From the Editor’s Desk

Elaine McHugh

Welcome to the 2014 summer edition of the Consumer’s Voice. In this edition of the Consumer’s Voice we are proud to announce the Citation for Outstanding Performance Awards and the Commissioner’s Award Recipients. The Commissioner’s Award Recipients are MRC staff who have gone above and beyond their normal job duties.  A ceremony to honor all recipients will be held at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel in Marlborough, MA on June 18, 2014. 

How many times have you seen walkers, wheelchairs and other good durable medical equipment (DME) put out for the trash?  Well you may see a lot less of it with Requipment, a DME Reuse Pilot Program.  Randi Sargent, the Requipment Coordinator, has written an informative article about how to access/reuse durable medical equipment.

Bill Allen brings us his article on the Second Annual Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC)/Office of Federal Contractors Compliance Program (OFCCP) Career Hiring Event.  This was a very successful event, 87 hires and counting.

We also welcome a new contributor: Amanda Smart.  She has written a very informative article on Neuroplasticity.

We are always looking for articles for the Consumer’s Voice and images for the featured artist section.  If you are interested in writing for the Consumer’s Voice or you are an artist with an image to share please contact me by email at elaine.mchugh@mrc.state.ma.us or call 617-204-3665.

2014 Citation for Outstanding Performance Award and the Commissioner’s Awards 

It gives me great pleasure to announce the winners of the MRC 2014 Citation for Outstanding Performance Award and the Commissioner’s Awards.  These individuals and teams were nominated by their colleagues and selected by a committee made up of representatives from the three divisions of MRC and Administrative Office.  The recipients of the awards have demonstrated exemplary standards of performance and dedication to the mission of the agency.  These employees have set high standards for themselves and have brought a level of excellence to their jobs and I thank and congratulate them for their outstanding work in providing services to individuals with disabilities. 

I would also like to thank the members of the Selection Committee for their time and professionalism in the selection process. 

All the award winners will be recognized in an MRC Awards Ceremony this Spring or early Summer and I look forward to the opportunity to thank you and acknowledge your contributions  in person that day. The award winners are listed below.

Sincerely,

Charles Carr, Commissioner

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission

Citation for Outstanding Performance Awards:

  • Jill Bertoncini, Medical Review Examiner, Disability Determination Services
  • Jennifer Fike, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Somerville Area Office
  • Cassandra Jean-Louis, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Roxbury Area Office
  • Joseph Kelley, Program Coordinator, Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services
  • Lori Knight, Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor, Brockton Area Office
  • Chuck Maguire, Medical Review Examiner, Disability Determination Services
  • Karen Miscia, Head Clerk, Framingham Area Office

Commissioner’s Awards:

  • Felisha Bennet and Vivian Roman- Hampton, Veteran’s Project Manager and Project Coordinator, Brain Injury and Statewide Specialized Community Services
  • Charlene Coombs,Research Analyst, Research and Development Department, AO
  • DDS Boston, Diversity Committee:  Manouche Cornay, Melissa Paglia-Hurley, Megan McNally, Paulina Mauras, Marie Philemon, Stefani Cvetkovska, Lora Moore, Taylor Jones and Carl Taylor
  • Fitchburg Area Office:  Paula Davis (Unit Supervisor); Debbie Gray, Christie Aveyard-Rameau, Amy Cserny, Margaret Duquette, Simone Coble, Steve Brown and Abel Picardo, (Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors);  Alice Caisse (Head Clerk), Bettijane Arel and Zulma Garcia (Clerks); and Todd Nelson (Job Placement Specialist)
  • Owen Humphries and Lucy Jackson, Employment Services Specialist and Job Placement Specialist, Holyoke Area Office
  • Lawrence Area Office Clerical Staff:  Ildelisa Ortiz (Head Clerk), Sucely Zaragoza and Catherine Gallagher, Caseload Secretaries
  • Teresa Mace, Network Manager, IT Services, AO
  • Ronald Raymond, Unit Supervisor, Fall River Area Office
  • Roxbury Area Office:  Jo Davis and Cate Doucette (Unit Supervisors); Jill Amicangelo, Carlos Colon, Lisa Dunkley, Brynell Francis-Smikle, Esther Jackson, Cassandra Jean-Louis, Ann Bailey, Kevin Mahoney and Jesus Mendez (Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors); Ann Deshommes and Mabel Julien(Caseload Secretaries); and George Mitchell (Job Placement Specialist)
  • Linda Rushford, Clerk IV, Greenfield Area Office
  • Tracy Schmidt, Clerk IV, Pittsfield Area Office
  • Peter Skarinka, Job Placement Specialist, Quincy Area Office

Choose to Reuse Your DME

Randi Sargent, DME Reuse Coordinator

Sometimes the path to getting needed medical equipment can be windy and full of pot holes. Many people who use power wheelchairs or other durable medical equipment (DME) do not have a “back-up” wheelchair to use when their primary chair is being repaired.  Individuals newly disabled due to injury or illness are all too often not able to secure the full scope of equipment needed before they leave the hospital.  As a result, individuals can be bed-ridden and unable to attend work, school or community activities. Reusing medical equipment fills the gap until necessary equipment is available.

Here in Massachusetts there are currently several small, independent programs working in isolation from one another (and often on volunteer basis) and it is not easy for consumers in need to access this equipment.

Introducing Requipment – a DME Reuse Pilot:

In April 2013, The Boston Home received grants from the Shapiro Family Foundation, Mass Rehabilitation Commission’s MassMATCH AT program and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital to develop a pilot DME reuse program for Greater Boston. Over the course of the year long pilot, the team based at MRC worked with DME users and community organizations, including the Cambridge Commission for persons with Disabilities (CCOD), to learn their needs and concerns and identified partners and procedures to handle refurbishing, cleaning and distribution. Key to the program is a web-based, searchable portal of refurbished items available throughout the Boston area making it easier for consumers to find and obtain good condition mobility equipment: power/manual wheelchairs and scooters, lifts, shower and tub seating, portable ramps, strollers and other essential equipment. The program also offers delivery for a reasonable fee.

The DME reuse pilot program, now called Requipment, has recently started accepting donations of gently used DME, refurbishing them and donating them free to people of all ages and abilities in the Greater Boston area. The growing online database of available items is now searchable from the MassMATCH website home page or directly at www.dmerequipment.org.

"We are very excited to be offering this new service in the greater Boston area," notes Reuse Program Coordinator Randi Sargent. "The need has been there for a long time, and the survey we conducted last fall showed a great interest in using refurbished DME." Sargent came on board with The Boston Home last spring to help get the pilot up and running. She is a member of the MassMATCH AT Advisory Committee and has a wide range of AT/DME product experience as a parent to a young man with physical and developmental disabilities. 

Funding for the pilot extends through June 2014. "We are actively seeking funding to continue and expand the program's reach across the state," stresses Sargent. "Organizations interested in partnering to help should get in touch with me."

For more information about reuse, to obtain or donate a wheelchair or other DME, or suggest a funding or outreach group, contact Randi Sargent at 617-204-3626 or randi.sargent@massmail.state.ma.us

See their website at www.dmerequipment.org. Like us on Facebook!  www.facebook.com/dmerequipment

 

Second Annual Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Office of Federal Contractors Compliance Program (OFCCP) Career Hiring Event 

Bill Allen, Director, Statewide Job Placement Services, Vocational Rehabilitation

On March 20, 2014 the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) in collaboration with the Office of Federal Contractors Compliance Program (OFCCP) held the second annual “Career Hiring Event”.  Consumers from the MRC and Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) interviewed for jobs with employers who are federal contractors.

OFCCP invited 43 federal contractors to interview qualified candidates from MRC and MCB for open competitive positions within their organizations.  The list of employers included a variety of labor market sectors to include: retail, information technology, healthcare, security, staffing agencies, manufacturing, construction and several others.

The event venue was UMass Boston and qualified candidates for employment had the distinct opportunity to showcase their skills set for open positions with employers.  There were 176 registrations for the UMass Boston event.  The interviews were arranged in 20 minute increments and at the writing of this article there have been 87 individuals hired. 

There were two other locations in the Commonwealth for the hiring event as well.  Springfield and Greenfield identified employers who were willing and able to interview and hire candidates that were qualified for a myriad of job openings.

The difference between a career fair and a hiring event is that job seekers are interviewed for open positions and are moved forward in the hiring process.  Career fairs are a wonderful opportunity to meet employers and gain knowledge about a company’s products, services and culture.  It is also a great way to network yourself into a potential future job.  Please know that career fairs and hiring events are both useful tools to secure employment.

Another ancillary benefit of the hiring event is the ability to receive direct feedback as to how well you did interviewing for a job.  It can also assess your skills and abilities.  You may discover that the information you receive will help you to move forward with your plan for employment; it is real time exposure to competitive employers.  I believe the feedback provided below from an MRC job candidate sums up the hiring event very nicely:

“First, thank you very much for everything you have done for us as clients.  You hit it out of the park!  It was the most positive thing to happen for me professionally in years.  I mean that.  Even if I don’t get a job directly from the event, you have given me the skills, support, and most of all the confidence with my abilities.  The event was phenomenal and what a job well done!

“From my view point, everything flowed perfectly.  I never felt alone or neglected and, from observing other interactions with other clients, all of you guys had it together.  The people with physical disabilities were well taken care of and there seemed to be an air of excitement and happiness from everyone.  From the people standing and holding signs at transportation points to the people providing one-on-one accommodations, I could not ask for more from you.”

“Your volunteers were so extremely helpful and supportive!  They took the time to go out of their way to help and were so positive and happy.  They were genuine to the core as you are too and I could tell they truly cared about us; just as we know you do too.”

“The venue at UMass was great.  Iloved the view and the comfortable seating.  Parking was easy and affordable.  I felt very relaxed in that venue.  The name tags helped because sometimes, in all the excitement and with the number of people there, it can be difficult to recall names for people like me with invisible disabilities.”

“The white and blue MRC check-in packet was extremely helpful for me personally.  Two things that stood out were: having my interview times and companies listed, and also the “What MRC/MCB Job Seekers Can Expect Today” sheet.  That was extremely helpful because I was all in my head and in a frenzy to prepare for my interview that was only minutes away.   As I was reading that sheet, with hands clammy with sweat, face flushed, and slightly light headed as the clock ticked, point #5 stopped me in my tracks!  It read: 5. Have Fun! Yes this is a professional event but there is no need to stress. Show employers the BEST YOU and what you can bring their company.”  That line was what I needed in that moment to put things in perspective and to get out of my own head. Thanks!  Also, the reminders below really helped reinforce what you have taught us.  Now with composure, off to the races I went.

And finally, the caliber and quality of the people you brought in as interviewers were excellent.  I appreciate all of the time and effort you spent on getting these employers in.”

The hiring event team would like to thank all the MRC and MCB Consumers who participated in this year’s event. We encourage everyone to persevere in your job search and look forward to assisting you along the way in your journey to independence through competitive employment.

Neuroplasticity

Amanda Smart

As young toddlers, we all learned how to eat, talk, walk, be mobile and function as a person.  People around the world that have sustained a brain injury or any brain damage in their life are re-learning those tasks we learned at a young age. Except now this re-learning is believed to be a scientific theory called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to re-learn how to do things. Our brains are made up of 100 billion neural cells.  The medical community believed the number of cells you were born with was the number you would have when you died.  Acquiring new cells was not believed to happen and therefore could not restore function in the brain.  Individuals are finding out that these ideas the science community once believed may not necessarily be true.

Neuroplasticity is made up of two words neuro (meaning to learn) and plasticity (ability to mold or modify) used in connection to nerve cells in the brain. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), neuroplasticity can be defined as the “ability of the nervous system to respond to intrinsic or extrinsic stimuli by reorganizing its structure, function and connections.”   Brain reorganization takes place by axonal sprouting, where undamaged axons grow new nerve endings to reconnect the neurons that were once damaged.   Damaged axons grow new nerve endings reconnecting with undamaged axons.  

The brain has two different hemispheres; left and right.  These hemispheres have their own tasks, however, if one hemisphere is damaged, the non-damaged hemisphere attempts to sustain all responsibilities of both hemispheres.

Based on experiments in animals over the past twenty years, researchers established that the cortex, which is the dominant feature of the human brain, has significant plasticity. Furthermore, plasticity found in the cortex has the ability to reconfigure and allow for functional organization.  NIH experimented on rats and found cells in the hippocampus that re-generated and assumed new roles. Paul Bach-A-Rita, a scientist that was led by personal interest, discovered elderly stroke victims were able to regain their ability to function. This discovery led to the idea that one’s brain could regain those tasks we all learned as toddlers.

Neuroplasticity can be beneficial for those with Traumatic Brain Injury, Stroke, Spinal Cord Injury, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.  Each individual that sustains a disability is different.   Even if two individuals sustain the same injury, how their bodies will respond to the injury will be based on the individual.

It is the author’s opinion that neuroplasticity is one contributing factor in the successful recovery from a Traumatic Brain Injury.  Having a supportive family and help from doctors, therapists, counselors, and teachers also contribute an important role in one’s recovery. Yet, the most significant factor is determination and having a positive attitude along with shear tenacity that no matter what type of challenge confronts us, everyone with appropriate support can achieve their own level of potential and endless opportunities.

For more information:

The author of this article, Amanda Smart, is a participant of the Commonwealth Diversity Fellows Program (CDFP).  The program was developed with three objectives in mind.  First to expose exceptional college students to the workings of state government via a meaningful and extended intern opportunity.  Second, to strive to provide Fellows a greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities of public policymaking.  And, third, to create a growing cadre of men and women who are qualified for and interested in civic leadership and engagement.

Three Departments within the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), Statewide Employment Services (SES); Brain Injury & Statewide Specialized Community Services (BISCIS); and Consumer Involvement (CI), jointly participated in the project.

The assignment given to Ms. Smart was to research the hypothesis of Neuroplasticity so as to better understand the implication this may have on both the clinical and programmatic policy, planning and development, to better serve individuals with brain injury or disease and to write an article for publication in The Consumers’ Voice Newsletter.  This article is but a brief overview and summary of extensive research conducted by Ms. Smart, as edited by Ms. Michaela Arroyo, ICC, BISSCS. 

The State Rehabilitation Council Needs Dedicated Members

On behalf of the State Rehabilitation Council’s (SRC) Nomination and By-Laws committee, we are writing to inform you of a unique opportunity to impact the way in which people with disabilities in the Commonwealth are supported in their efforts to be gainfully employed in competitive environment.

As you may know, the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) is a federally funded state agency that assists individuals with disabilities in obtaining and maintaining employment.  The federal regulations that govern the MRC mandates that the MRC establish and maintain a State Rehabilitation Council (SRC). The SRC is charged with reviewing, evaluating and advising the MRC on its performance and effectiveness in service delivery as well as the impact its services have on employment outcomes for people with disabilities.   The SRC also ensures that the voice of stakeholders is heard as the MRC develops and implements policies and procedures that directly impact their applicants and consumers of its services.

Currently the SRC is seeking new members.  We are recruiting current and former MRC consumers and among others, parents of youth with disabilities.  Additionally, as a council that represents statewide interests, we seek a membership that includes demographic, geographic, minority, and cross-disability representation.

SRC members are appointed by the Governor.  While SRC membership provides an opportunity for individuals to make a difference by offering their insight and input based on their experiences, it does not require a huge time commitment.  Members attend quarterly meetings that are held in different regions of the state and are occasionally asked to participate in standing committee meetings.  Transportation can be provided and in some cases there is an opportunity to participate in meetings via telephone. 

If you are interested in becoming a member or have any questions, please feel free to contact the MRC Consumer Involvement Program  at (617) 204- 3665 or email naomi.goldberg@MassMail.state.ma.us 

Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)/Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Compromise Reached 

Patricia Leahy, Director of Government Affairs
 
Bipartisan, Bicameral Group Announces Deal to Improve American Workforce Development System 

After months of negotiations, leaders from the House and  Senate introduced the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Current federal workforce laws, written in 1998, have been overdue for reauthorization for more than ten years.

Washington, D.C. A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers announced they have reached a deal to improve the nation’s workforce development system through new legislation, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  The bill, which will now be considered by both the House and Senate, modernizes and improves existing federal workforce development programs, helps workers attain skills for 21st century jobs, and fosters the modern workforce that evolving American businesses rely on to compete. 

WIOA represents a compromise between the Skills Act (H.R. 803), which passed the House of Representatives in March of 2013 with bipartisan support, and the Workforce Investment Act of 2013 (S. 1356), which passed through the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee with a bipartisan vote of 18-3 in July of 2013.
 
“Access to training, education, and employment services opens doors to the middle class for workers and helps strengthen our economy. This bipartisan, bicameral reauthorization of the Workforce Investment Act will help ensure that all workers, including those with disabilities, can access these opportunities. It will provide better coordination and value to our workforce development system,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.This bill also makes groundbreaking changes that will raise prospects and expectations for Americans with disabilities, many of whom, under current law, are shunted to segregated, subminimum wage settings without ever receiving the opportunities and skills to succeed in competitive, integrated employment. It will stem the flow of young people into segregated employment by requiring that they be given experience in integrated settings, and require state Vocational Rehabilitation programs to work with individuals to develop an individual employment plan and support them in integrated work settings. This bill truly represents the spirit of bipartisan compromise and cooperation, and I applaud my colleagues on the HELP Committee and on the Education and the Workforce Committee for their perseverance and commitment to updating this critical law. I urge senators on both sides of the aisle to support this bill when it comes up for a vote.”

We can’t expect a modern workforce to succeed with an outdated job training system. The current workforce development system is broken with too much bureaucracy, too many inefficiencies, and too little accountability,” said Representative John Kline (R-MN), Chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  “The problems we face have been apparent for a long time and I am pleased we are moving toward adopting comprehensive reform that provides employers, workers, and taxpayers the job training solutions they deserve. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to send this agreement to the president’s desk without delay.”

"Last year the federal government spent more than $145 million in Tennessee through a maze of programs trying to help Tennesseans find work,” said Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “Our legislation will simplify that maze, give governors and states more flexibility, and make it easier for Tennessee's 13 local workforce investment boards to match job seekers with the skills employers are looking for.”  

“By revising the original Workforce Investment Act to support access to real-world education in fields that are in demand locally, this legislation will help more workers across the country find a good job or train for a new career. Similar to the legislation proposed by Reps. Tierney and Hinojosa earlier this Congress, this bill also makes job training programs more efficient and effective by requiring that states developed unified plans to streamline and better coordinate these services,” said Representative George Miller (D-CA), senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee.  By strengthening the workforce development system, we will increase accountability, promote innovation, and make it easier to track results, while helping put more Americans back to work. I'm proud to have worked with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to develop this proposal and hope to see it signed into law this year.”

“Every year, federal workforce investments help millions of Americans get back to work, go back to school, and increase their skills for an economy that’s changing faster than ever, but for too long, we’ve been relying on workforce development programs written in the 1990s,” said Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  “This bipartisan, bicameral legislation will bring  federal worker programs into the 21st Century, give workers and students the resources they need to succeed, and foster a workforce that American businesses rely on to compete.  It’s a prime example of what’s possible when Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate work together to write laws that help our economy grow.  I want to thank Senator Isakson, who co-authored the Senate reauthorization bill with me, and all my colleagues, for their hard work and commitment to moving this forward.”
“This is a good example of what Congress can achieve when we all come to the table and work toward a compromise that respects the opinions of legislators on both sides of the aisle,” said Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.  “This bill will eliminate fifteen duplicative programs, help the remaining programs better align worker education with available jobs and improve our ability to gauge how well the system is working as a whole.  I want to thank my colleagues in the House for passing the SKILLS Act and my colleagues in the Senate for considering this long overdue re-authorization of the Workforce Investment Act.”

Workforce investment and training is critically important to help grow the American economy still recovering from recession and to bridge the widening skills gap separating thousands of unemployed workers from good-paying jobs,” said Senator Johnny Isakson (R-GA), a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  “I thank Senator Murray and my colleagues for their bipartisan efforts on this legislation, and I look forward to getting this measure passed so we can get Americans back to work and meet the modern demands of businesses and employees in a global environment.”

“This bipartisan agreement helps American workers get back on track by promoting sector strategies and career pathways that lead to good jobs and postsecondary education in our nation's public workforce training and adult education system.” said Representative Rubén Hinojosa (D-TX), the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training. This bill makes certain that the connection between adult education, postsecondary education and the workforce is strengthened. We as a nation must be inclusive in our workforce, and this bill provides better services to workers young and old, with disabilities, and to those populations that have significant barriers to employment. It also addresses the need to improve services for English language learners that will ease their participation into our nation's workforce. I am pleased to see the progress we are making in the Senate and in the House and look forward to having this bill signed into law.”
 

Becoming an Individual Consumer Consultant (ICC)

Leslie Wish

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission’s Consumer Involvement Program makes a special effort to form cooperative relationships with those individuals who are known as consumers or recipients of services. We are interested in applicants for the ICC program that have skills and experiences valuable to the needs of the MRC.  The program is open to both MRC consumers and their immediate family members.

This program is for MRC clients to gain work experience and as such, they are encouraged to apply to gain meaningful employment skills working on projects as an ICC.  This is not considered full time work, it is a step on the road to employment.

These projects are usually very short term, one to three days in length, and there is no guarantee there will be consistent work.  Every effort is made to accommodate all ICC’s with regard to their limitations and abilities.

If you are interested in becoming an ICC please contact Leslie Wish, Program Coordinator for Consumer Involvement, at 617-204-3771 or by e-mail: Leslie.Wish@mrc.state.ma.us

Go Green, Save a Tree 

Have the Consumer’s Voice sent by e-mail. If you are interested please e-mail your request to: Consumer.involvement@mrc.state.ma.us

 

Lauren M. Geraghty has had several solo exhibitions in the Tuft's Street Gallery of the Arlington Center of the Arts.  She has participated in Arlington Open Studios for years and is also a member of VSA Arts of Massachusetts

Are you an artist?  Become our next Featured Artist; whether it be painting, drawing or writing poetry, submit your works to us via e-mail to
consumer.involvement@mrc.state.ma.us or call 617-204-3665 for more information.

 


This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission