March 2022 Meeting Minutes

State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) March 8-9, 2022, Quarterly Meeting

Zoom/Phone meeting

Topic/ Key Points

Call to Order (Roll Call-In Person): Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Joseph Delgado, Ellice Switzer, Diane Woodward, Jennifer Semonite, David Morgan, Hillary Nichols, Melinda Dolezal, Lorie Boyd, Peter Herrig, Alan Gallagher, Megan Brown, Naomi Brickel, Jenny Hutkowski, Joseph Amodeo, Anthony Morano, Toni Sullivan, Evelyn Pugh, Robert Statham, Nancy Grant, Kathleen Grosvenor, Connie Glover, Pam Brehm-Bisaillon, Lafayette Williams, Toni Sullivan, Linda Schramm

Excused: Day 1:  Sebastian Chittilappilly, Day 1 and 2:  Valarie Gambino-Carelli

Guests/Public:  Julia Kelly

Review of the agenda: Ellice Switzer

Additional Agenda Items:

  • None

Review and approve December 14-15, 2021, minutes:

  • December 14-15, 2021, Minutes reviewed. No abstentions. Andy motioned to approve the meeting minutes and Toni seconded. All voted in favor of approval.

Public Comment

  • No public comment.

Presentation – State Rehabilitation Council Mission and Composition (SRC):

Ellice Switzer, Chair of SRC, provided an overview on SRC Membership, required composition and SRC mandates. The presentation provided information on the following:

  • Acknowledgement of the on-going need to refresh member’s understanding of the mission and mandates of the SRC and to assist in defining the role of SRC members and the SRC.
  • Information of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974 as amended under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) in 2014
    • Statute that authorizes vocational rehabilitation services
  • Where Vocational Rehabilitation programs reside in the Federal organizational structure
  • Under WIOA, the amendments to the Rehabilitation Act emphasizes:
    • Transition of youth and students with disabilities to work and post-secondary education
    • Competitive Integrated Employment
    • Economic Self-Sufficiency
    • Business Engagement
  • Title IV- Section 105 - the SRC composition and responsibilities requirements
    • Vocational rehabilitation programs must have an SRC to be eligible for federal funds
    • In New York State members are appointed by the State Education Department’s Board of Regents
    • Chair is selected by the SRC from current membership
    • Must have a minimum of fifteen members representing required constituencies
    • Majority of the SRC are not employed by the vocational rehabilitation program
  • Terms:
    • SRC members serve for a three-year term and may serve a maximum of two consecutive full terms.  Second terms are by recommendation of SRC membership committee.
    • No term limits for Client Assistance Program members and 121 Projects (Native American Vocational Rehabilitation)
  • Meetings:
    • SRCs are required to have four full Council meetings per year
    • Meeting must be publicly announced, open to the public, physically and electronically accessible
  • Conflict of Interest:
    • Members cannot vote if:
      • There is a direct financial benefit to them or their organization
      • Gives appearance of conflict
  • Compensation:
    • Reasonable and necessary expenses – In New York, travel accommodations, lunch, and administrative support to the SRC are provided
  • Resource Plan that outlines budget for reasonable and necessary expenses, vocational rehabilitation staff supporting the SRC and other personnel (if applicable)
  • Mandated SRC functions, in partnership with ACCES-VR, are to review, analyze, and advise ACCES-VR on:
    • Eligibility and order of selection
    • Effectiveness of services
    • Areas which may affect individual achievement of employment outcomes
    • Provide input  and agreement on the development and review on State Plan goals and priorities
    • Evaluate effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation program and submit feedback to ACCES-VR

SRC review of presentation and discussion:

Comment/question:

  • Would the book put out by the National Coalition of SRCs be worth purchasing?

Response:

  • It would be recommended for the Chair of the SR.  There is a PDF on the National Coalition of SRCs’ website that members can access at: https://ncsrc.net/

Comment/question:

  • Native American Vocational Rehabilitation – does that refer to Native Americans on Reservations?

Response:

  • The SRC, under section 12,  requires Native American representation from the American Indian Vocational Rehabilitation Services (AIVRS).

Comment/question:

  • Are there SRC conferences or training on the National level?

Response:

  • Yes, but there have not been any in person since the pandemic.  Quarterly calls are held and any SRC member can attend. Further information can be accessed at:  https://ncsrc.net/

Comment/Question:

  • If the minimum number of required SRC members is fifteen, is there a target number for NYS SRC?

Response:

  • The SRC always seeks to meet both the require representation as well as being representative of all individuals with disabilities in NYS.  However, the SRC wants to be mindful that too many members could become weighty and may be limiting to productive dialogue.

Presentation – Membership Application Process:

Joseph Delgado, Co-Chair of SRC, provided an overview on the membership recruitment process Including information on:

  • The membership committee’s efforts are underway for a structured and comprehensive SRC recruitment process with a focus on diversity and inclusivity.
  • The membership committee is putting together a document that outlines the recruitment process and timelines.
  • The outreach process includes a letter of introduction that is shared with the application. The letter explains the purpose of the SRC, the sub-committees, responsibilities, and an SRC contact.
  • Target outreach will be broad and all-encompassing with a focus on:
    • Business and Industry
    • Students and Youth
    • Diverse populations
    • Individuals receiving or who have received ACCES-VR services
    • Sign language interpreters
    • Psychologist
  • Anticipated target deadline to apply is April 4, 2022 (with flexibility on this date as needed)

Interagency Reports:

Advisory Council on Postsecondary Education for Students with Disabilities:

A rally for funds to support students with disabilities in colleges in NYS was held February 10, 2022 with approximately 200 people in attendance. The purpose of the rally was to secure $13 million in additional New York State Education Department (NYSED) state funding above the 2021-2022 levels, for a projected total of $15.09 million.   

The increased funds would be used for:

  • Enhancing of supports and services for postsecondary students with disabilities.
  • Increase the Readers Aid Program funding from the current $294,000 annual level to $1 million.

Student testimonials addressing the needs for the services at the postsecondary level were given during the rally. Regents Chancellor Dr. Lester Young and the New York State Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Betty Rosa gave speeches of support.

A link to the rally may be accessed at: https://vimeo.com/687264683/bacb1920b1

Next committee meeting April 13, 2022

Technology Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities (TRIAD):

Since 1/1/22 TRAID has completed the following activities:

  • 22 device loans
  • 11 device demonstrations
  • 4 trainings held at ACCES-VR orientations
  • The Interagency Partnership on Assistive Technology (IPAT) met on 1/19. Topics on accessibility training and different kinds of Assistive Technologies were discussed.
  • TRAID staff Peter Pitarresi presented on the operations of the NYC TRAID Center at Adapt Community Network.
  • Most of the TRAID Centers have purchased 3D printers to create small devices like key guards, utensil grips and styluses.
  • TRAID staff will be presenting at the Justice Center Summit on 4/13 from 2:30-4:30pm.

Disability Rights New York/ Client Assistance Program/ Protection & Advocacy for Beneficiaries of Social Security (DRNY/CAP/BAPSS):

  • All three offices for DRNY (Albany, Brooklyn, and Rochester) are still working remotely.
  • DRNY was awarded a three-year grant to address the lack of safe and accessible housing for people with disabilities as they transition from institutional settings.
  • DRNY is continuing their work on assisting individuals with disabilities in identifying resources within their community surrounding COVID-19 vaccinations and requesting accommodations for accessing vaccines.
  • In late 2020 and early 2021 DRNY created the Committee on Advancing Racial Equity (C.A.R.E.), that reflects internally on matters such as bias, privilege, racism, and intersectional change. DRNY continues to work on addressing racism.

Satisfaction Survey Workgroup Update: The participant satisfaction survey launched January 27, 2022 and will close approximately April 27, 2022.

  • 10,000 participants were surveyed by both an emailed link and a mailed paper survey.
  • In the middle of February, the email blast was completed.
  • Approximately, 1000 participants have been mailed the paper survey and ACCES-VR is already receiving responses from both the emailed and mailed surveys.
  • The provider survey closed on September 10, 2021 and,
  • The youth survey closed on November 12, 2021.

Office of Mental Health (OMH):

  • The Department is working on developing and enhancing their services and workplan to ensure that employment is incorporated into each program area.  This is being accomplished through training in tiers, and technical assistance including:
    • Enhancing OMH employment supports throughout their program menu and enhancing the New York Employment Service System (NYESS).
    • Community Oriented Recovery and Empowerment (CORE) services will take over some of the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS).
      • HCBS has been successful in pockets, and it is anticipated CORE will streamline access and delivery of these services.
  • Personalized Recovery Oriented Services (PROS) employment enhancement services are being evaluated for areas of service delivery improvement.
  • A State Aid Funded Employment Program (SAFEP) guidance document will be issued soon.
  • A training technical assistance guide is being developed for all program types with a range of employment focus from a “simple need to know” to much more in-depth, depending on program type.
  • There is a heightened focus on data across the board with the goal of making it simpler for programs to deliver services.
  • Collaboration with OMH and DOL is key right now for Disability and Workforce
    • NYESS/OMH/DOL are collaborating on NY SCION: Systems Change and Inclusive Opportunity Network.

New York State Independent Living Council, Inc. (NYSILC):

NYSILC continues with committee work.  The Statewide Needs Assessment Committee is reviewing tasks and necessary work to be performed including:

  • An Ad Hoc Selection Committee met on February 16th to address key issues related to the succession of the longtime Executive Director and to start the process of searching for a replacement. They will be connecting with other committees by the final quarter of 2023.
  • An Ad Hoc committee for the federal funding initiative Public Health Workforce met on February 25th  to narrow the direction of the State’s Part B opportunity. The New York Association for Independent Living (NYAIL) will draft a proposal for consideration. It will be reviewed and available in March around the same time states are notified the amount of our total awards. More details to follow.
  • The Statewide Needs Assessment Committee (NAC) had its initial meeting on February 28th. The group reviewed its tasks to perform necessary work for the next needs assessment and report. More details over the next few months.
  • The NYS Disability Rights Hall of Fame is having a hybrid event on Thursday, May 12, 2022, at the Albany Marriott on Wolf Road. The Class of 2022 inductees include: Bernard Carabello, Susan Dooha, Judith Heumann, Sally Johnston, and Janice Lintz. The NYSILC website will be updated in the near future regarding ticket sales/attendance.

New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB):

  • The Commission is planning a six-part Vison Rehabilitation remote conference. Further information will be shared when available.
  • Work continues negotiating the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) performance measures with ACCES-VR and Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).

New York State Office of Special Education:

No update.

New York State Department of Labor (DOL): Together with the New York State Office of Mental Health – The New York Employment Service System (NYESS), cross-agency work continues on the New York Systems Change and Inclusive opportunities Network (SCION) project. 

  • Disability Resources Coordinators are being recruited
  • 16 out of 33 implementation plans for the project have been submitted and training is being developed. 
  • Cross-agency collaborations at the local level are focusing on sustainability through local implementation plans.
  • DOL is working on marketing the Federal Bonding program.

New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD):

Lynne Thibdeau has announced her retirement, Julia Kelly will be appointed as the new OPWDD representative to the SRC.

  • OPWDD is in the process of back-filling positions in Central Office and Regional Offices.
  • The department is working on updating and streamlining service regulations and administrative guidance on Pathway to Employment, Supported Employment, and the Employment Training Program (ETP).

Upcoming initiatives:

  • Working with providers to deliver the full array of services
  • Looking for opportunities for those participating in day habilitation to move into employment and/or vocational training programs.

ACCES Updates:

Ceylane Meyers-Ruff, Deputy Commissioner and

Linda Schramm, Assistant Commissioner

Staffing:

  • Board of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS) Director position has been posted
  • ACCES-VR has two vacant Regional Coordinator positions which will be backfilled  
  • Work continues filling Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (VRC), Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor (SVRC) and Office Assistant vacancies.

High School Equivalency:

  • The contract with the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) that provided NYS with a high school equivalency exam - Test Assessing Secondary Completion (TASC™ Test). - expired on December 31, 2021. NYS Education Department selected the General Educational Development Test (GED® Test) to replace the TASC™ Test.  This is a 5-year contract that started on January 18, 2022.
    • The exam is free in NYS and can be taken up to three times in one year either computer or paper-based
    • Training with test centers and adult prep programs is underway during the roll-out phase training on accommodations and accessibility is included
    • 8500 New Yorkers have opened GED accounts
    • 700 have taken at least 1 subtest
    • 50 have taken the test and passed

State Education Department (SED):

  • The Governor has newly appointed a Chief Disability Officer
  • Two of the Regents’ budget priorities were included the Executive budget proposal:
    • Increased funding for the Reader’s Aid Program
    • Enhancement in support services for postsecondary students with disabilities
  • SED is looking at current graduation measures to assess possible revisions. A series of public forums are being held across the state.
    • One hearing is dedicated to a cross-section of students with a focus on their educational experiences.
    • Another is to hear from the business sector about what types of skills they are looking for.
  • SED has taken a holistic view of the entire educational system and has engaged other program areas within the department including ACCES-VR.
  • SED program areas are continuing discussions and planning related to electronic signatures. ACCES-VR will address electronic signature through the AWARE case management system when it is implemented.

ACCES-VR Updates:

NYS Combined State Plan Two-Year Modification Update:

The two-year modification of the NYS Combined State Plan and will submit to the Board of Regents for approval at their March 14th meeting.

  • ACCES-VR held 5 virtual public hearings for feedback on developing the modification. The following recommendations were made:
    • It is recommended ACCES-VR consider customer service strategies to include staffing models concentrated on enhancing the customer service experience.
  • It is recommended ACCES-VR consider reducing the documentation needed related to  

assessments and timeliness eligibility determination. VRCs are uniquely skilled as masters-level

vocational rehabilitation counselors and trained professionals in assessing disability.

AWARE update:

  • The new case management system AWARE is on track to go live in December 2022. ACCES-VR is looking at piloting every aspect of the system prior to December and currently is considering the timeframes for comprehensive training for staff and vendors.

Transition Services update:

  • Discussions have been underway with the Office of Special Education’s Assistant Commissioner Chris Suriano focusing on promoting a seamless transition from school to ACCES-VR services.

Pre-ETS:

  • ACCES-VR is seeking SRC input and suggestions for expanding and improving Pre-ETS
  • Relationship building with schools and transition partners is ongoing focusing on providing more students with Pre-ETS services. Education and outreach to families on the services is being conducted.

CVS Health update:

  • Working with CVS Health to explore and expand partnerships throughout the state.

SRC Comment/Question:

  • Are there data available on the number of potentially eligible students with disabilities that then become ACCES-VR participants?

Answer:

  • There are two different data sets for the students with disabilities served by the potentially eligible contract and students with disabilities served under ACCES-VR as participants. When vendors refer students with disabilities to ACCES-VR, there is communication and coordination between the potentially eligible vendor and the Senior Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor of transition at the District Office.

Comment/Question:

  • Is the goal of Pre-ETS for potentially eligible students with disabilities to “hand off” or refer the students to ACCES-VR?

Answer:

  • Under WIOA, the goal of Pre-ETS is to expose students to services earlier on in their career development process which will ultimately lead to successful employment.

Comment/Question:

  • Looking at the high number of employment outcomes for students with disabilities under the Project Search program, are there other opportunities to build on the collaboration between schools and ACCES-VR to enhance work-based learning experiences for students?

Answer:

  • Relationship building with school staff is an area of focus for ACCES-VR to enhance these collaborations.

Follow-up Comment:

  • This is a complex topic, and it is recommended that the SRC schedule a dialog around transition and ACCES-VR, including Pre-ETS for potentially eligible students with a disability.

Answer:

  • As part of that transition conversation, it is recommended that the SRC identify three transition topics/questions to focus on. We can invite SED Special Education Assistant Commissioner to attend that SRC meeting for a full discussion.

Follow-up Comment:

The Executive Committee will establish parameters and guidelines for this transition discussion.

Presentation – Federal Bonding Program Overview,  

Cynthia Wrend, Program Development Unit Special Populations Team New York State Department of Labor

The presentation provided an overview on:

  • The history of the Federal Bonding Program
    • Hiring incentive for “at risk” job applicants
  • Purpose of the program
    • Provide employment opportunities for individuals not able to be bonded by an employer’s regular Fidelity Bond coverage
  • Job Seeker Eligibility
    • Specific and general criteria
    • Eligibility does not require documentation/proof, only self-attestation
  • Federal Bonds – what they do and do not cover
  • Benefits to employers and businesses
  • The bonding processes

SRC Business Committee Reports:

Executive Committee Report:

The committee coordinated and developed the March quarterly meeting and presentations

Membership Committee:

The committee continued reviewing, revising, and developing the SRC recruitment letter, application, constituency list, and identifying needed constituents and representation for the 2023-2025 term

  • Committee voted on approving the recruitment letter and application to be distributed to SRC member networks
  • Committee will provide timeline for process of membership recruitment

Annual Report Committee:

The committee continued their work on establishing and ensuring members are able to access a central location to store and share work.  Google docs is being explored.  A timeline of tasks and items and areas of focus to be included in the annual report is under development.

  • Working on establishing earlier due dates for submitting items for Annual Report
  • Reviewing national SRC reports as an opportunity to improve the NYS SRC report
  • Considering how the Annual Report can be used as a vehicle for building relationships

Business Engagement: The committee is continuing their coordinating and developing the June quarterly presentation with Joana Lisboa of CVS health.

  • Discussing and focusing on business representation on the SRC
  • There will be four upcoming vacancies for business representation when Ellice Switzer terms out
  • The committee created a comprehensive list for potential businesses for outreach

Quality Assurance Improvement: 

  • Updated workplan for 2022
  • Discussing a systematic process for providing feedback on presentations to the SRC
  • Thank you to Dave Morgan for all your service to the SRC
  • Welcomed Connie Glover as new ACCES-VR liaison to QAI

4.2 Recommendations:  None at this time.

Old Business:  None

Next Meeting June 07-08, 2022

Hilton Albany Medical Center

 

State Rehabilitation Council

The Council provides advice and support to The State Education Department’s Office of Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation (ACCES-VR) on behalf of people with disabilities and their families regarding the delivery of effective rehabilitation services that leads to employment for New Yorker's with disabilities.

State Council

Meeting Dates

The following meetings will be held virtually by zoom:
(Join the meeting via Zoom)

March 02-03, 2021
June 08-09, 2021

The following meetings will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn Albany Medical Center, 62 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY  12208:

September 28-29, 2021
December 14-15, 2021

For confirmation of meeting dates or any additional information, contact (518) 486-7490.

Please note:  Interpreters are provided only upon request.  To request an interpreter or other accommodations, contact ACCES-VR as soon as possible at accessrc@nysed.gov  but no latter than 10 days prior to the meeting date.

Agenda for upcoming meeting

June 7-8, 2022