Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council
2012 Annual Report 

Letter from the SRC Chair

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
State Rehabilitation Council
600 Washington Street, 2nd. Floor
Boston, MA  02111
617-204-3665

State Rehabilitation Council
Chairperson, Nicholas G. Kaltsas Esq.
Vice Chairperson, Jeffrey Roberge
Secretary, Dawn E. Clark, D.min.
Members at Large, Michael Ferriter 

October 22, 2012

The Honorable Governor
Deval Patrick
State House
Boston, MA

Dear Governor Patrick,

It is an honor to represent the Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) in the submission of the Annual Report for the fiscal year 2012.

This Annual Report contains the great value and work of individuals from all walks of life, who volunteer as special employees of the Governor and ex-officio members of the Council.  As you read this report, you will come to understand the incredible amount of work these dedicated people do to improve the lives of citizens with disabilities in our Commonwealth.

The SRC continues its commitment to its partnership with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC).  I would like to thank the employees of the MRC who have contributed above the call of duty to provide the SRC tremendous information and technical assistance in providing the MRC advice and advocacy in their mission and vision.  We could not do our mandated duties and responsibilities without the effort to partner on our mutual goal of serving people with disabilities in the State.

The SRC held four quarterly meetings in the VR districts, the seven SRC standing committees met as required and the Executive Committee deliberated more often in building the SRC Quarterly Meeting agenda.  The goal of all their meetings and deliberations remains to ensure that people with disabilities receive the necessary vocational rehabilitation services to maximize their employment opportunities and live independently in the community.

In addition, I would like to thank the dedicated staff of the SRC who makes it possible for us to meet our objectives.  The value of each staff member is impossible to measure, on an individual basis, because they do their jobs so willingly; it makes all the members shine.

It remains an exceptional privilege to continue to serve and work with such dedicated staff and determined SRC members.  Our collective goal, as always, is to take our responsibility to improve and expand employment opportunities for people with disabilities.  I look forward to building a relationship with the Governor’s Appointments Office that will provide the SRC with timely and effective statutory member’s appointment to the Council.  We take our appointments seriously and respectfully. I thank you.

Sincerely,
Nicholas G. Kaltsas, Esq.
Chair-SRC


Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council

Mission:Our Mission is to partner with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission to support and advise the agency in the provision of high quality, value-based vocational rehabilitation services that lead to meaningful and sustainable competitive employment for consumers.

Vision:Our Vision is to provide a dynamic pathway to economic self-sufficiency for all people with disabilities to break the historic bonds of poverty.

Values:
The SRC believes:

  • In the ability, dignity, diversity, and value of each person.
  • That everyone should have the opportunity to actively participate in all facets of life, especially in the area of employment.
  • That focusing on an individuals assets and strengths leads to success.
  • A Person-Centered approach to goal setting, service planning, and delivery systems lead to individual success.
  • Employment is the key to inclusion, participation, and access to community life.
  • A collaborative approach with partners leads to success.
  • The provision of services must be ethical, principled, and fair.


 Letter From the SRC Director 

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Executive Office of Health and Human Services
Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
600 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02111-1704 

(617) 204-3600
1 (800) 245-6543
Voice/TDD (617) 204-3665
FAX (617) 727-1354 

 

DEVAL L. PATRICK
GOVERNOR

TIMOTHY P. MURRAY
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR

Dr. JUDYANN BIGBY
SECRETARY

CHARLES CARR
COMMISSIONER

October 23, 2012

From the SRC Director's Desk:

As the Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council Executive Director, it is my pleasure to work with the SRC leadership in the development of this year’s Annual Report.

The Annual Report is required to be sent yearly to the State Governor, the Secretary of Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS), the MRC Commissioner as well as the Federal Agencies Secretary, US Secretary of Education and the Federal Rehabilitation Services Administration.

In addition, the SRC has made it one of its highest priorities to all MRC stakeholders to share the accomplishments of the partnership of the MRC and the SRC.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my staff and all the MRC consumers who worked and participated in all of the SRC mandated duties.

The MRC Consumer Involvement Program remains indebted to the rich partnership between the SRC and the MRC. 

For further information please go to:
 www.mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/disability-services/advocacy/msrc/
or www.mass.gov/mrc
 Respectfully,
Emeka Nwokeji
Director of Consumer Involvement   

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
Creating Opportunities For Independent Living and Work.

Mission: 
The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) promotes equality, empowerment and independence of individuals with disabilities. These goals are achieved through enhancing and encouraging personal choice and the right to succeed or fail in the pursuit of independence and employment in the community.

Vision:
The MRC provides comprehensive services to people with disabilities that maximize their quality of life and economic self-sufficiency in the community.

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Division

The MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Program and the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind serve eligible individuals with disabilities who are available and able to attain employment as a result of vocational rehabilitation services.

The MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Program is the federal-state vocational rehabilitation program focused on assisting individuals with disability(s) to become employed. Some of the MRC-VR services provided include…

  • Vocational counseling, guidance and assistance in job placement
  •  Training program, including college if appropriate, to attain entry level employment;
  •  Rehabilitation technology services;
  •  Job coach services;
  •  Community based employment services
  • Job Placement;

 

MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Year in Review
July 1, 2011 – June 30, 2012

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
3,487 citizens with disabilities have been successfully placed into employment based on their choices, interests, needs and skills.

The earnings of these rehabilitated employees in MA in the first year were $61.9 million.

Estimated public benefits savings from people rehabilitated in MA were $26.2 million.

Average Hourly Wage $12.78
Average Work Hours Weekly  26.7

*The returns to society based on increases in lifetime earnings range from $14 to $18 for each $1 invested in the MRC Vocational Rehabilitation program.
*$5 is returned to the government in the form of increased taxes and reduced public assistance payments for every $1 invested in the MRC Vocational Rehabilitation program.
*Based on 2004 Commonwealth Corporation Study.

Who Are Our Consumers?

Average Age                           34

Female                               46.7%

Male                                    53.3%

Asian/Pacific Islander        3.8%

Black                                  16.2%

Hispanic                             9.2%

Native American                  .6%

White                                   79.9%

Types of Disabilities

Psychiatric Disabilities36.8%
Substance Abuse  9.5%
Orthopedic Disabilities10.7%
Learning Disabilities19.4%
Developmental Disabilities  2.5%
Deaf and Hard of Hearing  7.0%
Neurological Disabilities  2.6%
Traumatic Brain Injury  2.0%
Other Disabilities  9.5%

Consumers actively receiving services: 22,127
Consumers enrolled in training/education programs: 14,902  
Consumers with significant disabilities employed: 3,487
Consumers employed with medical insurance: 95.4%
Consumers satisfied with services: 82%
 

SRC Establishment

The State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) was created in March 1994 by Executive Order of the Governor to implement the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act, as amended by P.L. 102-569.

The Council carries out its purpose by performing the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Advise the MRC regarding the administering of the Public Vocational Rehabilitation Program under Title I of the Rehabilitation Act, particularly regarding eligibility and order of selection.
  • Advise the MRC regarding its relationship with other state agencies that affect the ability of individuals with disabilities to achieve their vocational rehabilitation goals and objectives.
  • Advise the MRC concerning the preparation of the Vocational Rehabilitation State Plan (which plans for vocational rehabilitation services), and amendments thereto, and any reports, needs assessments and evaluations required by Title I of the Rehabilitation Act.
  • To the extent feasible, conduct review and analysis of consumer satisfaction with vocational rehabilitation services and the functions performed by state agencies and other public and private entities serving persons with disabilities.
  • Prepare and submit an Annual Report to the Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and the Governor on the status of vocational rehabilitation programs operated within Massachusetts and make the report available to the public.
  • Coordinate with other organizations in Massachusetts that plan or oversee the provision of services for persons with disabilities, including the State- wide Independent Living Council established under Title VII of the Rehabilitation Act, the advisory panel established under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Massachusetts Mental Health Planning Council.
  • Advise the MRC concerning coordination and establishment of working relationships between the Commission and the Statewide Independent Living Council and Centers for Independent Living within Massachusetts.

In pursuing these purposes, the Council encourages participation by all concerned individuals.

The Council is composed of 20 appointed members the MRC Commissioner and one vocational rehabilitation counselor who are ex-officio members.  The Council encourages public participation in its general council meetings and has established 15 positions as ex-officio memberships. The ex-officio members serve to contribute in the business of the council but shall not exercise the options to vote on council decisions. Each ex-officio member is nominated annually and must represent a disability related advocacy group.

 

SRC Standing Committees

Executive Committee

  • The Executive Committee addresses major issues facing the Council and can make preliminary decisions to be considered by the Council.
  • The Executive Committee also works through the Council's Standing Committees to review, analyze, advise, and partner with VR and complete other Council requirements.
  • The executive Committee is composed of the SRC Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, Member at large and the Chairs of the standing committees.

 

Consumer Satisfaction Survey Committee

Mike Ferriter, Chair

The mission of the Consumer Satisfaction Committee (CSC) is to ensure that consumer perspectives are included in the process of evaluating MRC consumer satisfaction and to serve in an advisory capacity to improve services provided to consumers.

  • To achieve this mission, the CSC will work in collaboration with the Research, Development and Performance Management Department of the MRC to develop/refine evaluation tools and analyze/interpret data collected for the purposes of assessing consumer satisfaction with services provided by vocational rehabilitation staff and contracted service providers. 
  • The CSC will make recommendations on the basis of the data collected annually and follow up with the MRC to facilitate the provision of high-quality value-based training and meaningful and sustainable competitive employment.

Year’s Accomplishments

The CSC advised and obtained agency approval for last year’s recommendations to make the Consumer Handbook required reading for all consumers.  This is accomplished by adding a sign-off page to the end of the handbook, for consumers to sign, detach and present to their counselor when they have read the Handbook.  This form will become part of the consumer’s permanent record. 

In conjunction with the Consumer Involvement, Marketing, Training and Research, Development and Performance Management Departments, a video company has been hired to produce a VR Consumer Orientation Video which will be used at all orientation programs in all area or field offices.  It will also be on the MRC web page for consumers who are investigating the MRC services.  The video highlights essential elements of the Consumer Handbook but in particular:

  • Stresses the point that the Consumer Handbook is required reading.
  • Emphasizes the fact that VR is an employment based service.
  • Describes consumers’ responsibilities in the job search process as well as their rights.
  • Describes a short “agreement” that will be signed by the consumer and counselor, stating that the job search process is a shared responsibility.

In conjunction with the Research, Development and Performance Management Department the CSC participated in a comprehensive study of the increase in unsuccessful closures in status 28.  The CSC has been involved in this issue for several years, and will develop recommendations to the agency on the basis of this report.

The Consumer Satisfaction Survey was conducted in 2011, presented to the SRC as of this writing.  The recommendations proposed in the report include the following:

  • Increasing the number of counselors who take and update consumers’ electronic mail addresses on the new web based MRCIS will go a long way to improve the agency’s ability to conduct accurate and statistically significant surveys of consumers, not to mention making them easier for the counselor to contact.
  • Investigate the possibility of adopting some of the techniques used in the state of Maine that eliminated their waiting list, reduced costs and improved their rehabilitation rate.
  • Work with Senior Management and the Research, Development and Performance Management Department to continue studies into reasons for and correlates of unsuccessful closure in status 28.
  • Investigate grants or other means for providing educational/occupational support, perhaps by means of peer counselors, to advise consumers with psychiatric and/or learning disabilities to successfully complete educational progress and maintain employment.
  • Conduct a needs assessment survey regarding transportation as a barrier to employment and education among MRC consumers.

2011-2012 was the second year that the satisfaction of the MRC counselors and community rehabilitation providers under CIES contract were studied, in addition to consumer satisfaction.The analysis of these data gave depth to the CSC’s understanding of consumer issues and the strengths of service providers as well as areas that need to be strengthened. This procedure will be continued into subsequent years.

 Joint Committee on By-Laws and Nomination Committee

Nicholas G. Kaltsas Esq., Chair

The mission of this Committee is to work toward the determination and selection of interested people eligible for membership in the State Rehabilitation Council in accordance with the SRC By-Laws. 

The committee meets with the MRC Consumer Involvement Director to develop a roster of interested people who would be appropriate for future SRC needs.

The Committee deliberated on the SRC By-Laws dealing with membership, mandated representatives by disabilities, gender, geographical and as mandated by the Rehabilitation Act, as amended.

The Committee has again recommended retaining the SRC ex-officio members with a maximum of 15 ex-officio members. All members of the SRC which will include the membership of the Ex-Officio must have the same standard orientation.

  • A process was implemented by which the necessity of, and/or interest in, the continuation of a current Task Force could be assessed. The SRC infra-structure was amended so in the future, each Task Force will serve at the direction of a Standing Committee.
  • Appointments made by the Governor’s Office have not only increased the number of Statutory Appointees serving on the SRC, but that are available to serve on the Executive Committee as full voting members.
  • Primarily as a result of economic restraints, but also in compliance with the SRC By-Law language, the number of SRC Ex-Officio membership was reduced to, or remains at, no more than fifteen (15) Ex-Officio members.

Joint Committee Business Development/Placement &
Finance Committee

Alan Greene, Chair

The SRC Joint Committee Business Development/Placement & Finance Committee will provide support and guidance to the MRC and the full Council on related matters while identifying innovative solutions for, and the advancement of, vocational rehabilitation programs and the placement of people with disabilities into competitive employment.

The Joint Committee Business Development/Placement & Finance & Budget met three times over the last year and provided advise to the MRC in the following areas.

  • The development of employment opportunities for MRC consumers is the Committee's primary goal. Much of the Committee’s work has been focused on working with the MRC developing a data base of job ready consumers. 
  • This data base would be made available to employers. 
  • Secondly the Committee focused on the MRC transition program and T-22 services and the MRC order of selection implementation and long term support.
  • MRC Job Placement Directors worked with the committee on the coordination and creation of a job ready consumer list. These individuals will be best assisted by the MRC-Job Placement Specialists. 
  • The Committee agreed that there are very few Job Placement Specialists and would like to support the idea of increasing the number of Job Placement Specialists.

MRC’s new Logo and Marketing Plan:

The Committee advised that the new MRC logo in colors looked great.  There are MRC marketing packages that match different employer perspectives, regionally targeted and Job Specialists will choose materials that will match the sector. 

The Committee was impressed with the logo and the marketing brochures as presented.  The Committee supported rolling out the MRC logo and marketing materials.

MRC’s Website:

  • In addition, the employers will also experience difficulty with the website; especially if they are looking for consumers to hire.  There is no clue to lead the employer to employment potential in the website.
  • Make the wording on the website clear and concise, so employers or consumers seeking employment can easily navigate the website.

Policy and Regulation Committee

Jeffrey Roberge, Chair

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

This past year, the Policy and Regulations Committee worked on suggesting some changes to 107 CMR 3:00 (definitions) and 7:00 (closures).  This work has gone to the appropriate administrative and legal staff, the SRC, Administration and Finance and is now in the Governor’s office. 

Future work under consideration includes; defining how this Committee can advocate for the expediting of the approval of policy changes and reviewing 107 CMR 6:00 (scope of VR Services) which is a large undertaking as this regulation includes assistive technology, home modification and vehicle modification.

Unserved/Underserved Population Committee

Dawn E. Clark D.min, Chair

The mission of this Committee is to advise the MRC regarding residents of the Commonwealth who are unserved/underserved due to their disability, culture, ethnicity, race, language, creed, religion, class, sexual preference, age or economic status.

Year Recommendations:

The Committee made the following recommendations to be included in the FY”13 State Plan:

  • The MRC develop a long term support program for consumers with learning disabilities; specifically (LD) and/or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The MRC will provide assistance with organizational, practical, remedial and interpersonal problems that often interfere with successful completion of an educational program or maintaining employment.
  • The MRC ensure a smooth transition program for youth with disabilities is in place. Also, that they create a comprehensive agenda with all its departments and programs for youth transitional support services.

Year Accomplishments:

Implemented procedural changes recommended by the FY’11 SRC to consider the need for three of the SRC Task Forces.

The Committee recommended to the SRC that three Sub-Committees be formed and the Task Forces be disbanded. This was agreed to providing the Chairpersons of the Learning Disabilities/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity and Transportation Task Forces were the chairpersons of the respective Sub-Committees.

The LD/ADHD Sub-Committee:

The mission of the LD/ADHD Sub Committee is to promote the education and advocacy for and by people with Learning Disabilities and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (LD/ADHD). This will enhance community inclusion, independence and economic self-sufficiency.

The Committee reviewed the work of the LD/ADHD Task Force and determined the same issues identified in the FY’10 Report continue to be needs of the MRC consumers. Some of these concerns go well beyond the prevue of this Committee, however, can be acknowledged by a collaborative advocacy particularly as the needs related to transportation.

In May, 2012, an electronic survey of counselors, Job Placement Specialists, and Employment Service Specialists was undertaken to explore reasons for and interventions to avoid the number of closures in status 28.  The response rate was 51.2%, just above the level necessary to assure accuracy at 95%.

FINDINGS:

  • Most respondents had worked with the MRC for 7 years or more and had slightly smaller caseloads than average.
  • Every Area Office was represented among respondents to the survey, except Brookline and SES.
  • Counselors need clear, measurable criteria for using the most frequent categories among reasons for closure in status 28: not locatable; refused services; did not cooperate.  Suggestions were made for working definitions of these frequently used reasons for closure.
  • The majority of counselors believed consumers who closed in status 28 either did not want to work, wanted only some training or service (not employment), or underwent some exacerbation of their symptoms or change in their circumstances which made it difficult to work.
  • Many consumers closed in status 28 were seen as inappropriate for services (not wanting/able to work, lacking motivation), suggesting some prescreening or job readiness evaluation would be valuable while the consumer was in status 10.   In this case, inappropriate referrals could be encouraged to close in status 30 rather than status 28.
  • Lack of communication, identified as a serious barrier to success, was closely linked to caseload size.  Many counselors felt they had too many cases to stay in regular contact with them all; even though our respondents’ caseload size tended to be smaller than the average for all counselors in the agency.

While a large proportion of counselors felt that having adequate placement resources was important for reducing the number of 28s, having early benefits counseling, smaller caseloads and consumer orientations that stressed the MRC goal of employment and consumer responsibility were also seen as important.

Counselors’ reasons for closing cases in status 28 and counselors’ suggestions for interventions to reduce the number of cases in status 28 both centered on reducing the number of inappropriate cases identified as eligible.  Counselors reported that many of the consumers closed in status 28 believe the MRC should “give” them a job. So if they receive services and find a job on their own, they may get angry at the MRC for not “giving” them the job and don’t tell their counselor they are working.  Or, consumers eventually closed in status 28 may only want services or training, but not employment, and so they drop out early, avoiding counselors.  Some interventions should be designed for these outcomes, be it better consumer orientations or prescreening with job readiness evaluations.

A Consumer Orientation Video is being designed to inform potential clients what the MRC is and is not, stressing consumer responsibility and the goal of employment.

The Transportation Sub Committee:

The Transportation Sub Committee’s mission is to advocate, educate and empower people with disabilities and the general public regarding transportation options and issues.

Transportation continued to be an on-going issue for consumers getting to work and other places.  The Sub-Committee is reviewing its goals and identifying a task(s) that can be accomplished and be beneficial to the MRC Consumer.

The Artists Beyond Challenges Sub Committee:
 

The Artists with Disabilities Sub Committee is a group of people from diverse disciplines working toward creating linkages between artists with disabilities and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.

Years Accomplishments

  • The sub-committee is continuing to work with the MRC IT Department on the development of an “Artists Beyond Challenges”web-site.
  • Held a benefits workshop in July for Artists at Bentley College.
  • Held conversations with two agencies about exhibiting artists work.
  • Initiated conversations about cosponsoring a program with Very Special Arts (VSA) for next year.
  • Created the 2012 Calendar featuring the work of thirteen artists.

 

Joint Committee on the State Plan and Interagency Relations

Joe Bellil, Chair

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.

State Rehabilitation Council Recommendations and Commission Responses:

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has an active and productive State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). SRC members through the District Consumer Advocacy Councils (DCAC), 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:

State Rehabilitation Council Recommendations:

Recommendation 1:

The SRC recommends that the MRC create the ability for employers to access a statewide list of all job ready clients who meet specific skill sets. Provide an opportunity for employers to post jobs through MRC’s internal network. Develop affinity groups; utilize the internet more effectively including LinkedIn, Facebook; and create an employer focused webpage that provides useful information on hiring people with disabilities.

MRC Response:

The Commission has always had a strong commitment to building internal job placement resources which has included job placement specialists in most area offices to develop office and district listings of job ready customers and to work closely with employers to place customers in existing jobs and to develop new ones.

The Commission hired, using ARRA funds, 9 employment and job placement specialists. This year, the Commission hired an additional 3 Employment Service Specialists under re-allotment funds.  This increases the number of staff who work directly with employers and consumers helping to meet the recruitment needs of local employers and successfully place additional consumers.

The Commission maintains an internal job board in its intranet site. Jobs are posted and updated every 30 days. The Commission recognizes that there should be a mechanism where employers are able to post. Unfortunately that mechanism is not available at this time. This feature will continue to be revisited for the future for this site.

The Commission is continuing to work with EOHHS to revamp its website and research the use of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and other tools to allow employers to more easily post current job openings in a timelier manner.

The On the Job evaluation and training program is very active and there are dedicated funds to keep the program moving forward with branding our direct employer training program within all labor sectors.

MRC has partnered with the Merit Apprenticeship Program (MAP). The MAP program allows for paid apprenticeships in the trades. This program is authorized and supported by the Massachusetts Secretary of Labor.

MRC has developed an employer account management program to build long term employer partnerships with companies such as Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Allied Barton Security, Manpower, TJX and CVS,

The Commission has partnered with Manpower Staffing Services to deploy web-based training program. This program allows Commission job seekers to be participants in virtual training programs that are linked to high-demand jobs. Job candidates receive competency certificates for successfully completing the training.

Recommendation 2:

The SRC recommends that sustentative measures be undertaken to foster a more collaborative use of Regional Transportation Authority paratransit programs. To actively support the Governors directive to participate in developing better transportation outcomes and expand their efforts with programs like Car Donation and Adaptive Van for Drivers Education. To include others not only to renovate vehicles for individuals, but also actively promote the creation of opportunities for clients to become business owners themselves.

MRC Response:

The Commission supports and is actively working toward developing more accessible and affordable transportation options for individuals with disabilities in cooperation with regional transit authorities.

While many of the metropolitan areas in Massachusetts have some form of public transportation including Para-transit, it is not accessible for everyone.  To address this issue, the Commission continues to work with regional authorities, to attend their meetings and to assist individuals in getting their transportation needs met. However, many people work shifts outside of nine-to-five business hours, take children to school or day care on their way to work, or live beyond the reach of a transit system. For these reasons, the Commission has refunded the Good News Garage Donated Vehicle Program and has acquired an adaptive van to be used with the Commission’s Driver Evaluation and Training Program. Both programs are alternative solutions to help connect people with disabilities to work.

The Good News Garage Donated Vehicle Program, in cooperation with the Commission, provides refurbished donated vehicles to individuals with disabilities who otherwise could not afford the cost to purchase their own. To be eligible to receive a vehicle under this program an individual must be: Commission eligible consumer; have a written Individual Plan for Employment; need transportation for employment or retention of employment only; have no ready access to public transportation and not own a car or have access to the use of a car; possess a Massachusetts Drivers License; have resources to register, insure, and inspect vehicle; have a good driving record; and participate in the training program on care, maintenance and registration of the vehicle.  To date 137 Commission consumers, 55 of them within the past year, have received donated vehicles and the vast majority of those consumers have gained employment as a result of their transportation needs being met.

The adaptive van is being used to evaluate individuals with disabilities to determine the type of driving equipment required to assist them with driving and to provide driver training lessons and instruction on how to use adaptive equipment. The van has state of the art adaptive technology and is benefiting many individuals served by the Commission to go to work and live independently in the community.

The Commission actively supports consumers to explore opportunities to become small business owners. As transportation is often a barrier to employment in suburban and rural communities, the Donated Vehicle Program and the adaptive van can assist individuals to start and continue in their own businesses as well as working in existing businesses.

The Commission’s Research and Development Department in conjunction with the SRC will be conducting a needs assessment on consumer transportation needs in the up -coming year.

Recommendation 3:

 The SRC recommends that the MRC develop a long term support program for Special Populations/consumers with Autism, Asperger's syndrome, learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder that will provide assistance with organizational, practical, remedial and interpersonal problems that often interfere with successful completion of an educational program or maintaining employment

MRC Response:

The Commission agrees with the SRC’s recommendation that there is a great need for long term supports for consumers with LD and ADHD. Individuals with these disabilities are often chronically under-employed in professional occupations and/or report frequent job dissatisfaction in those jobs they do obtain. In a needs assessment conducted by the Commission’s Research and Development Department in consultation with the SRC, a significant number of consumers with LD and ADHD disabilities reported a need for life support skills to obtain or maintain long term participation in educational or vocational training programs and employment.

The Commission’s State-wide Employment Services Department currently offers the Partnership Plus Program that can supply these needed long term on-going life support services through competitive integrated employment services (CIES) vendors to assist consumers with time management, organization assistance and other necessary supports to prevent consumers from feeling overwhelmed, dropping out of educational programs and losing jobs. The Commission has initiated a proactive post employment services approach by entering into a Service Agreement with Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRP) who also functions as Employer Networks (EN) to provide time limited job retention and other types of post employment services to increase job retention. Use of these supports will be based on consumer need and range from a minimum of 2 hours to a maximum of 10 hours per month, at a rate of $34.24 per hour not to exceed 8 months. In addition, for those consumers who achieve SGA levels for 8 months, MRC will make a one-time payment of $896.00. On referral to the CRP/EN those consumers who are SSI/DI eligible would be encouraged to assign his/her Ticket to Work to the participating CRP/EN.

The Commission will continue to research other funding sources including the LEAD (The Leadership Emergence and Development) Project to supply needed support services to consumers with LD/ADHD.

The Commission’s Research and Development Department has also worked closely with the SRC LD/ADHD Taskforce to develop educational materials for Commission consumers and agency staff.
The materials are available on the Commission intranet website.

Recommendation 4:

The SRC recommends that there be dedicated Web- developmental and support resources, under the direct control of MRC staff. Clear information, presentation and content quality are paramount for any website. The website must be focused on the consumers who use it and many of these users have unique cognitive challenges. We believe that MRC has a clear understanding and know-how of the needs of the groups being served by their Portal. Not allowing MRC control of the Website’s development and management is hurting its VR consumers.

MRC Response:

The Commission agrees with the SRC’s recommendation that its website needs to present information in a clear, user friendly manner that will allow individuals to easily find the services they need and be accessible to individuals with disabilities that often face unique challenges both physical and cognitive.

EOHHS (the Executive Office of Health and Human Services) of which the Commission is a part, has consolidated all information technology (IT) services across the secretariat with the goal of to allow services to be accessed more easily by consumers and to allow EHHS to become more efficient, cost effective and avoid unnecessary duplication of IT services. ITD (Information Technology Division) has implemented changes to Mass.gov, the state website that makes the site more users friendly and accessible while allowing the Commission more control over the organization of their content. EOHHS IT staff assigned to work with the Commission will be working closely to further align information that reflects the totality of the agency service delivery within the larger context of EOHHS.

Recommendation 5:

The SRC recommends that the MRC ensure a smoother transition program for youth with disabilities is in place. Also, that they create a comprehensive agenda with all its departments and programs for youth transitional support services.

MRC Response:

The Commission has long worked with local schools to outreach to students with disabilities. It has been a long standing practice for Commission counselors to work closely with their local schools to meet with students, parents and teachers to explain agency services and to open vocational rehabilitation cases for those interested students who had either just graduated or were about to graduate from high school. The Commission has increased its efforts to outreach to local schools by ensuring that there is at least one counselor assigned to each public school in the state. Commission area office counselors continue to work closely with local school systems, to meet with students, teachers and parents to explain agency services and to open VR cases. As a result of these efforts, the percentage of transition students served has increased to over 60%.

The Commission won a five year $2.7 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education in October, 2007 to assist in the transition of young adults (ages 16 to 26) with significant disabilities from school to work in the metropolitan school districts of Boston, Springfield and Worcester. This initiative called Transition Works: Innovative Strategies for Transitioning Youths with Disabilities from School to Work includes vocational rehabilitation counselors partnering with local school districts to support 450 youth with significant disabilities in their transitions from school to work, post-secondary education and independent living. The Commission’s goal is to improve post-school outcomes for students with disabilities and disseminate successful evidence –based transition practices statewide.

The Commission is partnering in this initiative with the Massachusetts Department of Education, the Federation for Children with Special Needs, Urban Pride, Commonwealth Corporation and the Institute for Community Inclusion and collaborates with other state and community agencies working with transition-age youth with disabilities. The Commission has also developed an inclusive Statewide Advisory Board and local advisory boards of key stakeholders, including youth, parents, school systems and independent living centers to provide guidance and direction to the project. Services provided through this grant include person-centered planning, peer mentoring, job readiness training, soft skills training, job placement, and extensive assessment and follow-up support services.

Over the five-year grant period, Transition Works staff will continue to provide outreach to the least 2,500 students at selected high schools in the three regions over the grant period, with specific emphasis on traditionally un-served and under-served populations. The program anticipates serving a minimum of 750 youths with significant disabilities and successfully transitioning 450 students from high school to post-secondary education, vocational training programs or employment over the five-year grant term.

Through this grant program, the Commission has been taking a more active role in transition planning.  Developing a system of wrap-around youth vocational rehabilitation services that shifts a predominately, adult-based service system toward a system that can equally service youth. The Commission’s grant model immerses three Transition Specialists, who are qualified rehabilitation counselors, into high schools to bring vocational rehabilitation services directly to students.

Transition Specialists arrange meetings at the school that are short in duration and task focused to explore vocational assessment tools and techniques geared for youth with minimal or no work experience. They have developed a menu of work experiences for youth including volunteer experiences, job shadowing, and internships both paid and unpaid, mentoring, part time employment and summer paid jobs.

As the grant will end in October, the Commission will apply for no cost extension of the program and will closely examine the results from the project to develop a best practice model for use in enhancing the delivery of Commission services to transition aged youth.

The Commission and the Department of Developmental Services also have established a Memorandum of Agreement for joint planning and sharing of resources for transition aged individuals, aged 18 to 22 who have a goal of competitive employment and are eligible for the services of both agencies. The Commission anticipates an increase in the number of successful job placements in this population as a result of this partnership.

The state Executive Office of Health and Human Services has established a youth “state as model employer” summer work experience program for students in the state’s human services agencies including the Commission.  The programs features and benefits include: soft skills orientation training; paid summer work experience; specific skill development; peer and career mentorship experience; resume development; written employment references and graduation. The Commission’s goal is to expand this program to serve 30 consumers. The SRC has recommended that this program be continued and that more such programs be developed including year round internship programs for students with disabilities.

Recommendation 6:

Collaborate with schools and offer seminars to parents at least four times each year, 2 in Fall and 2 in Spring. During these seminars, MRC can share the types of supports and services the organization offers and about the Chapter 688 process.

MRC Response:

 The Commission agrees with the SRC’s recommendation of the need for collaboration and has increased its outreach to local schools over the past several years.  The Commission disagrees with the recommendation by the SRC for the Commission to offer four or more formal seminars per year as the Commission finds this is unnecessary. Parents and students now have ample opportunity to interact with VR counselors in both formal and informal settings.

There is at least one VR counselor assigned to each public school, to meet with students, teachers and parents to explain agency services, the Chapter 688 process and to open VR cases. Local area offices also conduct information sessions about Commission supports and services at the schools on a regular basis and these activities have significantly increased the participation of transition students in the VR program.  As a result of these efforts, the percentage of transition students served has increased to over 60%.

VR counselors are involved in the individual education plan (IEP) process on a regular basis meeting with students, parents and education professionals.

The Commission also works closely with organizations such as the Federation for Children with Special Needs and staff participates in their annual conference allowing more informal contact with transition aged students and their parents.

Recommendation 7:

Have a list of MRC counselor’s contact info available on the web and at schools, so parents know who they need to contact if they have any questions and/or would like to invite to meetings.

MRC Response:

Counselor contact information is available on the Commission public web site listed under the local area office from which they work. In addition, many area offices offer information sessions about Commission services on the website and how to access them.

Counselor contact information is also available through the offices of the Special Education and Guidance staff at the schools.

Recommendation 8:

The SRC recommends that the MRC continues to improve collaboration between the MRC and the Independent living centers ( ILC’s )and promote awareness of the ILC’s to the MRC’s consumers.  The Council recommends a solid orientation or training be conducted to MRC Area Offices to promote communication and linkages between the MRC area offices and the ILC’s.

MRC Response:

The 2011 MRC Vocational Rehabilitation Needs Assessment Report found that only about 25% of consumers surveyed were aware of the Independent Living Center (ILC) in their area. The Independent Living Centers are important partners to MRC who provide an array of peer-driven supports to MRC consumers to assist them in their efforts to obtain employment and maintain independence in the community.

The Commission will continue to improve communication and collaboration with the ILCs and help promote awareness of the ILCs to its consumers by including information about the ILC’s at area office information or orientation meetings and training programs for Commission counseling and supervisory staff.

What MRC Consumers Have To Say:

“With assistance from MRC, I was able to get the services I needed and received the education and training I wanted.  I now have a job that I love and I am in the process of applying for grad school.  Thank you MRC.”

 “MRC helps people with disabilities to advocate for themselves and opens up doors for them.”
 
“The assistance MRC provides goes far beyond assisting in finding you a job.  They prepare you to keep a job and they do this in a number of ways”.

“MRC was very helpful in making me believe being disabled was not the end of my life.”

“My counselor was very understanding and helpful.  I thank her as she went over and beyond for me.  She helped me through a lot, finding the right school, and transportation.  If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am today”

“The MRC counselor was competent, thorough, conscientious, and caring. With the help of my MRC counselor, I was able to fully transition back to the workforce in a very few short months.”
 

For more information contact:
Consumer Involvement Program
600 Washington Street, 2nd floor
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 204-3665 (voice)
www.mass.gov/mrc/consumer/info.htm

This information is provided by The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission