Rehabilitation Council of Texas

Shawn P. Saladin, Chair
Larry Evans, Vice–Chair

REHABILITATION COUNCIL OF TEXAS (RCT)
Advocating for people with disabilities in the vocational rehabilitation process.


MINUTES OF COUNCIL MEETING
January 28 – 29, 2010
Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center


COUNCIL MEMBERS

Shawn Saladin, Edinburg, Chair Paula J. Margeson, Plano
Larry Evans, San Angelo, Vice Chair Carolyn Todd, Georgetown
Karen Stanfill, Houston Richard Hatfield, Austin
Amy Woolsey, Cypress Chase Bearden, Austin
Elizabeth Gentry, Schertz Mike Halligan, Georgetown
Rames Gonzales Jr., Palmview Brenda Dunn, Austin
Brenda Lightfoot, Austin Jim Hanophy, Austin
Thelma Scott, Houston Barbara J. Madrigal, Austin
Lori Henning, Austin Council Staff: Dolly Worley
William Mullican, Pflugerville  

WELCOME


Shawn Saladin, Council Chair, called the Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) meeting to order at 9:00 AM and welcomed those in attendance.

MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE

Shawn Saladin, Karen Stanfill, Brenda Dunn, Paula Margeson, Elizabeth Gentry, Lori Henning, Richard Hatfield, Rames Gonzalez, Jr., Thelma Scott, Larry Evans, Mike Halligan, Carolyn Todd, and Barbara J. Madrigal.

GUESTS

Ron Mansolo, DBS; David Norman, DRS; Raul Ortiz, TWIC; Claudia Gutierrez, DRS; Elizabeth Gregowicz, DRS; Jonas Schwartz, HHSC; Mahan-Farman-Farmaian, TWIC; and Marilyn Gambrell, Ivory Mayhorn, Brenda Jones, Adrienne Dukes, and LaVoshea Hendry with No More Victims, Inc.

MEDICAID BUY-IN PROGRAM

Elizabeth Gregowicz and Jonas Schwartz provided a PowerPoint presentation regarding the Medicaid Buy-In (MBI) Program. Prior to the presentation they discussed how in 2006 when the program began, there were very few applicants and not much outreach was done due to there were no funds dedicated for outreach. In 2008, it was still a bit slow and by January 2009, there were 147 applications for the program. During 2009, the program started to take off and by the end of 2009 there were 500 applications. DARS has partnered with HHSC in providing training to counselors and established subject matter experts to provide the training. Outreach has been done in San Antonio, Harris County, and El Paso and the impact from this effort is not great but percentagewise it makes a strong statement. The PowerPoint presentation focused on the following:

  • MBI History
  • Employment & Disability Connections (EDC) Partners
  • Examples of how MBI program creates options for Texans who have disabilities and earn a paycheck by providing affordable health care coverage by buying in to Medicaid coverage
  • MBI program benefits
  • How to Apply
  • Provided the following website where applications can be requested: www.YourTexasBenefits.com as well as instructions to call 211 or visit local HHSC benefits office to obtain an Integrated Application.
  • Follows current HHSC Medicaid for the Elderly and People with Disabilities criteria and MBI specifics include being a Texas resident, no age limit, disabled or age 65 or older; and, each applicant is considered a household of one.
  • Resource eligibility criteria
  • Countable earned income
  • Allowable exclusions
  • Monthly premium costs
  • Premium payments
  • How MBI participants get services
  • Appeal rights
  • Additional Tools including the following website:
  • Contact information for presenters:

Jonas Schwartz reported that the Health & Human Services Commission (HHSC) will be implementing an online payment option for Medicaid Buy In participants whose income requires them to pay a premium. Shawn Saladin recommended that HHSC develop a reminder system for the payment option. Mr. Schwartz said he would pass that recommendation on to the HHSC technology department.

RCT member, Thelma Scott, works part time with seniors at a retirement home in Houston and asked if it would be possible for the presentation to be made in Houston. Ms. Gregowicz told Ms. Scott to send her a request and there are trainers in the Houston area that could facilitate a presentation on the Medicaid Buy In.

Another Council member pointed out that the impetus for the MBI program was to give disabled people or people over 65 who are on social security a safety net for their Medicaid coverage if they become employed. The program also enables those already working to expand their current earning power without losing their Medicaid coverage.

DIVISION FOR REHABILITATION SERVICES UPDATE

Claudia Gutierrez, a program specialist working in the DRS central office directly under Leigh Ann Candler, provided the DRS Update in Assistant Commissioner Jim Hanophy’s absence. The DRS measures report included in the meeting packets was on target and she asked the Council members to look it over and feel free to ask questions or give feedback on the report. Ms. Gutierrez previously served as a DRS area manager in Laredo and prior to that was a counselor in McAllen before joining the staff in the central office. One of her major roles is serving as the business lead for the new case management system that is anticipated to roll out in approximately five to six months. In addition to that, she works on additional projects, one of them being the goal-setting process for this fiscal year. DRS provided training during the summer of 2009 with area managers regarding goal-setting and how to meet the common goal of putting people with disabilities to work in quality employment. The purpose was to establish an optimal but realistic closure number. DRS management wanted to encourage dialogue with managers about the counselor’s caseload, their referral sources, and the community they work in. Everybody needs to understand their role in the process. Everyone has a different role, from the technician who works with the counselor, to the manager, to the regional offices, to the central office. DRS will be using a horizontal management system where the central office will oversee and make sure that the system is going as it should. They will provide coaching where needed, ensuring that the regional offices are providing coaching to the managers and the managers are meeting with the counselors to talk about goal setting.

Counselors were given several months to look at the makeup of the caseloads and the changes that have occurred during the past couple of years on the caseload. They also looked at the expertise of the counselor as to where they received referral sources, for example from mental health services, but maybe they did not have expertise in that area. All the variables going on within the caseload and the unit were examined. Then they sat down with the area managers and were able to set realistic goals for their caseloads. The caseload analysis will continue throughout the year to factor in changes that occur to the caseload during the year.

The central office shared with the field counselors the federal closure requirement which has to be one more than the previous year and let them provide their individual realistic goal number. These goals were sent directly to the central office to Ms. Gutierrez and Ms. Candler, with a copy to their regional director, since approval is based on caseload analysis. Random checks were made to ensure that there was negotiation and conversation in setting the goals, whether they sat down with their managers and what tools they used to determine a realistic goal for their caseload. The counselors contacted were able to justify the numbers. Once the numbers were submitted and random checks were made, the goals were all accepted. The numbers were entered into the caseload management system and will be monitored throughout the year.

Ms. Gutierrez reported there are stimulus projects occurring that will help areas like the Valley, and areas hit by hurricanes, etc. Stimulus money will be used to work with businesses and employers to help put people to work in quality employment. The central office will continue to look at the variables to determine what positive impact can be used to assist and what strategies to use. The question was asked whether the counselor goals would meet the federal closure requirement as of where the numbers are today. According to Ms. Gutierrez, they did not, but they were close. Transition caseloads were not tallied. Without those caseloads, it does appear the numbers will fall short. But by factoring in successful Transition outcomes, DRS is hoping to meet the required federal closure count. When the final analysis is complete, the central office will get a better idea of how to assist counselors in the field to accomplish the goal.

When asked by a Council member whether there have been cost-of-living increases in the VR entitlement program, Ms. Gutierrez said it is her understanding that funding has been stagnant for a while. Another concern mentioned was the inability to replace counselors for vacant caseloads because of the current hiring freeze and how this might impact projections.

The Council inquired as to whether any action has occurred regarding the Legislature allowing more full-time positions for DARS to help handle the large caseloads. The indication from DARS staff in attendance was this was not likely due to the hiring freeze. The freeze does not extend to hiring contractors, but until more information is obtained regarding the 5% budget decrease, this may not be an option.

DRS will be using stimulus money to provide consumer workstations in 106 of the 118 field offices. Consumers will be able to use these workstations to search for jobs, write resumes, complete applications, etc. The workstations will be completely accessible for blind consumers as well. Staff will be available to assist the consumers. Another technology project is the office locator. Consumers will be able go to the DARS Internet and enter their zip code and it will give them the address, phone number, and map to the field office serving their zip code. Council members suggested a photograph of the building be included, as well as an audio description for the blind. Another project DRS is in the early stages of developing is an addition to the DARS Internet website for a self-screening tool. Other projects are underway using stimulus money such as those the Assistant Commissioner brought to the Council’s attention in previous DRS Updates, and DARS is looking at ways to continue these services after stimulus funds are no longer available.

PUBLIC COMMENT

There was no public comment; however, Marilyn Gambrell with No More Victims Inc. which advocates for newborn and children of incarcerated parents addressed the Council regarding the work her agency performs.

DIVISION FOR BLIND SERVICES UPDATE

Assistant Commissioner, Barbara Madrigal, introduced Bill Agnell to the Council. He accompanied Ms. Madrigal to talk to the Council about Social Security after her update on DBS.

DBS staff have being doing preliminary work on the Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR). The big issue and focus for DBS is the management to staff ratio problem. The State Auditor says you should have a management to staff ration of 1 to 11 and in DBS it is 1 to 18. Managers have too many people they are directly supervising. In the larger Dallas and Houston offices the ratio can be 1 to 20. DBS is asking for some VR supervisor positions to help with that management to staff ratio problem. The problem ends up directly impacting services to consumers because management cannot work with staff as closely as they need to. Other positions will be requested in the VR, children’s, and independent living programs. How the 5% budget cut will affect DARS is something we are all waiting to see what the final product is going to be.

DBS had a good review with the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). DBS and DRS have a good relationship with RSA and they acknowledge that both divisions do good work for the consumer. DBS got excellent feedback from the stakeholders and from the Council. There were four corrective actions that DBS does not necessarily agree with but will work toward fixing.

October 27 – 29, 2010 will be DBS first statewide staff meeting. It is a training conference and DBS is asking consumers to participate and are inviting the RCT to attend. Outside the auditorium here at Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) is a Wall of Honor. DBS will be adding a person to that wall at the October meeting.

The DARS training consolidation is completed and has hired a new Director for the Center for Learning Management and that is Laura York. Ms. York previously worked in the training department at DRS. DBS is happy to have Ms. York at the helm because she understands how important training is and that it is critical that DBS staff become blindness experts. This requires extensive training. DBS previously had six trainers and four support staff and all those staff will go to the new training center with the exception of one. DBS will retain one trainer to be a voice at the table in the training department.

Susan Hunter, is the Employment Assistance Specialist Manager for DBS and is on the curriculum design team at the national level for the VR business network. DBS is also doing self-employment training for counselors. Self-employment is an area needing improvement and a consultant has been hired in Dallas beginning in April to provide better training for staff.

A statewide training conference for transition staff was conducted in December and was very successful. The Professional Support Staff Academy that DBS rolled out this year began in April and concluded in December and got very good reviews from the participants. Cheryl Guido, the Houston Field Director is working in coordination with DRS on the business leadership network in Houston.

Mr. Agnell addressed the Council regarding the advanced notice the Social Security Administration (SSA) published in the Federal Register. The SSA/VR reimbursement program is the process by which public vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies submit claims to the SSA. This procedure enables the VR system to receive reimbursement for the costs expended assisting SSI recipients and SSDI beneficiaries to enter and sustain employment above the substantial gainful activity (SGA) level. SGA for Disabled equals $1000 per month and SGA for Blind equals $1640 per month. In fiscal year 2009, DRS received $10,636,675 in SSA reimbursements and DBS received $3,151,462 for a total of $13,788,137 in reimbursements.

SSA has asked for general comments on how they should revise 20 CFR part 404, subpart 4 and part 416, subpart V.4. The deadline is February 12, 2010. They have invited comments and suggestions from people who have an interest in the rules used to administer the VR cost reimbursement program people who apply for or receive benefits from DARS, the general public, State VR agencies, advocates and organizations who represent parties interested in cost reimbursement and the Ticket to Work programs, and others.

In advance of proposing regulatory changes to the VR cost reimbursement program, SSA would like general comments, as well as comments on a few specific issues. These specific include:

  1. What changes to the VR cost reimbursement regulations might we consider to make them work more effectively with the Ticket to Work program?
  2. Is the list of services for which payment may be made, found at 20 CFR 404.2114 and 416.2214, adequate and comprehensive? If not, what changes to the list of allowable services should we consider?
  3. Under the Ticket to work program, our rules discount payments to an EN when it accepts a ticket assignment for job retention services for a beneficiary who is a former VR agency client and was working when the VR agency closed the VR case. 20 CFR 411.585. Our reimbursement rules do not cover the reverse situation: when the EN is the first provider and VR agency later provides job retention or career advancement services. How should we avoid duplicate payments for the same services while ensuring that individuals get the services they need to maximize opportunities for employment?
  4. Benefits planners (including those with the Work Incentives Planning and Assistance organizations) provide information to beneficiaries with disabilities regarding the effect of earnings on many types of benefits. We would appreciate your comments about how benefits planning can become a more central part of a beneficiary’s participation in the VR process.

Concerning question #1, DARS thinks the regulations are fine being that reimbursement funds are substantial.

Concerning question #2, DARS will propose they have the ability to purchase benefits counseling for consumers.

Concerning question #3, DARS does not feel there is any duplication in payment for services.

Concerning question #4, DARS thinks it is an invaluable service and want Social Security and Congress to allocate more money for benefit planners.

Mr. Agnell will email the RCT Coordinator the above questions with a link to the website where members can make comments. The RCT Coordinator will forward the email to the Council immediately following the close of the RCT meeting.

Ms. Madrigal and council members discussed the difficulty in consumers understanding how to maximize SSA benefits and how assistance from a highly trained benefit counselor who knows the system and its complexities would be a major plus in service provision. DARS is hoping to be able to pay for this in the future and start contracting with benefit planners.

The Council for State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) puts out an update every week and Ms. Madrigal will send Council Chair, Shawn Saladin a copy. In particular, RSA is announcing the Institute on Rehabilitation Issues (IRI) topics and one is focusing on the partnership between state rehabilitation councils and the VR program. There is also talk about the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act funding and whether or not the money is being spent to help people with disabilities go to work and not just going into infrastructures.

In answer to a question by council member, Paula Margeson, regarding whether there was a chance to negotiate with the Legislative Budget Board regarding adding the full time positions requested during the past Legislative Session, Ms. Madrigal indicated that staff from Senator Ogden’s office had visited both DRS and DBS and although they were very impressed with the job that both divisions are doing, since there are no big waiting lists they did not see the need for additional positions. DARS will continue to request the positions due to the large caseloads and the management to staff ratios because if you don’t ask the question, the answer will never be yes.

MENTAL HEALTH PLANNING & ADVISORY COUNCILS (MHPAC)

Council member, Mike Halligan, provided a PowerPoint presentation regarding the MHPAC. Mr. Halligan serves on the National Mental Health Planning Advisory Council and is a federal grant reviewer. Each year the reviewers spend about 30 days going over all the state federal mental health block grants to determine whether or not grants are awarded. Every state in the United States gets federal mental health block grant dollars devoted to mental health services. Texas is getting about $33 million a year. Below are the key requirements of Public Law 102-321 (1992).

  • MHPAC Membership Composition
    • Representatives from the following State agencies: Mental Health, Education, Vocational Rehabilitation, Criminal Justice, Housing, Social Services, and the State Medicaid Agency
    • Representatives from public and private entities concerned with the need, planning, operation, funding and use of mental health services and related support services.
    • Adults with serious mental illness who are receiving (or have received) mental health services.
    • Families of such adults and families of children with emotional disturbance.
    • The ratio of parents of children with serious emotional disturbance to other member of the council must be sufficient to provide adequate representation of such children.
    • Not less than fifty percent of the members are not State employees or providers of services.
  • Duties of the Membership
    • To review the Mental Health Block Grant Plan to make recommendations.
    • To serve as an advocate for adults with a serious mental illness, children with a severe emotional disturbance and other individuals with mental illnesses.
    • To monitor, review, and evaluate – not less than once each year – the allocation and adequacy of mental health services within the state.
  • Required Plan Criteria
    Public Law 106-310 (2000)
    • Criterion 1: Comprehensive Community-Based Mental Health Service Systems
      • Provides for the establishment and implementation of an organized community-based system of care for individuals with mental illness.
      • Describes available services and resources in a comprehensive system of care, including services for dually diagnosed individuals. The description of the services in the comprehensive system of care to be provided with Federal, State and other local public and private resources to enable such individuals to function outside of inpatient or residential institutions to the maximum extent of their capacities shall include: health and mental health services; rehabilitation services; employment services; housing services; educational services; substance abuse services; medical and dental care; support services; services to be provided by local school systems under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; case management services; and other activities leading to reduction of hospitalization.
    • Criterion 2: Mental Health System Epidemiology
      • Contains an estimate of the incidence and prevalence in the State of serious illness among adults and serious emotional disturbance among children; and
      • Presents quantitative targets to be achieved in the implementation of the system of care described under Criterion 1.
    • Criterion 3: Children’s Services
      • Provides a system of integrated services appropriate for the multiple needs of children. Examples include:
        social services; educational services, including services provided under IDEA; juvenile services; substance abuse services; and health and mental health services.
    • Criterion 4: Targeted Services to Rural and Homeless Populations
      • Describes State’s outreach to and service for individuals who are homeless
      • Describes how community-based services will be provided to individuals residing in rural areas
    • Criterion 5: Management Systems
      • Describes financial resources, staffing and training for mental health service providers that are necessary for the implementation of the plan
      • Provides for the training of providers of emergency services regarding mental health; and
      • Describes the manner in which the state intends to expend the grant under Section 1911 for the fiscal year involved

Note: Criteria 1,2,4 and 5 should be addressed for adults with serious mental illness and Criteria 1-5 should be addressed for children with serious emotional disturbance.

Following the PowerPoint presentation, Mr. Halligan went on to explain how Texas has received 3 million dollars for the last five years to transform the mental health care system and it has not really made a difference in the system. An integration of services is needed to create a collaborative effort with schools, rehabilitation services, employment services, housing services, substance abuse services, medical and dental services, etc. The goal is to move everything to community services to keep people out of hospitals and institutions. Some states have done a good job and have no mental institutions but Texas hasn’t shut down any mental hospitals. The reason for this is that the Texas system does not have the quality of services in place to really provide the supports that people need to live in the community.

Texas population is about 24 million and probably about five to seven percent of that population is people that have mental illnesses, so in Texas there are about 1.2 million people who have serious mental illnesses. Texas is serving about 133,000 which is a penetration rate of maybe 10%. Texas is ranked about 48th or 49th in per capita spending for mental health services. Twelve years ago Texas was 43rd so it has actually slid in that funding.

States are required to provide services to rural and homeless populations and they are moving toward telemedicine in rural. Arkansas has an impressive program providing a fleet of trucks that drive out to people and see them in their homes. Texas is in the process of getting rules approved on billing for telemedicine services. Homeless service is tied in with the federal block grant or federal dollars for pass projects.

MHPAC meets via phone twice a quarter and one open face-to-face meeting per quarter. You will find different MHPAC roles from different states. Historically in Texas the only way to get the system to change and to do the things it is suppose to do and get more money into the system to where they could do the more advanced things is to take a class action lawsuit to them. Bottom line is that it takes money to change the system but it also takes more than money, it takes collaborative efforts.

It will probably be 15 to 20 years before significant change is seen and the mental health system moves away from treating brain disease with medications and begins treating the trauma that initiated the mental health condition in the first place. It is moving slowly but it is moving because the system does not know how to treat trauma. The process will begin probably with veterans, not the existing mental health population. Mr. Halligan will provide copies or electronic information to the Council regarding the National Association of State Mental Health Planning Directors (NASMHPD) research.

LIAISON REPORTS

Reports from the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the Texas Workforce Investment Council (TWIC), and the Partner’s Resource Network (PRN) were included in the meeting packets. Michelle Crain is the new Chair of the State Independent Living Council (SILC) and was not able to attend due to weather conditions in Lubbock. Paula Margeson who was the past Chair of the SILC did provide information about the SILC Statewide Conference in Dallas on March 8 and 9, 2010. The DARS Council liaison was not able to attend and there was no written report received.

In addition to what was included in the Texas Workforce Investment Council written report, Mr. Hatfield reported that all 28 workforce boards now have a disability navigator. He also provided information regarding apprenticeship programs as a follow-up to the October 2009 meeting. Texas has about 330 apprenticeship programs and may need to start looking into the programs that might be available for individuals with disabilities. Currently the success rate for these programs is about 90% with individuals going to colleges around 50%. TWIC will also be taking responsibility for a couple of long-term objectives over the next six years. One is career and technical education because about 70% of jobs are going to require a two-year associate degree. The other one is the apprenticeships. TWIC is also educating the public regarding successes by electronically profiling individuals and their success with all the different TWIC programs in Texas. Mahan-Farman-Farmaian from TWIC explains below.

Mahan is a planner from TWIC and is responsible for a publication that was started last year called Profiles In Success. It is designed to inform the workforce community about workforce training and education programs, and in particular about the individuals who have gone through the programs and have successfully completed them and are now in the workforce.

The current electronic publication is about DARS programs. Mahan went to Arlington and interviewed four individuals who are working through DARS in new business development initiatives with the new Dallas Cowboy Stadium. Participants are able to work part time and have a lot of flexibility in their schedule. They can choose which events they want to work at the stadium, such as football games, concerts, etc. It is really working well for these individuals. Another profile included in this issue is an attorney in Houston who is a real estate lawyer. He has retinitis pigmentosa and contacted DARS about five years ago and underwent extensive rehabilitative training and with the use of assistive technology has remained very active in his practice. He has been designated by Texas Monthly as a super lawyer and this year has been invited to speak at the Joseph Tenbrook Symposium.

Mahan will be sending the publication via email to each of the Council members. The Council responded indicating they would like to see DARS have a mechanism where they provide success stories on their website so others can see how lives are being changed and that there is purpose behind what DARS and the Council are doing.

Karen Stanfill provided the Client Assistance Program (CAP) liaison report and stated that the supported employment provider fraud case discussed at the August 2009 meeting was resolved. Mr. Dunn was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison with no possibility for early release. He will also have to pay over $300,000 in restitution. The Inspector General will be getting the word out at VR Conferences that any VR fraud will be prosecuted.

Ms. Stanfill met with Bill Agnell from DBS regarding Individualized Plans for Employment (IPE) being written for one year even when the vocational goal will take three years to accomplish. DBS will cover this at their upcoming Regional Field Director's meeting.

CAP also is continuing discussions on DRS and DBS having dual cases. CAP and DBS addressed this issue briefly with RSA at the Fall Phoenix Council of State Administrator for Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) Conference. RSA reported at that time that there is comment about this in the RSA Monitoring report for Texas. The monitoring report is now out and the provision of dual cases was identified as a goal for Texas. Shawn Saladin volunteered to be involved in drafting DRS and DBS policy regarding dual caseloads. CAP has also had discussions with DBS concerning training staff on other disabilities and CAP noticed this was also mentioned in the RSA monitoring report. Mr. Agnell thinks the DARS new Center for Learning Management will provide the opportunity for DBS counselors to get the same training as DRS counselors.

CAP is discussing paid internships with DRS staff. DRS is busy taking care of stimulus projects and so Karen is going to ask Mike Halligan and Chase Bearden who are also on the Policy Committee to work with herself and other CAP staff and anyone else interested in writing an internship policy as a draft and submit to DRS and DBS. Ms. Stanfill, Mr. Halligan, and Mr. Bearden are also going to work on a draft policy for DRS case closures to try and improve communication with clients when counselors feel they need to close a case.

Ms. Stanfill talked with Assistant Commission Jim Hanophy a few months ago about supported self employment and Mr. Hanophy indicated DRS will award a Request for Proposal (RFP) to start writing policies and training staff on supported self employment starting in the spring of 2010. She also talked to Leeda Laykasek and Bill Agnell about report cards for providers.

Ms. Stanfill reported on the CSAVR Fall Conference in Phoenix she attended on behalf of the RCT. Some states were using stimulus money for paid internships to help consumers get jobs and this is something CAP would like to see in Texas. Connecticut and Vermont are asking consumers to fill out a report card regarding their experience with a provider. Ohio has a form consumers can fill out regarding providers on their web site but it has not received much response. Florida has hired temp workers to try to work with their eligibility process. One state brought a portable building to teach construction skills and is going to prisons to teach those skills to prisoners so that when they are released from prison they will have a marketable skill.

Discussion regarding the provider report card brought up issues of how to accomplish this taking into account there will always be disgruntled consumers even if services provided were appropriate. Lori Henning suggested publishing replacement rates and retention and not just over a 90 day period but over a two year period. Ms. Stanfill will be talking to David Norman with DRS and council member Lori Henning regarding this issue. DRS is looking at requiring vendors to have continuing education credits to continue working with the division.

COMMITTEE REPORTS

PLANNING COMMITTEE & STATEWIDE NEEDS ASSESSMENT

Attending: Paula Margeson (Chair), Karen Stanfill (Co-Chair), Richard Hatfield, Mel Fajkus, Nelva Sneed, David Norman

The Council committee chairs were provided copies of the 2010 goals and priorities and recommendations from the Council for the 2010 State Plan. Committee members were asked to review these attachments and propose changes for the 2011 plan. The Council will need to vote on the 2011 State Plan at the April 2010 meeting. The committee has requested that DRS and DBS submit changes to the attachments prior to February 25 so that follow-up teleconference calls can be scheduled to draft the revised attachments.

The committee decided to focus on the needs assessment after the goals, priorities, and recommendations have been completed. In preparation, they will look at consumer and census data in order to determine possible focus groups that may be conducted. The committee also asked that the council coordinator send the co-chairs any feedback or comments regarding DARS submitted by stakeholders, consumers, or the public, to the RCT in recent years.

POLICY COMMITTEE

Attending: Karen Stanfill (Chair)

Karen Stanfill reported that the Policy Committee has not been receiving notices of proposed policy changes but have gotten an announcement of changes to be posted in another week. Ms. Stanfill indicated the name of the person sending the announcement was not the same as was previously sending proposed changes. She will email the new person and ask that the proposed changes be sent to the committee before the changes are made. Mike Halligan will be working with Karen on a draft for case closure policy to discuss with DRS. She will also provide Mr. Halligan with a copy of an appeals decision that he did not receive and they will discuss issues with that decision prior to the next RCT meeting.

THE COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM OF PERSONNEL DEVELOPMENT (CSPD)

Attending: Shawn Saladin (Chair), Carolyn Todd, Rames Gonzalez, Christy Lerche (DRS), Debbie Casati (DBS)

Debbie Casati reported DBS has non counselor staff anticipating vacancies in counselor positions and they are working on their master’s degree on line to be ready to apply for upcoming vacant counselor positions. DBS currently has five vacancies. DRS has three vacancies and 75% of the counselors meet the CSPD requirement which is up from previous percentages. The committee reviewed the goals and priorities and recommendations provided by the Planning Committee and agreed to leave them as they are. The committee will discuss the new Center for Learning Management and how that might look in regards to training for DRS and DBS at the April 2010 meeting.

EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE

Attending: Elizabeth Gentry (Chair), Brenda Dunn, Richard Hatfield, Ron Mansolo

The committee reviewed the 2010 goals and priorities and the recommendations and will send any new recommendations to Council Coordinator. Ms. Gentry reported she had been informed by Rebecca Soto (DRS) that there have been some changes in the business relations unit. Ron Garza has taken the area management position for the south San Antonio office and he was replaced by Mary Saenz as the new business relations specialist for Region V. Melinda Taninski is the new Region III business relations specialist and she is housed in San Marcos. The business relations unit has been working on building the field staff for outreach but also incorporating the goals for E3 which is spelled out in great detail in their manual. In addition, they are in the process of developing a template that can be made available to all field area managers in the system to identify strategies. They can use it in developing their own unit plan for overall provision of VR services to include case management and business outreach. Also the business relations unit continues to be involved with outreach to businesses for the purpose of educating businesses on the advantages of partnering with DARS and they are also conducting some Medicaid Buy In training with employers. The unit recently established partnerships with Lowes, Jay Lodge, Hill Country Resort, Area Health Education Centers, and Home Depot. They are partnering with DARS to see what the needs are of the employee/consumer and trying to work with DARS to meet those needs on the job.

COORDINATION COMMITTEE

Attending: Carolyn Todd, Paula Margeson, Elizabeth Gentry, Mike Halligan, Thelma Scott, Elizabeth Gentry, Richard Hatfield, Ron Mansolo

The committee reviewed the 2010 goals and priorities and the recommendations provided by the planning committee. They do have a recommendation for #1 which Carolyn Todd will send to Council Coordinator. They also discussed recommendation #3 and #6. After some discussion regarding #3 and #6, Ms. Todd again said she would write up the committee’s recommendation and forward to Council Coordinator. Comments regarding recommendations are listed as follows.

Recommendation 1: That DBS continue training staff on disabling conditions other than blindness (secondary disabilities) so staff are prepared to continue providing quality services for consumers with multiple disabilities.

Amended to read:
Recommendation 1: That DBS and DRS continue the collaborative process that has been initiated in training staff so that they are better prepared to provide quality services for consumers with multiple disabilities.


Recommendation 2: Coordination Committee suggests that Recommendation 2 be included as written.


Recommendation 3: That DBS and the RCT work together to gather data on consumer perceptions of quality throughout the VR process, including both active and closed cases. The RCT recommends that consumer satisfaction among active consumers be implemented statewide on a permanent basis.

Coordination Committee suggests that this Recommendation be deleted if the process is in place. If the process is not complete, the committee suggests including the Recommendation as written.


Recommendation 4: Coordination Committee suggests that Recommendation 4 be included as written.


Recommendation 5: The Coordination Committee did not complete discussion of this recommendation.


Recommendation 6: That when DBS renews the contract for the Consumer Satisfaction Survey, a request for an additional report analyzing yearly data be negotiated. The RCT supports the Consumer Satisfaction Survey. The RCT and DBS should continue to work jointly to analyze subgroup data and develop plans to address areas of improvement.

Coordination Committee suggests that this Recommendation be deleted if the process is in place. If the process is not complete, the committee suggests including the Recommendation as written.


Recommendation 7: As per the mandates in the Rehabilitation Act, that DBS assist in establishing a framework for the joint planning and implementation of activities involving both the State Rehabilitation Council and the State Independent Living Council.

Coordination Committee suggests that Recommendation 7 be included as written.


CONSUMER SATISFACTION COMMITTEE

Attending: Shawn Saladin, Brenda Dunn (Chair), Karen Stanfill, Lori Henning, Rames Gonzalez, David Norman (DRS), Mel Fajkus (DBS)

Bill Agnell attended the meeting and talked about what DBS is considering regarding surveying active cases. Bill Agnell will be looking at the information the committee received from DRS at the October 2009 meeting. To provide quality assurance DBS is considering surveying consumers at plan development, then a year after receiving services, and everyone surveyed at closure. On the first two surveys they are considering doing a random sample to avoid consumers being surveyed to death. The DBS Quality Assurance Committee has just begun and Mr. Agnell will send Brenda Dunn information and she will participate on the committee as an RCT member and the committee will be meeting in Austin. The DBS committee is in the early stages of development and may also look at a vendor survey. Brenda Dunn will be involved in whether they do four different surveys or narrow it down to three. Bill Agnell will be emailing Ms. Dunn regarding the committee and she hopes to have more to report at the April 2010 meeting.

The Consumer Satisfaction Committee received the first DRS report with the new questions that focus on the intent of the DARS E3 slogan (excellent service, every customer, every time). The questions were much more specific such as was your phone call returned the next day, and were your services interrupted by a change in counselors, as opposed to the old question, did you have a change in counselors or did your counselor return your call. Almost every area went down compared to the old survey. If any Council members want to see the report, contact the RCT Coordinator and she will email it to you.

LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE – (did not meet)

BY LAWS COMMITTEE (did not meet)

A motion was made, seconded, and passed to accept the committee reports.

RCT OLD BUSINESS

The Council reviewed two prototypes of RCT brochures that the outreach subcommittee provided with help from DARS media services. It was decided that the brochures which only differed in graphic designs were both more directed to getting new members on the Council and not designed to attract the public to the RCT meetings. The outreach subcommittee is going back to the drawing board and work on a brochure that informs the public about what the council does and lets people know the public is encouraged to attend RCT meetings to share their experiences with the VR process or make suggestions, as well as telling them how to become a member of the Council. It was suggested that the graphics could possibly be pictures of the Council members or pictures taken at the meetings.

The Council has discussed using the DARS distribution list to announce RCT meetings. Since the DARS distribution list is a work in progress and we are not sure when it will available to the Council, members are going to let the RCT Coordinator know what organizations they would like to be included in RCT meeting announcements and the RCT Coordinator will develop a RCT distribution list from those suggestions. Karen Stanfill said she would start a list of people and organizations she would like to see get an announcement regarding RCT meetings and pass it around to the rest of the Council for their input and additions. The Council will give the completed list to the Coordinator for her use in creating the RCT meeting announcement distribution list.

RCT Coordinator will work with Ron Mansolo regarding logistic information about the DBS Conference in October and the arrangements for the RCT to attend that Conference as well as conduct a short business meeting prior to the opening of the Conference on October 27, 2010 at 1:00 PM. Council members indicated they would like to have the Council business meeting on the morning of the 27th in order to not miss the opening speakers at the DBS Conference. Ms. Worley will report back to the Council at the April 2010 meeting.

NEW BUSINESS

A motion was made to accept the October 2009 RCT minutes with two changes to be made to the CSPD Committee report, motion was seconded and minutes with requested changes were passed.

Meeting topics for the April 2010 were discussed and Carolyn Todd will be presenting information on all 20 regional education service centers with particular focus on Region 11. Mike Halligan will either present or obtain someone to provide a presentation on Economic Development or Individual Development Accounts at the April 2010 meeting. Other topics suggested for future meetings included transportation and housing. It was suggested having a Texas Department of Transportation representative discuss whether programs are still available to provide vans to nursing homes and whether those vans could possibly be used in other ways. Another suggestion was to invite a representative from youthbuild.org to come and speak to the Council. The organization helps kids get their GED while spending half the day building houses for low income families. The website is http://www.americanyouthworks.org/.

Paula Margeson requested a Council member participate in a breakout session regarding the RCT at the March 8 – 9, 2010 SILC conference in Dallas. Karen Stanfill will facilitate the breakout session for the RCT and will provide feedback to the Council.

The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 noon.




*Attachments
Contact RCT Staff Support for copies of the meeting attachments:
512-424-4160
1-800-628-5115
Email: dolly.worley@dars.state.tx.us