From the Editor's Desk
How many times have you needed PCA services and not been able to locate them? A new online Personal Care Attendant Referral Directory is a free tool for elders and people with disabilities that will allow you to search the PCA referral website for qualified PCAs. We have included two articles on the Referral Directory and a tip sheet that walks you through the PCA Directory website. PCAs will also be able to apply for jobs using the website.
Also, in this edition of the Consumer's Voice, we are pleased to introduce Mitchell Zahn. Mitch is the Assistant Commissioner of Community Living. In his article, Assistant Commissioner Zahn provides insight into his new position and the challenges ahead.
Finally, Girard Plante's article on a Strategic Plan to make Massachusetts a Model Employer details the recommendations for promoting and retaining people with disabilities to work in the Executive Branch of State Government. His article also includes the link to read the complete report.
As the most recent addition to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) Community Living Division, I extend my appreciation to colleagues and consumers alike for making me feel welcome. Much of my initial time has been spent familiarizing myself with the MRC, its programs and organizational culture.
The Community Living Division includes a wide array of services developed to support people living with disabilities foster and maintain independent living in their community. The MRC supports 11 Independent Living Centers throughout the State, the Consumer Involvement Program, Brain Injury Programs, Assistive Technology, Home Care, Turning 22, Protective Services, Supported Living and a Housing Registry. Additionally, the MRC, working with partners, can facilitate the acquisition of funds for home and vehicle modification. Last year, over 13,000 consumers were served by one or more programs in the Community Living Division. Over 15,000 consumers were served by vocational rehabilitation programs.
In addition to these services, the MRC Community Living staff has been working in partnership with the Office of Medicaid, University of Massachusetts and others in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to provide community living options to people with Acquired Brain Injury who are currently residing in nursing homes. Through a waiver from the federal government, 105 people who are living in nursing homes will be identified next year. They will be provided alternative living arrangements and receive the necessary supports to live successfully in the community. Over the next three years, we anticipate serving 300 people with Acquired Brain Injury through this waiver program.
Amidst the economic downturn, we still see cuts in services. MRC's Home Care Program ceased intake operations in June 2009. With a waiting list that was expected to exceed six months, program staff was unable to continue to add new people. Home Care staff has been referring new callers to other service providers. Many of those programs are also facing budget cuts. Sheltered employment programs were eliminated.
Although economists tell us the recession is over, state and local governments often lag behind in the recovery. As hard as it has been, we are braced for what difficulties may be ahead.
The good news is that the MRC has among its employ some of the best staff I have been privileged to work with. They have great passion for independent living and consumer driven services. Our current challenge is to work closely with one another and our counterparts in other divisions to minimize the impact of budget reductions and to develop new cost-effective methods to serve the State and our consumers.
I look forward to the challenges ahead. Please call or e-mail me if you have any questions, concerns or ideas you would like to share with me.
Assistant Commissioner of Community Living
The appointment of Marcel Dube as South District Director
Joan Phillips, Assistant Commissioner
It is with great pleasure that I announce to you the appointment of Marcel Dube as South District Director.
Marcel has been an employee of the MRC for over 31 years. He began as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor in Milford in 1978 and later served as a Senior Counselor where he primarily managed a school/transition caseload. In 1991, Marcel was promoted to a Unit Supervisor position in the Walpole Area Office. He was instrumental in assisting the Walpole Area Office to develop a Vocational Rehabilitation Team concept for which the office became nationally recognized. In the year 2000, Marcel was appointed the Manager of the Taunton Area Office and has served as the Area Director since that time. In May of this year, Marcel was appointed as the 'Acting' South District Director for the second time in the past four years, while continuing to serve as the Taunton AD.
Marcel earned an M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from Rhode Island College. In addition he has participated in many management/leadership conferences, and is a graduate of the New England Leadership Series for Vocational Rehabilitation Personnel, sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and Assumption College.
On a personal note, Marcel and his wife, Donna, celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary earlier this year and they are the proud parents of a son, Michael.
Please join me in congratulating Marcel in his appointment as South District Director.
State Rehabilitation Council Meeting 9/10/09
The Massachusetts State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) held its quarterly meeting on September 10, 2009 in the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College. The panel met to discuss the future of services provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) through its eight offices in the western part of the Commonwealth.
During the meeting, MRC Commissioner Charles Carr noted that due to the current economic climate, the SRC should expect more 9C cuts in the MRC budget by late November or December 2009. Carr also noted that based on lower than expected revenue from income tax receipts, the MRC will likely have to slash $50 million worth of programs and services from its FY2011 budget.
"We are asking our MRC offices to work with the SRC to determine what services are essential to consumers, and which ones need to be cut," said Carr. "MRC's goal will be to try to implement cuts that won't drastically affect the quality of services the MRC provides to its consumers."
On a positive note, Commissioner Carr reported the agency was granted two federally funded grants from ARRA, which will enable the MRC to hire six new employment specialists in the western Massachusetts area offices in addition to two more employment specialists at other MRC offices. Carr also announced the MRC would put one to three interns in each of the area offices to train them in the MRC system and hopefully retain them to replace counselors that are eligible to retire over the next three years.
The grants will also allow the MRC to upgrade their Vocational Rehabilitation operations by equipping Vocational Rehab counselors with field laptops, providing them with access to the MRCIS database through a web-based upgrade. Carr also agreed to work to meet the SRC's request to produce copies of a line-item budget listing all services and programs provided by the MRC, without revealing how much money is being spent on each initiative. The line-item budgets would also list all programs that will be cut by the MRC.
Meanwhile, Joan Phillips, Assistant Commissioner of Vocational Rehabilitation, announced changes to the operation of the Vocational Rehabilitation system. These changes include developing a new marketing strategy to the potential consumer and employer population. Phillips' goal is to work with the University of Massachusetts, the Workforce Development Board, and the five regional MRC offices to create a new brochure for the agency. Phillips noted that changes in the order of selection process and service delivery system would make it easier for accurate information to be shared between all 24 of the MRC offices.
Phillips also stated the MRC would do away with the six-month waiting period for taking on MRC cases before counselors can work with them. The change will allow consumers to work directly with their MRC counselors on an employment plan on the same day their potential case is approved. This is part of MRC's "front-end" process.
MRC research data from the meeting revealed a slight rise in code 28 cases in the past year, which are unsuccessful case closures. SRC members requested that the SRC and MRC work together to develop a model for determining what constitutes successful and unsuccessful case closures complete with case timelines, specific criteria and statistics. Currently, the MRC closes a client's case once it feels all forms of programs and services have been provided, regardless of employment outcome. The committee will next meet on December 10th at a location to be determined in the South Region.
Update from the Western Massachusetts Regional Advisory Consumer Council (WMRACC)
The Western Massachusetts Regional Advisory Consumer Council (WMRACC) currently meets once a year. WMRACC last met on April 15, 2009 at the Sturbridge Host Hotel in Sturbridge, MA. The meeting was well-attended by members of the Council and area directors. Our Council is the largest one in the state, covering the geographical area from the Berkshires to Sturbridge and Milford, MA.
We were introduced to the Council's new Executive Committee: Amy Partelow (Chair), Jenna Knight (Co-Chair) and June Hailer (Secretary). Amy did a superb job running the meeting. The Council is going in a new and different direction.
MRC offices within our region have a total of 7,700 consumers. Joan Phillips, the new Assistant Commissioner of V.R., summarized that there are 2,370 consumers who found and retained employment statewide. Of that number, 880 of these consumers were from the western region.
Amy and Jenna gave a Power Point presentation. The presentation outlined the structure of our Council and the goals needed to increase membership and focus our efforts toward employing more people with disabilities. Amy and Jenna also stated they have gone to each area office, encompassing the Council, showing this Power Point presentation. The presentation was well-received and the information will be shared with consumers. Amy and Jenna did a wonderful job with the presentation.
Council members agreed that its brochure needs an upgrade. Our mission statement and bylaws will need to be revised. The meeting ended with excitement about our Council.
Since the above-mentioned meeting, a new mission statement has been developed. The mission statement will be on the front page of our new brochure. The final draft will be coming out soon for the approval of the Council. We are currently concentrating on our next two tasks: The revision of our bylaws and the election of a new Council Chair.
We are proud to share with you that our Council is on the move and active. If you live within the Council's service area and want to be a member, contact Amy Partelow by e-mail Amy.Partelow@state.ma.us or phone (413) 736-7296 Ext. 39.
Patrick-Murray Administration to Celebrate Launch Of Online Personal Care Attendant Referral Directory
Governor Deval Patrick and his Administration along with members of the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Quality Home Care Workforce Council invited members of the press, consumers, advocates and providers to join them at the State House this past September to celebrate the launch of the online PCA Referral Directory
The online directory is a free tool for elders and people with disabilities who qualify for the MassHealth PCA program, which provides funding to hire qualified individuals to assist them with daily activities, including bathing, dressing, meal preparation and other tasks.
The new online directory will enable individuals to search the website for qualified PCAs by zip code and other criteria, such as access to a car, hours of availability and work experience. Current and potential PCAs will also be able to apply for jobs at no charge.
For more information about the PCA Workforce Council or the online Referral Directory, please contact Jack Boesen at (617) 210-5083 or Jack.Boesen@state.ma.us
About the PCA Quality Home Care Workforce Council
The Personal Care Attendant Quality Home Care Workforce Council is an innovative governmental body that uses consumer engagement to strengthen the state's Personal Care Attendant Program. The Council is charged with ensuring the quality of long-term, in-home, personal care by recruiting, training and stabilizing the work force of personal care attendants. To learn more about the Council, please visit: www.mass.gov/pca
- Go to www.mass.gov/findpca. Click on, "How it works."
- Click on "Establish an Account" and complete all required fields marked with an asterisk (*).
- Remember to check "Terms and Conditions."
- Enter your MassHealth number (process is secure and for verification purposes only).
- Your email address is your username.
- You will receive a password by email. You will be asked to change it the first time you log in.
(Later, you may log in from any page by entering your email address, password, and MassHealth number.You may change your information at any time.)
- Click on "Continue" and go to "Applicant search" page.
- Enter your zip code.
From the "Distance from Zip Code" pull-down menu, click on 10, 20 miles, or whatever distance you wish.
- Click GET RESULTS. You will see a list of candidates who live near you. Most recent names are on top.
- Click ADVANCED SEARCH to narrow your choices.
- Click fields on the left to find the 2 or 3 characteristics most important to you, for example, "Does applicant have a valid driver's license"
- Click on GET RESULTS at the bottom of the page
- Sort Results: Check up to 3 columns, such as City, Experience, and Certification
- Click on UPDATE COLUMN OPTIONS for an overview of your choices. You may change fields and repeat.
- Click on VIEW to see candidate's complete application.
Help is available by calling toll-free 1-866-212-WORK (9675) or emailing email@example.com
Nearly 2,400 PCA Users and Workers Sign on with MA PCA Directory Since Mid-August Launch
The task of finding and hiring a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) is now easier for people with disabilities and elders who receive PCA services through MassHealth, thanks to the new web-based Massachusetts PCA directory. Available at www.mass.gov/findpca and free to individuals who qualify for the MassHealth PCA program, the directory has a current searchable database of 4,000 personal care attendants. The directory is a program of the Massachusetts PCA Workforce Council and managed by Rewarding Work Resources, Inc., a non profit company located in Dedham, Mass.
PCA users and workers throughout the state are embracing the new, web-based directory as an important hiring tool. The website, which is available in Spanish, is completely accessible for people using any kind of assistive technology.
Another unique feature of the directory is the ability for PCA users to search for workers by zip code and specific criteria allowing them to find a PCA in their neighborhood or town.
Since its launch in mid-August, nearly 2,400 PCA users and workers have signed on to use the directory. Of those newly registered, 2,000 are PCAs who have registered as workers on the website. Approximately 400 are individuals with disabilities, elders or their families, who will use the directory to hire PCAs.
Statewide outreach is a vital part of informing people about the Massachusetts PCA Directory. The PCA Workforce Council and Rewarding Work Resources have produced and distributed postcards, brochures and posters to individuals and Personal Care Management Agencies throughout Massachusetts. A Public Service Announcement (PSA) is now airing on television and cable stations in every region of the state. To view the PSA, log onto www.mass.gov/findpca and click on "Helpful Resources".
Elders and people with disabilities who participate in the MassHealth PCA program and do not have access to a computer or who have questions about using the directory should contact their Personal Care Management (PCM) agency for assistance. PCA users with general questions can call toll-free 1-866-212-9675. Individuals looking for work as PCAs can register free-of-charge 24 hours a day on the website at www.mass.gov/findpca or by calling the Applicant Call Center toll-free at 1-866-211- WORK (9675).
Individuals who do not qualify for the MassHealth PCA program may still access the directory of PCA employees through the Rewarding Work website (www.rewardingwork.org). The service is subscription-based starting at a fee of $10 for one month. For more information contact Jack Boesen at Jack.Boesen@state.ma.us.
Employment opportunities for people with disabilities within the highest ranks of Massachusetts state government is being considered by the Disability Task Force on Employment. In their extensive report, Strategic Plan to Make Massachusetts a Model Employer, the Task Force laid out recommendations for promoting and retaining people with disabilities to work in the Executive Branch.
Specifically, the Task Force established goals to create a "solid foundation for policies and practices that can be enforced in the Executive Departments and replicated by all entities throughout the Commonwealth." Guided by Gov. Deval Patrick's Executive Order 478, which recommits the "recruitment and retention of under represented groups of people in the workforce, including people with disabilities" the Task Force prepared a "roadmap for change" that shall complement Gov. Patrick's objective.
A strategic plan also sets three primary goals for the Executive Branch to implement:
a). Seek to increase the number of people with disabilities employed by the Executive Branch;
b). Explore methods to ensure the successful retention and promotion of state workers with disabilities and older workers who age into a disability;
c). Foster an environment and a workforce able to support and facilitate the employment of people with disabilities.
The Task Force developed some two dozen objectives to achieve the above goals. And they looked at existing resources as well as numerous other innovations to enhance the existing workforce and future employees.
The Disability Task Force on Employment was devised in May 2008 as a result of previous efforts by similar groups initiated by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. The Task Force also recommends sweeping changes in the way prospective employees with disabilities are viewed by the Executive Branch. Its report concisely lays out several areas to achieve gainful employment and best practices for implementing successful employment of people with disabilities within the Executive Branch.
Members of the Disability Task Force on Employment include Myra Berloff, Executive Director, Massachusetts Office on Disability (MOD); Jeff McCue, Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS); Charles Carr, Commissioner, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Stan Eichner, EOHHS; Sandra Borders, Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity; Barbara Lybarger, MOD; Dean Denniston, EOHHS; Dan Shannon, Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council; Irma Gutierrez, Executive Office of Public Safety and Security; Ronald Marlow, Executive Office of Administration and Finance; Valian Norris, Executive Office of Education; Michele Hefernan, Human Resources Division; Paul Dietl, Chief Human Resources Officer.
To read the complete report, visit the Massachusetts Office on Disability website: www.mass.gov/mod
September 11th opening of the Peace Art Gallery in Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital
A blustery September 11th belied the enthusiasm building before the early afternoon Grand Opening of the Peace Art Gallery in Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital's Boston facility on the banks of the Charles River.
Nearly 50 people listened to eight artists from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA) talk about their works of art on display at the new gallery, which is the permanent place for artists with disabilities to show their work.
The enthusiastic event began with presentations by Joan Horgan, Director of Pastoral Care at Spaulding, who oversees the art project along with Dr. Rick Leskowitz, Director of Integrated Medicine at Spaulding. Ms. Horgan and Dr. Leskowitz chaired a Task Force that researched alternative therapies for people experiencing Traumatic Brain Injury. The therapies include music, art, meditation, massage and spiritual direction.
Thus, the name Peace Art Gallery grew out of the integrated principles from the Task Force. Dr. Leskowitz pointed out the essence art makes in the recovery of people with TBI. "Art is empowering and meaningful through rehabilitation" of a life-changing event and "gave the artists useful goals in returning to a life outside the rehab setting," he said.
The art exhibit began its public trek at the State House last March. Titled "Brain Injury X-Posed: The Survivor's View" the exhibit is the same featured at Spaulding. The eight artists comprise the Brain Injury Association's Framingham support group. Pam Bush, Director of Communications at the BIA-MA, praised the artists for overcoming obstacles. "The survivors in the Framingham support group have proven validating. Many come from different regions and despite the travel they get there."
Artist Barbara Webster, the facilitator of the Framingham support group, shared her unique perspective on the rewards of her work: "Taking photos and talking about them helped to peel away the layers of issues and emotions like the layers of an onion." Peggi Robart, another artist, added: "The project helped me challenge myself. The idea that I can continue to get better is very meaningful and gives me hope."
Other presenters were Emeka Nwokeji, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission; Oz Mondejar, V.P. Human Resources at Spaulding; and Charles Washburn of VSA Massachusetts. An eclectic group of nurses, therapists, staff and various visitors gave the event a touch of respect for the artists. Following the presentations, and ribbon-cutting ceremony, the jovial crowd enjoyed a light reception.
Peace Art Gallery is on the second floor next to the Charles River Café at Spaulding's Nashua Street facility in Boston. For more information about future art exhibits or how to show your works of art, contact Timothy Sullivan, Director of Communications, at 617-573-2918 or via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Horse Show (Making a dream come true)
We hear so much about making dreams come true. After awhile we become disenchanted with the expression. Do all dreams come true? I would say, no, not all. I have the attitude that what is important are not the dreams that remain dreams but acknowledging the dreams that through one's effort become a tangible part of one's life.
I hope we all have dreams. Among them will be one that with consistent effort will come true. For me, the key word is "consistent" I will tell you of a twenty-year-old dream I had, which I let go of several times before I made it come true.
My dream of having my own horse and showing at competition began in high school when I asked my parents for riding lessons. Courageously, they said "yes", not knowing what would happen, considering my poor balance, coordination and their fear of horses. Well, I fell in love. Despite my fear, I was able to ride for about a year. Life circumstances change, I went off to college and my dream faded. I let go.
Twenty years passed, the dream hibernated. One day someone who cared about me nudged me to do something I love. This re-kindled my dream. After some research I found a stable that met all my criteria. I started lessons and rode every week for two years. I rode in the heat, the rain, the snow, when I felt like it and on the few days I did not. What I found out is the things you dream are sometimes very hard and riding could be frustrating as well as exhilarating.
When I had gained enough confidence and skill I was asked if I would like to lease a horse. I was ecstatic and agreed right away. Then tragedy struck a month later. Sadie, the mare I rode, had a stroke. (Don't worry, she's OK but she had to retire). Hard as it was, I still had my dream so I moved on to another horse. I felt it was rough stuff but I persevered. My trainer was sure I would adjust.
She was correct. After three months my new horse Bart and I bonded. Bart learned who I was and that I did things a bit different from his other riders. He seemed to let go of all his impatience when I was aboard. (knowing there were ample carrots waiting for him at the end of the ride helped too).
Bart and I rode together for about a year when the stable kids starting talking about the up-coming horse shows and asked me if I was showing. I wondered how? They told me that there were therapeutic riding classes at the show. I was so very excited! I entered my first competition last year. I was so nervous! I had no competition experience. I held on to my dream and realized simply being there at the show with all the people and other horses was my dream. In the end the ribbons I received were the icing on the cake and reminders that dreams, if held high and worked toward, do come true!
Bart is now mine, a huge responsibility that I took on a few months ago. My life has changed. Bart requires as much care as a child so I have to spend as much time and energy on him as possible. Luckily the place where he lives takes care of him when I cannot. I am the happiest and most grateful dreamer now. Yes, I still have dreams to work on.
Advocates, Inc. Celebrates Deaf Awareness Day
Deaf Awareness Week is traditionally held during the last week of September to celebrate Deaf Culture. In other countries, this is known as "International Week of Deaf People". Deaf organizations host deaf awareness events. Advocates, Inc. services the deaf community in Greater Boston and the Metro West region of the state. The agency serves consumers who are deaf with additional disabilities. Advocates, Inc. employs over 76 people who are deaf and who communicate via American Sign Language.
Deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people gathered together at Plymouth Church in Framingham to celebrate the first Deaf Awareness event hosted by Advocates, Inc. Deaf culture and traditions were experienced through exhibits, food, arts and entertainment. Interpretation provided ASL and spoken English for an inclusive and participatory experience.
In the afternoon people gathered to browse and explore vendor exhibits. Representatives from deaf friendly businesses and organizations were on hand to provide up-to-date information on community services, assistive technology and art work.
Vendor representatives from Hamilton Relay, Easter Seals, Sprint Relay, Center for Living and Working, Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Mass Relay, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, Deaf Blind Contact Center, Helen Keller National Center, Sorenson and Sprint were all available to provide information, show their products and answer questions about programs and services. Kobena Bonney came on behalf of MassMatch, an assistive technology program, supported by the MRC. Lisa Weber from Consumer Involvement at MRC provided brochures and answered questions from attendees.
Local deaf photographers, artists and craftsmen showcased their work during the exhibits. During the entertainment, hostess Rhonda Mothersell kept the audience wondering who the next raffle winner would be. The highlights of the show included Sabrina Dennison who told ASL stories. Magician Steven Wiener recruited members of the audience to assist him with many tricks in the mystery trunk. Two amazing deaf-blind performers, Elaine Ducharme and Ona Stewart gave an accurate yet funny portrayal of Deaf-Blind Diaries. The raffle proceeds were donated to Advocates, Inc. This event would not have been possible without the help of Interpreter Coordinator Sharon Maclean, the assistance of Pauline Raise, Rhonda Mothersell and the entire crew of deaf and hard of hearing staff and Interpreters.
Next year, mark your calendar for Deaf Awareness Week.
Keep the Magic Alive, by Sean Cusack
Sean creates "landscape visions" using vibrant colors, bold designs, and dynamic compositions. The artist describes his work as "bright and colorful." He often paints places he sees on television and in movies that he wishes to visit someday. His life and professional goal is to create large scale murals.
Sean is a Melrose High School graduate. He is interested in working with local mural artists as an apprentice. He also participates in the Center for Emerging Artists through Life Choices, a division of The Arc of East Middlesex, located in Reading, MA. The Arc of East Middlesex is a non-profit organization that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.
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 email@example.com or call Lisa Weber at 617-204-3638 for more information.
Elaine McHugh, Editor
MRC Staff Editors
Kasper Goshgarian, Deputy Commissioner
Emeka Nwokeji, Director, Consumer Involvement
Joan Phillips, Assistant Commissioner
Sheila Wojdakowski, HR/Customer Relations
Leslie Wish, ICC Program Coordinator
Lisa Weber, CI Program Coordinator
This newsletter is an independent publication sponsored by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC). The opinions expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the policy and practices of the MRC. They are solely the opinions of consumers of MRC programs and services.
For further information contact Emeka Nwokeji, Director of the Consumer Involvement Program, at 617-204-3665.
To receive the newsletter electronically, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
This information is provided by the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission.