2008 Annual Report
Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council

Vocational Rehabilitation Program

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 people with disabilities.
  • To ensure the full participation of people 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.

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
Jay O'Conner Business Advocate
Francis Barresi Disability Advocate
Warren Magee Disability Advocate
Lusa Lo Secondary/Higher Education-Disability Services
Mary Margaret Moore SILC Representative
Toby Fisher Mental Health Advocate
Patricia Sheely Disability Advocate
Owen Doonan Disability Advocate
Serena Powell Provider
Stephen Reynolds Disability Advocate
Terry McLaughlin Parent Advocate
Barbara Lybarger Client Assistance Program, (CAP) Representative
Charles Vernon VRC, ex-officio
Mark Bornemann Employer
Charles Carr MRC Commissioner, ex-officio

Ex-Officio Members

Maryan Amaral Newtonville
Andrea Bader Boston
Lisa Chiango Billerica
Lori Gonzalez Allston
Kevin Goodwin Wayland
Anne Guterman W. Newton
June Hailer Pittsfield
Inta Hall Hingham
Maria Husted Plymouth
Betty J. King Boston
Jenna Knight Worcester
Julie Langbort Ashland
Hang Lee Milton
Lisa Matrundola DOL/WIB Representative
Terry McLaughlin Boston
Ann Marie Paulson Lakeville
Ventura Pereira N. Dartmouth
Carol Perlino Lynn
Katherine Piccard Charlestown
Angelica Sawyer Cambridge
Barry Sumner Onset
Susan Ventura Carlisle
Francis Verville Fall River

Chairperson's Message

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

"Getting to know you" was the theme in 2008 for the Council and our new Commissioner.

This was Charlie Carr's first full year as the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission's (MRC) Commissioner. One of the first actions he took as Commissioner was to visit all MRC offices in the state and meet with their staff. He also addressed the members of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and clearly stated he wants an effective Council that can provide him with constructive advice. He expects every Council member to be an active participant and a team player.

One of the key elements in having an effective SRC is the status of the partnership between the Council and the Commissioner. My view is that in order for the Council to really make a positive difference in the way vocational rehabilitation occurs in the state, it must have a healthy relationship and work to maintain this relationship with the Commissioner. Both entities need to be respectful of each other and have a common mission. I feel we have a very good partnership and I look forward to a productive year.

Three of our biggest successes:

  • The MRC Consumer Conference at Northeastern University- 380 people enjoyed a great day of learning and sharing at Northeastern University. The Conference Committee and MRC staff took a new approach and made this Conference a success at half the usual cost. Both Conference Committee members and MRC staff did a wonderful job working together to make this event occur.
  • We collaborated with the Statewide Independent Living Council and had an Education Day at the State House in April. Members visited their legislators and informed them of the importance of independent living and vocational rehabilitation services for people with disabilities. The emphasis was on improving the quality of life for folks with disabilities.
  • State Rehabilitation Council members and folks interested in joining the Council were introduced to a new online training program. The Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) sponsored a project to create an online training program that details the history of vocational rehabilitation services and presents ideas on how best to structure the SRC. I'm happy to report that the majority of the Council members have participated in this training process.

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

Sincerely,

Youcef "Joe" Bellil
Chairperson

2008 SRC Year in Review

During 2008, the MRC helped approximately 3,500 citizens with disabilities get jobs in Massachusetts. This is about a 10% drop from the Commissioner's goal of 3800 people becoming employed through our Vocational Rehabilitation Program.

This year, the SRC held its quarterly meetings in different regions of the State as follows:

A. Tuesday, March 11, 2008 the SRC held its meeting in the Southeast region with 60 SRC members and guests in attendance.

The SRC and the SILC agreed to collaborate in planning and conducting a Legislative Education Day on April 22, 2008 at the State House.
The SRC advocated in support of the MRC's $2.89 M supplemental appropriation. This supplemental budget, when approved, will be deployed to alleviate the MRC's indefinite waiting list to a six month waiting list.
The Commissioner presented a proposal to change the operation of the Extended Employment Program (EEP) which is essentially a Sheltered Work Program. The Commissioner asked the provider community to use the EEP funds to develop long-term care supports so people in EEP can work in mainstream employment. The SRC voted favorably in support of the Commissioner's proposal.
The Commissioner granted $50,000.00 toward the planning of the MRC Annual Consumer Conference. The Consumer Conference was held on June 12, 2008 at Northeastern University - Curry Student Center, Boston, MA.
The Commissioner announced the creation of the "Employment Now Coalition." This Coalition will work in partnership with the MRC and the SRC to build the state as a Model Employer. This year, the Coalition hosted Commissioner Christine Griffin from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Washington, who spoke about the Federal Schedule A Program, which is a federal program that tracks the hiring process for federal jobs for people with disabilities.

B. On June 3, 2008, the SRC held its quarterly meeting in the Metro West region of the Commonwealth.

The Commissioner announced the appointment of the new Deputy Commissioner of the VR Program-Ms. Joan Phillips.
In addition, he reported that MRC received the supplemental budget of $2.89M in its base budget.
He stated the MRC will be the lead agency for the Governor's Community First Agenda. Furthermore, the agency will incorporate the new 1115 Medicaid Waiver for people with disabilities under 65 years of age, including but not limited to the Hutchinson case - a settlement proposing the creation of a new Acquired Brain Injury Waiver.
The SRC Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee reported that 83.5% of MRC consumers would refer their friends to the MRC. Most of the survey respondents were satisfied with their VR Counselors and said they were treated with respect.
The SRC Chair announced there will be an SRC retreat in the fall of this year. He suggested forming a work group to plan the retreat with a facilitator.
The Career Centers representative in the SRC reported that over the years the Career Centers have witnessed a greater collaboration with the MRC and the Independent Living Centers in the State.

C. On September 25, 2008, the SRC Quarterly meeting was held in Andover in the Northeast region of the Commonwealth.

The VR northeast district director reported on the Statewide Youth Transition Program services, a 5 year federal grant of$2.7M. This demonstration project is located at the MRC offices in Brookline, Worcester and Springfield.
The SRC Joint Committee of Nomination and By-Laws at this quarterly meeting presented a slate of SRC Executive Committee members as follows:

SRC Chair - Mr. Joe Bellil
SRC Vice-Chair - Ms. Serena Powell
SRC Secretary - Mr. Warren Magee
SRC members-at-large Mr. Stephen Reynolds & Mr. Owen Doonan

The SRC voted the slate favorably.

The SRC received the Annual Consumer Conference evaluation analysis for the June 12, 2008 Conference.

Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee

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

MRC Staff:
Mary Esther Rohman
William Noone
Charlene Coombs

Mission:
In accordance with federal regulations, the State Rehabilitation Council has been mandated to conduct annual surveys of consumer satisfaction since 1995. In Massachusetts, this is a consumer-led, cooperative effort between 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.

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 .

Objectives:
We view the SRC Consumer Satisfaction Committee 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.

Recommendations:
Respondents were less satisfied with service providers, and the Committee suggested a synergy between MRC and the Career Centers to insure more effective and efficient job placement.

Additionally, evaluations of consumers and provider satisfaction with services are being planned by staff for the near future.

It was also suggested that an investigation be made of the different needs of different types of consumers in terms of job placement, for some consumers were quite satisfied with learning about looking for a job while others were not satisfied and found this inadequate.

Finally, the Committee suggested that clerical or other staff carry out some of the counselors' activities to mitigate time constraints and give the counselor more time with consumers.

Joint Committee on the State Plan and Interagency Relations

Members:
Patricia Sheely, Chair
Alex Malvers
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 SRC, through the SRC State Plan 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 Committee reviewed the 2007 attachment 4.2c. responses and, in accepting the agency's responses, requested an update on the status of the Career Centers Navigators.

There are 16 navigators in the State which are servicing 32 Career Centers.

The Committee asked about documentation of Career Center referrals to the MRC.
The MRC Policy and Regulations staff will be tracking the roundtable meeting minutes which are created to capture the referral numbers. The Committee received a report that the relationship between the Career Centers and the MRC is GREAT.

In addition, local roundtable meetings are co-chaired by the Centers and MRC staff representatives such as in Brockton and Fall River.

Lisa Matrundola writes:
Under the guidance of the Department of Workforce Development (DWD), the Commonwealth and the Department of Career Services (DCS) have developed a statewide Disability Steering Committee with our mandated and non-mandated partners of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Grant This interagency group was developed to explore strategies to better serve individuals with disabilities. This group includes the following state agencies: Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Department of Mental Health, Department of Mental Retardation, Department of Education, and the Department of Transitional Assistance. One of the strategies DCS embraced while implementing these programs was to involve our disability partners at the state and local level. By involving mandated and non-mandated partners during the foundation of these grants, DCS not only gained expertise from our disability partners, but created a system with equal representation and buy-in at every level.

State Level Involvement

The DWD and DCS involved state level managers from mandated and non-mandated partners of the Workforce Investment Act in various WIG activities. Some of the accomplishments of this state level team were:
Development of a Memoranda of Understanding and Interdepartmental Service Agreements. At the local level, implementation of statewide disability trainings that could be put into practice.
Provision of technical assistance to the One-Stop Career Centers on universal access and ADA compliance.
Developed integrated service agreements with disability partners to promote efficiency of resources, enhance customer choice and increase the number of customers with disabilities using the One-Stop Career Center system.
Increase collaboration with disability agencies on the Ticket to Work Program.
Exploration of creating a shared database to document all employment service delivery between agencies.

Integrating the Disability Program Navigator (DPN) Initiative

The statewide Disability Steering Committee was involved with assisting DWD and DCS to implement the DPN. Some examples of our interagency involvement include:
Assisting with writing the job description of the DPN.
Meeting with the disability agencies to discuss the role of the DPNs.
Assisting in hiring and recruitment of the DPNs.
Providing additional training and support as needed to the DPNs.
Working with the DPNs to co-chair the One-Stop Career Center Disability Action Team (DAT) meetings.
Development of local business leadership networks with employers.
Providing education and outreach to the employer community on the benefits of hiring people with disabilities.
Co-hosting job fairs.
Meeting with MRC Benefits Planners to strategize ways to increase utilization of SSA work incentive programs.
Have MRC VR counselors use the space of the One-Stop Career Centers as needed.
Work together utilizing the Integrated Resource Team (IRT) model of blending and braiding of local community resources.
Co-sponsor training on Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and various tax incentive programs that promote hiring people with disabilities.

Furthermore, to investigate consumer satisfaction among disabled job seekers, DWD under the DPN program conducted a random survey of 200 consumers. The survey found that 99% of the disabled job seekers believed the collaboration between the workforce investment system and the vocational rehabilitation system has positively impacted their job seeking experience as a whole.

Recommendation 2: 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 2:

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.

This year, the MRC, through the work done by the SRC Home Based/Self Employment Task Force, published a resource guide for VR counselors.

Recommendation 3: The Commission should enhance its agenda on outreach to unserved, underserved and multicultural populations.

Commission response to Recommendation 3:

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. 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.

This recommendation is going to be retained in 2008 because the SRC Unserved/Underserved Population Committee will be conducting consumer focus groups in 2008.

In addition, the MRC Training Department continues to offer more staff diversity trainings.

Recommendation 4: 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; and
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 4:

This recommendation stays because the MRC will be taking a major lead in the State Medicaid Waiver Transportation Grant.

The MRC will continue to provide public education of the known effects and barriers created by the CORI in employment, housing and the independent living options of people with disabilities.

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.

The Committee was notified that the public hearings for this year's State Plan attachment had minimum attendees. The Committee, by consensus, agreed to redesign how to market its state plan for public input for FY10.

Other:

The Federation of Children with Special Needs reported on their work with the MRC Transition Grant at the 3 sites, Boston/Brookline, Worcester and Springfield. The Committee will continue to monitor this grant's activities and report it's reactions in the 2010 recommendations.

Policy and Regulation Committee

Members:
Owen Doonan, Chair
Lisa Chiango
Timothy Kunzier
William Doherty
Serena Powell
Warren Magee
Barbara Lybarger
Serena Powell

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 and advise the agency on scheduling procedures for public input and publication in the Massachusetts Register by the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

The knowledge and expertise of the Council members is a valuable asset in carrying out the prioritized business of the SRC. Most SRC business is researched and analyzed at the Committee level.

At the Policy & Regulation Committee, each member took his/her responsibilities to heart.

The Committee spent approximately six months of the year studying the VR services regulation 107 CMR 6.00 (Vocational Rehabilitation Services). This chapter amendments amend policy to reflect changes in the federal regulations and establishes the conditions, requirements and policies for the Vocational Rehabilitation Services Program administered by the agency (MRC).

The Committee met 3 times within the 6 months, deliberating on the federal regulations governing the VR program which authorized the Commission the options to consider:

107 CMR 6.00, Section 6.03
Participation in cost of vocational rehabilitation services
Section 6.04 Comparable benefits and services
Section 6.21 Transition services

There was an in-depth discussion about the use and the deployment of "comparable services or/and benefits." Ms. Lisa Chiango, Committee member, argued that the deployment of comparable benefits do delay consumers' ability to timely placement and ability to begin a job.

The Committee was informed that as of February 2008 there were no more referral services to the MRC Extended Employment Workshops.

107 CMR 8.00 - Extended Employment Program

The Committee deliberated on the new policy in Chapter 8 as follows:

Section 8:01 - Scope and Purpose

Ms. Walsh reported that MRC VR staff were notified of the policy changes in Chapter 8 in February 2008.

Ms. Lybarger and Mr. Doonan wanted an assurance that consumers who are already in workshops are grandfathered into the new policy practices in order to protect the consumers.

Section 8:03 - Referral for Extended Employment Program

Ms. Walsh reported that there are no more referrals to Extended Employment Workshops effective February 2008 in compliance with Federal Regulation. In addition, all rate settings and eligibility requirements of providers are eliminated.

The Committee recommended that the SRC and the public be educated why MRC eliminated the sheltered work referrals.

Section 8:06

The Committee asked Ms. Walsh to think about assuring that consumers' positions at the rehabilitation provider are made available after/during the 6 month trial period.

Section 8:09

The Committee suggested that eligibility of rehabilitation provider services should be subject to state and federal appropriations.

The Committee met three times during the year.

Artists with Disabilities Task Force

Members:
Lisa B. Corfman, Chair
Maryan Amaral
Lauretta Billingsley
Daryl Brooks
Kelly Callahan
Lisa Chiango
Nancy Docken
Lisa Fay
Carol Freitas
Lauren Geraghty
Jean Goldner
Diana Kenks
Kathleen Johnson
Lori Lafarque
Julie Langbort
Laurel Levine
M.L. Morgan
Judy Phillips
Mei Lin Po
Gregory Rogers
Mary Rogers
Cynthia Segal
Holly Smith
Tony Stark
Leo Stronach
Barry Sumner
Catherine Thatcher
Ann Troise
Jessica Vohs
Janice Weiner
Mark Weiner

Western Members:
Lucy Sacco
Marianne Stock
Judy Ruth Gaumond
LaVerne Howard
Gary Nadas
Norma Brodmerkle
Maria Maluguti
Michele DeMauro

MRC Staff:
Emeka Nwokeji
Lisa Weber

Mission:
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.

2008 Achievements:
A Thank You card and artwork created by Billi Billingsley were given to Debbie and Lloyd Simon of Cambridge Focus for housing the first year's 3 open studio events.
On April 11, 2008 Lucy Sacco was appointed chair of the Artists With Disabilities Task Force in Western Massachusetts.
Lisa Corfman created the calendar for 2009 with 11 new talented artists and 2 past artists. Maryan Amaral was the featured poet.
We added a statement of ownership: The Artists reserve all right of ownership, reproduction and all copyrights in their work, and the Artists shall receive authorship credit in connection with their work or its reproduction.
There is an Artists With Disabilities Task Force website in html format: http://awdtf.home.comcast.net.
Home-Based Self-Employment Task Force poster contest was held.
On July 11, 2008 there was a presentation on benefits and how they are affected by artists' businesses.
The Task Force members suggested increasing our outreach to inform the public about our Open Studio events. Suggestions included the Allston-Brighton Tab, MassArt, and the Consumer's Voice newsletter.
The Task Force has held a table in the exhibit area at the Annual Consumer Conference which took place on June 12th. Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts exhibit in Concord, MA was held August 6, 2008 to September 13, 2008. The reception was August 24 at 4:30 pm. 20 artists exhibited. Cards for the Emerson Umbrella and Tunefoolery performers were signed and given respectively as a thank you.
Brookline Village Library exhibit starts from the beginning of November to the beginning of January. The group has 2 glass cases to display artwork in.
The Task Force held their 4th and 5th "Open Studio" events in 2008 at the Honan-Allston Branch Library, a branch of the Boston Public Library. The activities included food donated by many neighborhood vendors, music by Tunefoolery Concert Ensembles, story telling by Mei-Lin Po. The May and November open studio events included balloon fun taught by Tony Stark, ASL interpreters, art exhibition, artist speeches and artwork for sale.
The event has been posted in the Arts and Crafts Show Yellow Pages. A pamphlet design was created and given out on the day of the event as traditional for all open studios.
Rocky Arts awards were given for the exhibit at the Emerson Umbrella and both Open Studio events this year.

Overview:
The Artists With Disabilities Task Force decided to form a Western MA branch which has been meeting in Springfield, MA. Lucy Sacco took the reigns in developing this pilot program.

Objectives:
The AWDTF Western branch has the same goals as the Task Force as a whole. Projects include developing marketing tools, creating a brochure, spreading the word to other artists with disabilities, and networking within Western MA.

Accomplishments:
Lucy Sacco, as an ICC project, contacted each of the MRC offices in the Western region so each office would have information by which to make referrals. Each artist has had a chance to introduce themselves to the group and demonstrate their work.

Meetings:
The Western MA Task Force has been meeting monthly since June and will continue to meet bimonthly at the MRC Springfield VR office.

SRC-LD/ADHD Task Force

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

MRC Staff:
James Fratolillo
Mark Cowell
Leslie Wish

Mission:
To promote the education and advocacy for and by people with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD). These will enhance community inclusion, independence and economic self-sufficiency.

Goal A
Improve the services the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission provides to consumers with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Objectives
Promote the use of job coaches with experience to assist consumers with learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder so they may experience economic self-sufficiency and community inclusion
Increase the number of consumers with LD/ADHD in achieving employment outcomes
Coordinate training through the MRC Training Department in regard to serving the needs of consumers with LD/ADHD
Identify unmet needs through a Needs Assessment Survey
Establish support groups in the three MRC Regions

Goal B
Establish a working relationship with a broad range of organizations that assist consumers with LD/ADHD in achieving employment.

Objectives
Recruit at least two Independent Living Center members to serve on the SRC LD/ADHD Task Force.

Goal C
To become more proactive in regard to public awareness and understanding of learning disabilities and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (LD/ADHD).

Objectives
Contribute articles to the Consumers' Voice on LD/ADHD issues
Increase the public awareness of the benefits of employing consumers with LD/ADHD
Educate government officials about the needs and concerns of adults with LD/ADHD

Meetings:
The LD/ADHD Task Force meets the 3rd Thursday of every other month at the MRC administrative offices in Boston.

Home Based & Self Employment Task Force

Members:
Owen Doonan, Chair
Bill Corbett
Warren Magee
William Parks
Andy Forman
James Hanna

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

Mission:
The Task Force's 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.

Overview:
We bring the experience and expertise of seasoned entrepreneurs to the table in order to more effectively advise VR Counselors in serving consumers with more effective support in reaching the vocational objectives of consumers who chose self and home based employment outcomes.

Continuing Objectives:
We continue to advocate for reasonable increases in VR, State and Federal funding to allow for greater choice and flexibility in developing meaningful self employment outcomes.

We also continue to advocate for the development of essential support systems to improve the stability and successful development of self employment outcomes for our consumers.

Lastly, to review the MRC self employment resource manual which was created by other sources in order to provide our advice as to the use of its content as a satisfactory tool for advising consumers regarding self and home based employment. We have been advised this resource manual was created to address our concerns and advice.

Accomplishments:
This past year we published and distributed the Self and Home Based Employment Handbook to the MRC Area Offices as a tool for counselors to assist consumers and as an informational pamphlet to assist in informing consumers as to alternative vocational rehabilitation choices.

We also became engaged with the "Employment Now Consortium" to forward the issues that are important to home based workers and the self employed individuals advocating for the implementation of a program to make Massachusetts a model employer of people with disabilities through the MRC's Individual Consumer Consultant [ICC] program.

Another area of advocacy focuses on current discussions with the Department of Labor to consider the development of programs that will assist underserved consumers who experience significantly higher than usual unemployment rates. That discussion includes the implementation of home based and self employment initiatives for consumers to gain entry into the workforce through home based and self/contract employment.

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

Transportation Task Force

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

MRC Staff:
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.
Activities:
This year the Task Force received 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.

The Task Force was provided with the recommendation that Independent Living Centers provide travel training.

The Task Force planned a one-day statewide conference. It was estimated that we would need a year to plan this one-day event.

Lisa Weber and Alex Malvers provided the Task Force with a copy of Senate Bill 2085 as well as a summary of past proceedings.
There will be a subcommittee formed to look into getting this bill passed, as it has been stalled in the Legislature. Alex Malvers and Lisa Weber will be on the subcommittee with June Hailer and Edith Bross.

The Task Force has formed a new sub-committee whose main goal is to promote legislative advocacy to secure funding for transportation for people with disabilities in Massachusetts.

Agenda items will include a discussion on what is working and what is not in terms of transportation. Warren Magee offered to create a PowerPoint presentation. Lisa will track down a printed map of which organization covers each of the areas in question and also request copies of the MetroWest Transportation Guide from Janice Ngau.

The Task Force decided to continue holding forums until all the RTA areas have been covered. The Task Force will submit to the SRC for approval the idea of using the information gained from these forums to analyze the transportation needs around Massachusetts and use that information to create the conference agenda in the future.

The Subcommittee reviewed the recent public forum that took place on July 17th at the Independent living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann (ILCNSA). This is noteworthy since it was stated in the forum that MBTA buses did not travel to that area. June Hailer pointed out the importance of differentiating between "the Ride" and "paratransit." Paratransit services extend throughout the state.

Betty King brought a list of areas that the Ride covers and stated there had been a discussion in the past to have the MBTA cover the whole state. There is also a goal to have new MBTA buses bought. At this time there are only four MBTA vendors.
The Task Force members stated that, in contrast, Greater Lynn Senior Services has been consistently on time. June Hailer stated her area is putting together a booklet of transportation services and she would also like access to transportation information throughout the state.

Kevin Goodwin mentioned the MetroWest Transportation Guide which was originally created in 2005 and is being updated now.

Terry Forrest is looking into details on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA). The information being researched includes hours of operation, eligibility requirements, costs, areas of service and contact information. It was also noted there is a new statewide accessibility department at the MBTA.

Jeff Brown informed the Task Force about his non-profit organization which can be found at www.ridebuzz.org. This organization matches individuals who need rides with those who have room in their vehicle and can offer to carpool. The goal of this was to share expenses, reduce emissions, and allow people (including individuals with disabilities) to carpool together. June Hailer said this kind of program would be great in Berkshire County as there is a lack of transportation. Jeff mentioned that many people have enthusiastically embraced the idea but they acknowledge the possible pitfalls. Examples include concern for how the volunteers get screened (CORI?), concern regarding legal issues if the passenger or driver gets hurt during any interaction, and how to ensure safety of all parties.

The Task Force will express support for a Transportation Workshop at the Annual Consumer Conference.

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

Taunton Area Advisory Council

Members:
Ann Marie Paulson &
William Parks,
Co-Chairpersons
Frank Verville
Kathleen Simpson
Audrey Butterworth
Arnold Carr
Nathan Carr
Vicky Carr
Richard Colantonio
Andrea Higgins
Ron Wainrib

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:
1. Familiarity with Project Impact [Benefits Planning]
2. Disability services at local Career Centers
3. Serve as hosts for one statewide 'State Rehabilitation Council' [SRC] meeting
4. Collaboration with Independence Associates
5. Awareness of VR legislation & possible advocacy
6. Office productivity
7. Participate in statewide SRC activities

Accomplishments:
1. On 1/28/08, the TAC members were briefed by the MRC Benefits Specialist for the Taunton/Fall River area. She delivered a presentation with handouts regarding "2008 Social Security and Work Incentives Update."
2. TAC members were also made aware of the ongoing progress to help the local Career Centers serve individuals with disabilities at all TAC meetings. The Taunton Area Director continues to serve as the Chairperson for the local WIB's Disability Action Committee.
3. On 10/20/08, TAC membership met with Carline Louizia, Co-Executive Director of Independence Associates, our local independent living center. Carline shared information regarding their current staffing, programs and future vision.
4. 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. George Brocke, MRC South District Director, met with the TAC on 4/14 to review district and agency activities and direction.
A number of the TAC members attended the statewide Consumer Conference on 6/12/08 in Boston. Two members of the TAC served on the conference planning committee with one being committee co-chair.

Meetings:
The Taunton Advisory Council meets quarterly and the meetings are held in the Taunton Office.

MetroWest Consumer Council

Members:
Kevin Goodwin, Chair
Patricia Laughlin
Stephen Machnick
Dennis Polselli
Nancy Sullivan
Phillis Shelburne

MRC Staff:
Janice Ngau

Mission:
The mission of the Council is to recognize the need for actions to be taken to improve the ability of people with disabilities to live and work independently.

Accomplishments:
Stephen Machnik, a new Council member, took the initiative to formalize the mission statement and goals for the Council. This has served to better focus efforts of the Council.

Anita Scheipers joined the Council representing the Town of Lincoln and their Disability Commission. She adds the valued municipal perspective.

Council members participated in the SRC/SILC Legislative Day in April and took advantage of the opportunity to speak with their legislators to raise awareness of issues.

Council members attended the Annual Conference in June and had positive feedback about the event.

The MetroWest Consumer Council hosted the SRC for their June meeting in Marlboro.

Individual Consumer Consultation has enabled the Council to conduct its Outreach Project, an accessibility survey and update the MetroWest Accessible Transportation Resource Guide.

Meetings:
The MetroWest Consumer Council meets on the last Wednesday of the month.

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
Marcia Tritter

Providers:
Janey Fox - Jewish Family and Children's Service
Lisa Gurgone - Mass. Council for Home Care Aide Services
Emmanuel Ugocha - Allied Health Care
Christopher Jenkins, Linda Wolfson - Home Instead Senior Care
Brenda Rogers, RN - Abbey Road Home Care
Solomon Babajide - Hope Restored Human Services

MRC Staff:
April Anderson, Case Manager
Duncan Arden, Case Manager
Katherine Chesebro, Case Manager
Eloise Cruz, Case Manager
Maria King-Bynoe, Case Manager
Paulina Mauras, Case Manager
Megan McNally, Case Manager
Liz Morin, Case Manager
Christine O'Brien, Case Manager
Debra Visocchi, Case Manager
Jodi Watson, Case Manager
Amanda Walker, Intake Coordinator
Felix Jordan, Supervisor
Angela Cipriano, Supervisor
Betty Maher, Director

Mission:
Provides input, advice, and a range of perspectives that is integral to the HCAP mission: our goal is to empower adults with disabilities and chronic health conditions to live to their optimal level of independence and engagement in their homes and communities, through the provision of individualized homemaking services and case management supports.

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 community and provider trade organizations. Workforce development issues, training on disability awareness and independent living philosophy are common areas of discussion.

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 during FY'08 can be summarized as follows:
Finalized the Homemaker Services and In-Home Evaluations RFR for provider agencies. Services were re-procured for July 1, 2008.
Provided input into recommendations for the development of the RFR for individual Home Care Assistants
Provided input into the focus, agenda and logistics for conducting Regional Provider Forums
Designed, contributed to, and edited the HCAP Resource Newsletter
Consulted and advised program management on other programmatic issues including management of the Wait List, staffing, and data collection
Provided input into the program's wellness initiatives and collaborative work with the Department of Public Health

Meetings: Meetings were held in November, March and August. Future meetings will return to the quarterly schedule of March, June, September and December.

MRC/SRC Vocational Rehabilitation Consumer Needs Assessment Survey

Introduction

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), in cooperation with the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), has conducted its third annual study of consumer service needs. The purpose of this study is two fold: to provide agency management with detailed information regarding the needs of the consumers served by the MRC, and to fulfill the federal requirement that the agency conduct a needs assessment at least every three years as part of the State Plan.

The Needs Assessment survey was designed to provide agency staff with both short term and long term data on consumer needs that will be utilized to improve our current Vocational Rehabilitation and Community Service programs.

This project was managed by the MRC Research, Evaluation, and Program Development Department.

Methodology

Survey and Sample Design

Research staff utilized the same survey instrument as in 2007 for comparability of results. As in 2007, a new Needs Assessment database was constructed with links to MRCIS, the case management data system used in the VR program. This allowed research staff to derive demographic information directly from MRCIS, thus eliminating the need to ask demographic questions on the survey.

The 2008 Needs Assessment consisted of a mailed survey to a random sample of 594 active MRC VR consumers in statuses 16 (restoration services), 18 (job training), or 20 (job ready). In past years, this sampling approach yielded a large proportion of cases with incorrect addresses. Therefore, in 2008 the MRC restricted the sample selection to individuals who had moved into the targeted statuses (16, 18, or 20) within 30 days of the sample selection. This sampling frame was chosen to focus on consumers who are actively engaged in the VR process.

Response Rate

A total of 594 surveys were mailed to MRC consumers in mid-January, 2008. The strategy of limiting the sample to individuals with recent case activity resulted in vast improvements in the percentage of cases with incorrect addresses. In 2007, over 25% of the cases sampled had incorrect addresses, whereas in 2008, only 28 surveys or less than 5% of the sample were returned as undeliverable.

These efforts yielded a total of 277 completed surveys out of 566 potential responses, for a response rate of 49%. The restriction of the sample to active cases and the follow-up mailings were effective in increasing the response rate by 10 percentage points over last year's survey

Research staff entered the returned survey data into the Needs Assessment Database. The results for fixed response questions were analyzed using statistical software. Open ended questions were analyzed using a point analysis to rank order responses.

Sample Selection and Non-Response Bias

It appears the restriction of the sample size, combined with the more stringent sampling frame resulted in a study sample that was not representative of the overall MRC population on the dimension of primary disability. Consumers with mental impairments (including psychological, cognitive, and learning disabilities) comprise about 55% of the overall MRC population. Yet, nearly three quarters of the consumers in the Needs Assessment sample had mental impairments as a primary disability (73.5%). This problem was not present in past surveys that were based on a 10% sample of cases in active statuses. It is recommended that a larger more representative sample be used for the 2009 Needs Assessment, which will be included in the MRC State Plan and federal review process.

Although the response rate was very high compared to past efforts, the fact that half of the consumers surveyed did not respond also has the potential to be problematic in the analysis and interpretation of results.

The non-response analysis compared the non-respondents to the respondents to determine whether any significant differences were present. The two groups were compared on several programmatic and socio-demographic variables, including gender, age, and race/ethnicity, education at application, primary source of support, primary disability, current status, and region.

The analysis revealed no significant differences between respondents and non-respondents by current status, gender, race/ethnicity, primary source of support, or region. However, respondents were significantly more likely to have a physical or sensory disability as opposed to a mental disability ( p=.001). Response rates for individuals with sensory and physical impairments hovered around 60%, as opposed to only 43% for individuals with mental impairments. Mental disabilities include psychiatric disabilities as well as learning disabilities and cognitive impairments. It is possible that there were needs associated with these disabilities that could have impacted the response rate. This should be examined in detail prior to finalizing the 2009 survey. This information should be used in future Needs Assessment survey efforts to appropriately stratify the sample on the basis of primary disability.

Another significant difference between respondents and non-respondents was on the dimension of education. Perhaps not surprisingly, consumers with higher levels of education were more likely to complete the survey ( p=.003). This could be in part due to a better understanding of the survey instrument by individuals with greater educational attainment. This finding could also be a function of age: survey response appeared to increase with age ( p=.002).

A logistic regression model was estimated to predict survey response. The results suggest that after controlling for other factors, individuals with physical disabilities were more likely to complete the survey as opposed to individuals with mental impairments (OR=1.911, p=.006). The odds of people with physical disabilities responding to the survey were 91% higher than individuals with mental impairments.

The results of the multivariate analysis suggest there may be issues with the accessibility of the survey for individuals with mental impairments. Furthermore, the findings presented in this report may not be generalizable to individuals with lower educational attainment at application. In the future, it is advisable to make additional efforts to reach these consumers via different formats (e.g., phone interviews or focus groups), assuming the resources are available to do so.

Demographics of Respondents
Demographic data about survey respondents were pulled directly from the MRCIS database. Responses were received from consumers across the state, with 33.5% from the South region, 32.2% from the North region, 34.3% from the West region, and 1% from SES.

The majority of respondents were in training status (72.4%), followed by restoration services (14.0%) and job search (13.6%).

Slightly more than half of the respondents (52.8%) were male. There was representation of consumers of all ages, including individuals in transition from school to work (age 22 or younger) (21.7%), as well as older consumers (age 50 and older) (25.1%). Similar to results in 2007, the largest age cohort represented was comprised of consumers age 20 to 29, followed by 40 to 49 year olds. While the majority of respondents identified themselves as Caucasian (74.4%), there was considerable representation of African-Americans (20.6%), Hispanics (7.5%), and other racial groups (6.1%). Over 8% of respondents identified themselves as multi-racial. Only 14 respondents, or 4.9%, were veterans.

Individuals with mental disabilities (e.g., learning, cognitive or psychiatric disabilities) comprised the largest proportion of respondents (66.4%), followed by those with physical disabilities (24.0%), and sensory impairments (9.5%).

The vast majority of respondents had at least a high school education at application. The open ended responses show that many of these consumers were attending college through the MRC VR program. Over 14% possessed a college degree or higher at application. Nearly half of the respondents (42.3%) received public benefits as their primary source of support, an anticipated finding based on the fact these individuals had not yet completed their VR program.

Finally, the majority of respondents received health insurance, primarily from MassHealth (47.7%), followed by other private insurance (29.2%). Over 11% of respondents were missing health insurance data. It is unclear whether these individuals are uninsured or whether these cases represent data entry errors. The inclusion of a new check box within MRCIS specifically indicating whether the consumer is uninsured should mitigate this in the future.

Service Need Analysis

VR Service Needs, Job Characteristics, and MRC Services
Respondents were asked to rank how important each VR service was to them (very important, somewhat important, not at all important, or no opinion). Similar to results from 2007, respondents believed all VR services were important; over 80% reported that career counseling, job placement, job coaching, supported employment and benefits planning were important and needed services. Not surprisingly, the proportion of respondents citing GED services as important was low (34.4%), as the vast majority of respondents already possessed a high school diploma. However, among individuals without a high school education, 81.2% indicated that obtaining a GED or high school diploma was important. This year, 43.6% of respondents indicated that self-employment or starting a home-based business was important to them, down from 51.1% in 2007.

There were significant differences in the reported importance of VR services by educational attainment at application. Not surprisingly, individuals without a college degree were significantly more likely to report that obtaining a college degree was important (p=.000, γ-=.208), and those with a high school diploma were less likely to report that obtaining a GED was an important service (p=.000, γ =.398). Furthermore, these results suggest job placement services were more important to individuals with lower levels of educational attainment (p=.001, γ =.230), possibly because college graduates possess better skills (both technical and soft skills), which better prepares them for the job search process. Respondents with lower levels of educational attainment at application were also more likely to report that job coaching services were important (p=.048, γ =.188).

There were other significant findings by primary source of support, race, region, and age. Predictably, respondents who were receiving public benefits were significantly more likely to report that benefits planning services were important to them (p=.042, λ =.034). White respondents were more likely to state that obtaining a high school diploma is not important, although the association is very weak (p=.008, λ =.017). Respondents from the South District were more likely to report that obtaining a high school diploma or GED was important (p=.007, λ =.068). Individuals from the South District were also more likely to report that training services are important (p=.034, λ =.059). Also not surprisingly, transition-aged youth were more likely to report that obtaining a high school diploma was important (p=.015, λ =.032)

Respondents were also asked how often the MRC meets their VR service needs: always, sometimes, or rarely. Nearly half the respondents (44.3%) indicated that the MRC always meets their needs, and about one-third (28.0%) stated that MRC sometimes meets their needs. Thus, 72.3% of the respondents indicated that at least some, if not all of their needs were being addressed. However, the proportions of respondents indicating that MRC rarely meets their needs, and those stating that they were unsure, increased slightly since 2007.

This finding could be related to restrictions on services put into place in late FY2007 and early FY2008 to deal with funding limitations, and the increase of the waiting list to six months. Some of the individuals in the sample could have been subject to a longer waiting time for services.

This item was followed by an open-ended question allowing people to explain their responses. The majority of the comments (53.4%) were positive, 22.3% were constructive/negative, and 24.3% were neutral. These comments were very similar to those on the Consumer Satisfaction Survey in that they could be characterized as either process oriented or outcome oriented. Outcome oriented comments were concerned with goal achievement (e.g., finishing college or a training program, finding a job that meets their needs and expectations). Process oriented comments were focused on perceptions of how the consumer is treated by MRC staff. As always, consumers had a great deal of positive feedback about their VR counselors.

Frustrations included delays in receiving services or finding a job, lack of contact with counseling staff, and lack of information about services offered. Examples of consumer comments include:
"They provide re-education, training, work clothing and even transportation reimbursement. They have invested over $1,500 in me alone."
"I was told I could not do specific things such as go to college and work, then I was told I could and there must have been a misunderstanding. So, now I'm not sure what is available for me to do."
"My counselor is very knowledgeable about MRC services and explains them well."
"In one year I have been given an opportunity to train on computers. That's it. No college, no vocational training!"
"So far, financial aid [from MRC] helped with reaching my degree. That is most important in my life, but I know this program will be a wonderful help in pursuing my goal to be a nurse."
"Getting any kind of assistance has been like pulling teeth. We have received very little help."
"My counselor has assisted me with reaching my goal of entering the nursing program at STCC. She has been a great help to me; very caring and compassionate. I don't feel like just another number like some agencies do. That makes a world of difference."
"I was not aware of educational services, nor most of the services listed [in the Needs Assessment survey]. These are all very important to me, but were not mentioned as available."
"My counselor is highly motivated and optimistic with what I have done so far without them. My vocational counselor is great."
"My counselor is highly motivated and optimistic with incredible skills who will not let his clients settle. He encourages you to your highest potential "
"My phone messages are not responded to. It is possible that my case worker is overworked."
"Anytime I need help with school, courses, and career guidance MRC has been right there for me.
I have worked with MRC sporadically but I feel unfocused and frustrated. I have to do a lot of research on my own."
All of my questions were answered in a timely manner and my counselor was very helpful and made my transition into a better life easier for me. I will be forever grateful."

Community Service Needs

Similar to VR needs, respondents were asked to rate the importance of various Community Services, from home care to vehicle modification. Affordable, accessible housing continues to be the most common community living need, with 76.8% of respondents citing it as a need. Legal services was the next most common need, with 59.2% of respondents citing a need for this service, followed by recreation (49.4%), home modification (45.2%), and home care (27.1%). This pattern of Independent Living needs is similar to the 2007 results, although this year slightly more respondents indicated the need for legal services (5.8%) and fewer respondents indicated a need for assistive technology (5.9%) and PCA services (5.5%).

The Community Services section of the survey also asked questions about housing, specifically the type of housing the respondent currently resides in, the proportion of the respondent's monthly income that goes to housing costs, and whether or not the respondent requires assistance transitioning from a nursing home or other institution to the community. As in 2007, respondents were most likely to report living with parents (38.7%), followed by subsidized housing (17.3%) and owning their home (16.9%). Thirty percent indicated their housing costs consumed more than half of their monthly income. Only 9 respondents (3.3%) indicated they required assistance transitioning from an institutional setting to the community.

Need for Additional Services and Open Ended Responses

The Needs Assessment included three additional open ended questions regarding service needs. The first question asked respondents to list any other needed services that were not addressed in the survey.

Affordable housing and financial assistance rounded out the top three need areas. These issues are persistent themes as consumers cope with an environment of rising cost of living and tighter eligibility requirements for programs such as food stamps and cash assistance. The responses to the other two open ended questions also highlighted consumers' need for additional financial support, with several respondents indicating a need for money management services, food stamps and financial assistance to purchase tools, books and other items needed for school or work.

Other popular service needs included transportation, both in terms of accessing transportation services and obtaining a vehicle. Better information on the services offered by the MRC, as well as those offered by other state agencies and service providers, continues to be needed by consumers. Case management services were needed to help identify services in the community, navigate complex service networks, and complete lengthy applications for other needed services.

The second open-ended question asked respondents to list the social service that is most important to them that they are not currently receiving.

Job search and placement was the most frequently cited response, followed by housing, financial assistance, and transportation. Although the number one response was the need for job search and placement services, this is most likely a function of consumers who are close to completing their training program and are beginning to look ahead to job placement, as opposed to a lack of availability of job placement services. These results highlight the need and importance of job search and placement activities. Other core VR services were commonly cited as unmet needs. For example, job training was the fifth most cited unmet need. Regular contact with MRC counseling staff, assistance obtaining a college degree, career counseling, and career assessments and evaluations were all identified as unmet needs. This needs to be looked at very closely because the sampling frame for this survey was limited to consumers in active statuses with recent case activity. These results suggest that even when consumers' cases are progressing through the status system, not all consumers are receiving every needed service. This could be a result of limited resources as the agency attempts to serve a growing population with budgets that have not kept up with inflation. MRC research staff might consider doing a more in-depth study of how resource limitations impact service provision.

The final open-ended question asked respondents to list the most important service they are currently receiving. For the second year in a row, respondents were most likely to list assistance with college tuition and other related expenses as the most important service received. This is not surprising, given that the majority of the sample was in training status, and college education is a clear, tangible benefit that consumers can directly link to their experience with the MRC. Job placement and vocational counseling were also at the top of the list for respondents.

A more significant trend is the fact that for the second year in a row, the fourth most common response was "not receiving services." The high prevalence of this response is interesting because the sample was drawn from consumers in active statuses. Further analysis revealed that over half of the respondents answering that they were not receiving services were under the age of 22 (n=12). Perhaps transition-aged youth are being moved into active statuses when they are not receiving any services from the MRC, such as cases where a student is receiving only comparable benefit services from their high school or another social service agency. If that is the case, agency management might consider the practicality of opening cases for students before they are ready to pursue post-secondary or job training goals. Further study of the experience of transition-aged youth might be advisable.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The 2008 Needs Assessment study successfully identified the services that are of primary importance to active VR consumers. The data included here will inform agency policy on the development of new programs as well as changes to current programs to better serve consumers.

The following need areas were identified by VR consumers as being critical to meeting their vocational needs and to their ultimate success in obtaining employment:

Job Search & Placement Services
Assistance with College Education/Training & Related Expenses
VR Counseling, Case Management Supports
Assistive Technology
Affordable Housing Services/Transition to Independent Living
Benefits Planning
Transportation and Travel Training Assistance

The following recommendations are based on the findings of this report:

Further refine Needs Assessment process to include longitudinal data: Consumer needs are a dynamic, moving target, and as new policies such as health care reform are put into place and new priorities are established, consumer needs will continue to evolve. Continuing to administer the survey on an annual basis will assist the MRC in identifying consumer needs and gaps in services both within our agency and the broader social service network, as well as describing how these needs change over time.

Utilize Needs Assessment results to inform future studies/policy analysis: The Needs Assessment process has resulted in interesting findings worthy of further study. For example, these results suggest that additional studies about the experiences of transition-aged youth could better inform policy and case management practices related to this important population. The Needs Assessment findings could also be integrated into other research and evaluation reports to provide background and context.

Consider a mixed-method strategy: Mailed surveys have drawbacks. They are labor intensive and time consuming. The sample size for the 2008 survey was cut substantially due to the lack of administrative support in conducting mailings and data entry. Administering a mailed survey to individuals with significant disabilities further complicates the process because many individuals have a range of needs that can make completing a survey difficult. The analysis of non-responders suggests that consumers with mental impairments such as learning disabilities are less likely to respond. In the future, alternative methods such as a focus group strategy could help us to better understand the needs of these consumers. This approach could provide a deeper understanding of consumer needs and gaps in MRC services.

Incorporate a case review strategy into the Needs Assessment process: Case reviews could be another strategy to augment the Needs Assessment process. This could be accomplished by selecting a random sample of cases for qualitative review. The analysis would help us to understand if consumers' needs were being met by focusing on how well the services provided aligned with the stated goals on their employment plans, and how quickly services were implemented. If resources allow, brief interviews could also be conducted with consumers to obtain their perspective on whether the MRC is meeting their employment and independent living needs.

Continue to revise the survey instrument: The survey itself should be continuously re-evaluated to ensure we are capturing the appropriate data. Future versions of the survey should include services such as school-to-work transition, which is becoming a priority for the MRC. Also, the section on job characteristics should be dropped from the survey because there has been very little variation in the responses, and a similar question is included on the Consumer Satisfaction Survey.

Needs Assessments resources: The MRC should consider using alternate formats such as web-based surveys. This approach would eliminate the need for data entry and the cost of mailed surveys. Subscriptions to online survey service providers are inexpensive alternatives. However, MRC staff would need to be more vigilant in collecting consumer email addresses in order to achieve appropriate sample sizes for statewide surveys. This web-based strategy would address the limitations of staffing resources for this statutory reporting project.

Transportation services: Lack of transportation is cited as a persistent barrier to employment and community living for a wide range of populations, including people with disabilities. This survey highlights the need for effective transportation strategies to assist consumers with going to work. The MRC has secured additional grant funds from the Executive Office of Transportation to support ongoing travel training for consumers. In addition, the agency has partnered with Bridgewater State College to develop an online travel training tool that will soon be available to all consumers.

Conduct a formalized study of consumers in transition from school to work: The award of the Transition Works demonstration grant has created a need for the agency to determine new case management protocols for serving transition-aged youth. The results of the Needs Assessment survey suggest that many young consumers are signing plans and moving into service statuses without receiving substantial services from the MRC. These consumers and their parents expressed frustration with this process on the Needs Assessment. A more formalized study of the experiences of transition aged youth might be advisable. Using a qualitative approach, research staff could compare the experiences of consumers participating in the Transition Works project with those on general caseloads. This study could be conducted as a part of the evaluation of the Transition Works project, and would help to identify best practices for serving this critical population.

Conduct a study of how resource limitations impact service provision: In both the 2007 and 2008 Needs Assessment surveys, consumers expressed frustration with the waiting time for services, the lack of information about services offered and difficulty getting in contact with their counselor. The MRC has typically dealt with funding limitations by imposing waiting lists for services; however, we have not explored whether cohorts of consumers entering the agency in times of fiscal instability actually receive different services from cohorts entering the agency in times of stability. A study of this type could be conducted using multiple waves of R-911 data. This study would help MRC management to better monitor the quality of services during times of financial need.

Utilize needs findings to promote program development within the agency: The consumer needs data and trends can be utilized by the agency both in terms of long range resource planning activities and future program development activities.

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) 204-3885
Emeka.Nwokeji@mrc.state.ma.us


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.