment case management agreements. Ms. Walsh will study this Section with MRC legal counsel.

Section 6.04 Subsection (1) d - it was observed by Ms. Walsh that awards and scholarships, based on merit, will stay in comparable benefits since it is in the federal regulation. The Committee is highly supportive that merit should stay in regulations as observed.

Ms. Walsh further observed that the old Section 2, (c) and (d) are deleted because they could be gotten from other services and/or resources such as colleges/universities and schools.

Ms. M. Fitzgerald stated VR counselors must encourage consumers to advocate for comparable services from other resources but argued that the language be retained in order to arm the VR Counselors to advocate for consumers if such benefits, when denied, may affect the academic performance of the consumer.

In addition, Ms. Powell asked that the regulation language remain progressive and seek the maximization of resources.

Section 6.05 - Counseling and Guidance:
By reading the Section, Ms. Powell asked why individuals with a disability is repeated many times throughout Subsections (2) and (3).

Through consensus, the Committee agreed to eliminate such repetition and may consider using individuals in place of individuals with disabilities. Ms. Walsh will work on it and will try to make the section less wordy.

The Committee reviewed Sections 6.06 to 6.09.

6.06-Physical and Mental Restrictions
6.07-Vocational Training
6.08-Maintenance
6.09-Transportation

Observations:
Ms. Barbara Lybarger asked that the policy be consistent in language; specifically in Section 6.06 (2); 6.07 introduction and 6.08 (1).

In 6.07 (3), Mr. Doonan pointed out that the individual's disability may be included in consideration in order to determine "beyond the customary time."

Furthermore, Ms, Lybarger acknowledged that services may be discontinued when the individual fails to obtain training objectives, because such failures may undermine the validity of the objectives.

In 6.07 (5), the committee discussed the definition of the term "institution of higher education" with reference to whether trade schools are included in the definition.

In 6.07 (6), Ms. Lybarger stated it is not in the federal regulations, but the practice is to be "encouraged."

In 6.07 (7), the committee asked the MRC Legal Department to consider adding subsection (c) provision to accommodate "disabilities or reasonable accommodations."

In 6.07 (10), the committee advised changing "will encourage" to "may encourage, but may not be required."

In 6.07 (11), to strike out "and" and insert "or" in the first sentence.

In 6.07 (12-15), Ms. Lybarger recommended a structural change to read as subsection 12 (a), (b) and (c).

In 6.08 - Maintenance the preamble should include "or in Vocational needs" and also in 6.08(2) - Ms. Walsh will reword the subsection to make it more readable including the consideration to strike out the $15.00 per day.

In 6.09: Transportation Ms Walsh will re-do sections (1) - (3) and consider changing the minimum of 30 days as a condition.

6.10-Placement Services
6.10 (1) The committee would like to emphasize specific current goals and current IPEs
6.10 (2) The committee recommended changing "will" to "shall"
6.10 (3) The committee liked the work period of 90 days or more

6.12 (1) the committee recommended eliminating "alterations and related equipment installation" and changing it to "alteration related equipment and installation."

6.12 (2) d change the word "impairment" to "limitations." Teresa Walsh will seek advice from the MRC Legal Department on 6.12(2)f.

In the language and content of 6.12 (3) (4) (5) and (6), the committee made the following observations:
When a waiver warrant must be applied, what are the factors that might trigger the waiver, such as change in financial situation.
The committee observed that the Federal ABB Codes must be reflected in 6.12(5).
In conclusion, the committee asked the agency to use "the best value" understanding.

The Committee met five times during the year.


SRC-Networking Task Force

Members:
Serena Powell, Chair
Mary Margaret Moore
Jenna Knight
Robert Sneirson

MRC Staff:
Emeka Nwokeji
Lisa Weber

Mission:
The mission of the SRC Networking Taskforce is to increase the visibility of the SRC and garner support for its initiatives through effective collaboration with legislators, media, organizations, coalitions and others.

Overview:
The Task Force was initiated during the summer of 2007 to develop strategies to implement Priorities One, Two and Three from the SRC's strategic Plan.

Objectives:
The Task Force's primary objectives involve developing and executing strategies related to the following:

Priority One: The SCR will create a visible presence at both the State House and Capitol Hill
Priority Two: The SRC will strengthen and promote MRC inter-agency relationships through multi-agency collaborations
Priority Three: The SRC will establish a public relations committee which will include the work of the agency's marketing program and functional activities of the SRC.

Accomplishments:
The Networking Task Force accomplishments include the following:

  • Devising a written plan which prioritized the three primary objectives. This outlines how to approach developing relationships with state officials, legislators and other coalitions. It also outlines specific responsibilities of individual SRC members and attendance requirements at pertinent legislative hearings. It also recommends that a separate taskforce be formed to tackle marketing the MRC and its services.
  • Developing a framework for hosting networking forums/events to build effective partnerships with others to promote employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Tentatively scheduling two events including a networking event in February 2008 and a co-sponsored spring event at the State House.

Meetings:
Meetings were held on August 30, 2007 and November 5, 2007. The remainder of communications was conducted electronically through emails and by telephone.

SRC-LD/ADHD Task Force

Members:
Jenna Knight, Chair
Christiana Erekosima
Mary-Ann Murray
Charlene Neu
Joseph Panciotti
Doris Richardson
Angelica Sawyer
Cheryl Ravalli

MRC Staff:
James Fratolillo
Mark Cowell
Leslie Wish
Mission:
To promote education and advocacy by persons with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD), to enhance community inclusion, independence and economic self-sufficiency.

Objective:
Our primary objective is to develop strategies to address the needs and advocate for adequate resources to assure the rehabilitation of consumers with learning disabilities/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (LD/ADHD).

Accomplishments:
The LD/ADHD Task Force accomplished the following :

  • Developed a new list of support groups for adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (LD/ADHD).
  • Completed phase II of the Website Redesign Project.
  • Updated the Website Redesign Project Proposal.
  • Participated in the 2007 Statewide Rehabilitation Council Legislative Advocacy Day at the State House.
  • Implemented several new initiatives to expand our membership base.
  • Developed an informational flyer to be disseminated to all MRC Regional Offices.
  • The MRC supports an LD/ADHD support group in Cambridge.

Meetings:
The LD/ADHD Task Force meets the 3rd Thursday of every other month from 11 am to 1 pm at the MRC administrative 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:
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 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.

Goals and Accomplishments:
Completed 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.

Meetings:
Members of the Committee met informally as well as by means of teleconference and e-mail and attendance at Employment Now Consortium meetings.


SRC-Transportation Task Force

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

MRC Staff:
Roger Thomas
Lisa Weber
Emeka Nwokeji

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 system's budget which is distributed in accordance with a predetermined formula.
    Presentations:

Mr. Tony Nosike's PowerPoint presentation highlighted a 9-month snap documentary of all transportation referrals, skills training including travel training and counseling.

The following short-term and long-term goals were identified.

Short-Term Goal:
The Task Force would like to find out if it is documented that travel training requests for consumers seeking employment or going to jobs were denied due to the ending of the MRC Transportation Program.

Long-Term Goal:

  • The Task Force should develop an advocacy agenda which aims to establish a transportation line item for the MRC during State Budget development.
  • Feedback of the 2006 Annual Consumer Conference Workshop:
    Mr. Goodwin acknowledged that the 2006 Conference Workshop was well received. Further, he stated there is a great transportation issue in the Western Mass. Region.
  • The Chair accepted the motion to incorporate all established short and long-term goals in the SRC Special Event of October 18, 2007. Motion was supported and voted favorably. The Motion to further amend to accept the long-term goals to advocate for a statewide para-transit system, was accepted and voted favorably.
  • Kathryn Piccard passed around a leaflet in progress on Paratransit Reciprocity. Kathryn suggested that the MRC website should be updated to include an interactive map showing availability of non-medical transportation for people with disabilities and a contact phone number for questions.
  • The desire for improved access to transportation resources inspired the committee to identify a new project goal for the year. The name of this project will be "Mapping Massachusetts for Public Transit and Paratransit Services."
  • The Task Force discussed the upcoming Public Meeting on the North Shore. We would like to give 4-6 months notice to plan the meeting. Our goal is April 29th with a second choice of April 22nd. This would be a half day conference from 1PM-5PM. We are planning to invite regional transit authorities to attend.
  • The committee identified another project goal which is to hold a one day conference on transportation access. Possible title is "Affordable & Accessible Transportation for People with Disabilities in MA." This is expected to include a range of workshops on various topics in order to bring information to people with disabilities.
  • Katherine Piccard gave an update on the recent transportation research completed by the MBTA. The research resulted in a 200 page report which is also available in large print and voice recording. Included in the report is a study of ADA compliance and accessibility issues in the MBTA system.

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


SRC-Artists with Disabilities Task Force

Members:
Lisa B. Corfman, Chair
Maryan Amaral
JoAnne Barbara
Lauretta Billingsley
Lisa Fay
Shifra-Lillith Freeman
Kathryn Gallagher
Loretta Jarak
Kathy Johnson
Lori Lafargue
Julie Langbort
Gloria Lyons
Miriam Morales
M.L. Morgan
Judy Phillips
Mei-Lin Po
Cristina Powell
Greg Rogers
Mary Rogers
Joe Russo
Cynthia Segal
Tony Stark
Barry Sumner
Cathy Thatcher
Jessica Vohs
Gerald Walsh
Janice Weiner
Mark Weiner
 

Overview:
The Artists with Disabilities Task Force consists of people from diverse disciplines working toward creating linkages between artists with disabilities and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Objective:
The Artists with Disabilities Task Force objective is to develop linkages between artists and the MRC. The strategy of this linkage process is to enhance the goals of independence, self support and professional development in the art world.

Year's Goals and Accomplishments:
The Task Force continues to produce the annual calendar. We are constantly searching for artists statewide to submit their artwork for consideration.

We have had three successful Open Studio events giving our members the opportunity to sell their artwork.


SRC-Taunton Area Advisory Council

Members:
Ann Marie Paulson and William Parks, Co-Chairpersons
David Murphy
Judy Griffin
Frank Verville
Kathleen Simpson
Audrey Butterworth
Arnold Carr
Nathan Carr
Vicky Carr
Renee Desper
Richard Colantonio
Tracy Tarvers
Debra Murphy
Thomas Linnehan
Andrea Higgins

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.

Projects and Goals:
1. Familiarity with Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Inc.
2. Disability Services at local Career Centers
3. Serve as Hosts for one statewide State Rehabilitation Council [SRC] meeting
4. Linkages with statewide SRC
5. Awareness of VR legislation and possible advocacy
6. Office productivity
7. Participate in statewide SRC activities

Year's Goals & Accomplishments:

  • On 1/8/07, the TAC members were briefed by Sarah Callahan, Mentoring Program Director for Partners for Youth with Disabilities, Inc. Sarah presented information about the organization which has been in operation for 20 years. She also reviewed the need for both mentors and mentees.
  • TAC members were also made aware of ongoing progress to help the local Career Centers serve individuals with disabilities at all TAC meetings. Taunton Area Director continues to serve as the Chairperson for the local WIB's Disability Action Committee. On 4/9/07, Lesli Gazerro, Disability Navigator with the Bristol Workforce Investment Board, presented her role in aiding disabled consumers of the Taunton, Attleboro and Fall River Career Centers.
  • Although it was our plan to host a statewide meeting, the scheduling did not allow for it.
  • On 7/9/07, TAC membership met with SRC Chairperson Joe Bellil to review statewide meetings and activities. Efforts to link the SRC with local Councils were reviewed.
  • 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, personnel changes and performance.
  • Although a statewide Consumer Conference was not held in 2007, the planning has begun for the next conference and two members of the TAC currently serve as conference planning committee co-chairs. Also, a few other members are also participating on the planning committee.
Meetings:
The Taunton Advisory Council meets quarterly and the meetings are held in the MRC Taunton VR Office. Meetings begin at 4:00 PM to allow employed members to participate

SRC-MetroWest Consumer Council

Members:
Kevin Goodwin, Chair
Nan Kurtz
Patricia Laughlin
Stephen Machnick
Dennis Polselli
Iris Robichaud
Nancy Sullivan

MRC Staff:
Janice Ngau

Mission:
The MetroWest Consumer Council provides support, consultation and assistance to the Natick Area Office in the areas of access, service delivery and consumer advocacy.

Accomplishments:

  • Patrick Lally from Congressman Edward Markey's office was invited to attend the April meeting. Council members discussed with him the issues and challenges that concern consumers with disabilities. They advocated for changes to the funding formula. A positive working relationship was established and Mr. Lally encouraged ongoing communication with the Congressman's office.
  • Three consumers from the Council participated in the SRC Legislative Forum and followed up with personal meetings with their legislators.
  • The MetroWest Regional Transit Authority was established and the Council has actively followed its progress.
  • The MetroWest Consumer Council also followed the process of the Reauthorization of the Rehab Act through Audrey Butterworth and MARAN.
  • The MetroWest Consumer Council hosted the July meeting of the SRC and extended its farewell, appreciation and recognition to Commissioner Bartels.
  • Kevin Goodwin conducted an Outreach Project to expand membership. He contacted local disability commissions and made presentations about the MRC, consumer involvement and the MetroWest Consumer Council. He successfully recruited a new member from this effort.
  • Individual Consumer Consultants were used successfully for the Outreach Project and for an office access survey.
  • Council members contacted their legislators to advocate for passage of the MRC Supplemental Budget to reduce the time consumers must wait for VR services.

Meetings:
The MetroWest Consumer Council meets on the last Wednesday of the month from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. at the Natick Office.


SRC-Home Care Assistance Program (HCAP) Advisory Committee

Consumer Members:
Maureen Cancemi
Michelle Faison
June Hailer
Cindy Kartch
Walter King
David Mazzarella
Nicholen Nash
Laura Sinko
Donald Summerfield

Providers:
Janey Fox - Jewish Family & Children's Service
Lisa Gurgone - Mass. Council for Home Care Aide Services
Julie Ford - Mass. Council for Home Care Aide Services
Emmanuel Ugocha - Advanced Home Care
Christopher Jenkins, Linda Wolfson - Home Instead Senior Care
Brenda Rogers, RN - Abbey Road Home Care

MRC Staff:
April Anderson, Case Manager
Duncan Arden, Case Manager
Katherine Chesebro, Case Manager
Liz Morin, Case Manager
Paulina Mauras, Case Manager
Jodi Watson, Case Manager
Eloise Cruz, Case Manager
Maria King, Case Manager
Debbie Visocchi, Case Manager
Christine O'Brien, Case Manager
Pamela Kramer, Case Manager
Felix Jordan, Supervisor
Angela Cipriano, Supervisor
Betty Maher Director
Angie Hoskins, Intake Coordinator

Mission:
Provides input, advice and a range of perspectives that is integral to the HCAP Mission: Our goal is to assist consumers with addressing homemaking tasks they are unable to perform independently.

Overview:
The Advisory Committee to the Home Care Assistance Program includes among its membership consumers receiving home care services, past consumers, program staff and representatives from the provider agencies.

Objectives:
The purpose of the advisory committee is to provide consultation to HCAP staff and offer ways to improve services and set priorities for program development, as well as to review and advise on budget issues.

Accomplishments:
The accomplishments of the Committee during FY '07 can be summarized as follows:

  • Reviewed and revised the RFR for Homemaking services which details the specific requirements for providers under the MRC-HCAP contract. Services are to be re-procured in FY'08 for FY'09.
  • Reviewed and made recommendations regarding a standard PowerPoint training presentation for all providers. This incorporates a consumer perspective and information regarding the independent living philosophy.
  • Designed, contributed to and edited the HCAP Resource Newsletter which will be distributed to all HCAP consumers and providers.
  • Developed a Certificate of Appreciation sent to all consumers in December to be handed to their home care aides as a way to directly voice their appreciation.
  • Consulted and advised program management on other programmatic issues, including management of the Wait List, staffing, improvement of the self-directed HCA option, and collaboration with the Department of Public Health's Office on Health and Disability.

Meetings:
The Committee met quarterly and held one extra (fifth) meeting to focus solely on completion of the RFR.

 

Deval Patrick
Governor
Timothy P. Murray
Lieutenant Governor
JudyAnn Bigby
Secretary, EOHHS
Charles Carr
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
 



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.