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Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council Minutes

November 16, 2006

Members Present:

B.J. Nevels, Jack Roper, Hugh McCrabb, Randy Buettner, Marilyn Burr, Cindy Gallup, Kathleen Kennedy, Doug MacMillan, Kim Nickerson, Alisa Robertson, DeLorna Strong, Sue Williams, Director Linda Parker

Members Absent:

Pat Casey, Milissa Gofourth, Sabrina Ware, Jon Ringlero,

Other Present:

Syedah Islam, DRS VR Administrator, Tim Williams, DRS Field Coordinator; Mark Kinnison, DRS Field Coordinator; Suzanne Randall, DRS Commission Assistant, Marcey Tosto, DRS Scribe

Roll Call:

Roll was called and a quorum established.

Call to Order and  Roll Call

BJ Nevels called the meeting to order at 10:10 am.  Program Manager Theresa Hamrick called the roll. 

Approval of Minutes:

Approval and acceptance of the 8-17-06 minutes, Randy Buettner moved to approve the minutes, second by Doug MacMillan, motion carried.

Department of Rehabilitation Services Update:

Linda Parker, Director of Rehabilitation Services updated the council on the letter the council had sent her requesting information regarding the department’s state plan.   Theresa Hamrick (ORC) and Ms. Parker will sit down and discuss the question and how to manage and may take more of a dialogue than just answering the question. Maybe ORC could put together a committee (2-3) to work with DRS to talk about the State Plan. The State Plan is going to become a more guiding document rather than the monitoring reviews that was done previously by the regional offices. There is a State Plan “pre-print” that only has to be up-dated if you make a change in it. Every year, Federal RSA says DRS must update specific attachments and these updates are what make up the state plan each year. 

The pre-print is basically a document that identifies all of the federal requirements from the law and a checklist of a yes/no; a document that if nothing changes in how your state is organized and how you receive you’re funding; you do not have to update. No submission is needed of the pre-print at this time.  Ms. Parker also stated that DRS is in the process of proposing to legislation an incentive to counselors and clerical staff for successful closure of SSI and SSDI claims.  This is a re-imbursement paid to the agency and the counselor and clerical staff will get a portion. There is a national level interest for incentives and interest in people returning to work. There will be multiple demonstration grants for return to work for people on SSI and SSDI.

Transition will be huge effort for RSA and Social Security for cost avoidance, even for early childhood. There are significant changes within the next 6-8 months to Social Security regulations on Ticket to Work which will allow the state VR agency to file for re-imbursement and employment networks to file for milestone re-imbursement.  At the national level the Council for State Administrators for VR (CSAVR) has established a National Business Relations Network which in  theory will be to view the collective VR agencies as a single business at the national level as oppose to a collection of states.

Question: DeLorna Strong – Has CSAVR even been discussed at a national level about the American Indian Programs?  Answer: Ms. Parker – They didn’t mention that at  the conference. Treva the chair at CNAR will have to be contacted about the issues.

Ms. Parker stated OK is the third highest in the milestone program. The milestone program is re-imbursement that you file as develop the case and when certain milestones points are met, the agency receives a percentage of funds. Milestone cases are not usually closed successfully because they take a really long time.

Question:  You budget money to help these clients and you get re-imbursement with that money; where does that money go? 

Answer: The money comes out of the regular “Title One” Budget which is the RSA funding VR grant. The money comes back as Social Security re-imbursement. The federal law requires that we use the money consistent with purposes of the VR program. It can be budgeted for other programs it does not have to go to client services.

Jane Nelson, Division Administrator for VS, absent – Letter sent to be read, by chair, B. J. Nevels

Dear Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council:

I am sorry I cannot be with you today due to the meeting of the National Council of State Administrators for the Blind held in San Francisco.

As usual there is quite a bit going on in Visual Services.  I am so happy and pleased to announce that we have finally secured the location at Sheppard Mall for our Visual Services Center.  We have been negotiating this location for about a year now and it is finally coming to fruition.  In the Visual Services Center we will house our Rehabilitation for the Blind Specialists who are teachers and O & M specialists.  We will also house the Technology Lab, the Learning Lab, the Low Vision Lab, and the Lending Lab.  In addition to these laboratories we will also house an adult learning laboratory which will be a small apartment housing a fully functioning kitchen, living area, bath room, and laundry area.  This will serve as a training area to teach individuals adult blind living skills so that individuals can remain independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient.  We believe that this will ultimately make individuals more employable.

We are also advertising for a new program manager for the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.  Hopefully we will l get this position filled very soon.

We just completed a very successful annual meeting. The speakers were outstanding and we have received some very good comments back.   We had over 500 attendees.   We are already making plans for our State Centennial Celebration for next year’s conference.

Also, last month the Division of Visual Services hosted a celebration in recognition of Mr. Dale McFarlin of Agra, Oklahoma who just completed 50 years of dedicated service as a vendor in the Business Enterprise Program.  Mr. McFarlin told me he is looking forward to celebrating his second 50 years of work.

As usual we are still actively looking for O & M specialists.  This is a very specialized service and it is very difficult to find these highly trained and educated teachers.  We are also in the midst of “growing our own” by sending some individuals who are already employed by our agency to school to become O & M specialists

I would also like to give Bob Utley special thanks for working so hard on getting our federal report corrected within a 3 day period.  He was well supported by Robin Hurley and Larry Bishop and we owe all of them a great deal of gratitude.

I also participated in a conference Call with Theresa Hamrick, Jack Roper and Pat Casey in discussing the possibility of closing priority group 3.  At this time we are still looking at closing priority group 3 in December, but hopefully the field can affect enough change before December, that the closing of this priority group will not be necessary.

I know this is a very short report but I felt that our field coordinators could cover any area that I have over looked.

Question: What is an O&M Specialist? 

Answer: Orientation and Mobility Specialist, teachers that teach the individuals who are blind to use the canes, travel and how to get around the community.

Syedah Islam, Division Administrator for VR, reported the BEST Unit and the assistive technology unit has moved into the Shepard Mall and is now open and will be available for demonstrations and loans. She wanted to share some good news about employment goals/  DRS exceed their employment goals for 2006,  2297 cases were closed as successful employment.  That is an increase of 188 than in 2005. VR is fully staffed in Quality Assurance Unit. They will continue reviewing 26 and 28 closed VR and VS cases. Ms. Islam stated that DRS is doing very well on our 107 corrective action and an update has been sent to our federal representative Joan Ward. DRS is meeting deadlines on everything.

Belen Burkhalter is the lead person for the employment initiative here in the state. DRS have a pilot program that VR has started in Tulsa.  The unit will work with OESC and will be connected to their job link, we will be able to access all of the jobs they have available. The team will work with OESC to do job placement with our staff on behalf of consumers. VR will make sure that people that are referred to those jobs are job ready.  The VR budget is being reviewed projected expenditures for 2008 will be over budget due to Priority Group III being open. 

Mark Kinnison, Field Coordinator, stated a meeting was held at the annual conference to discuss the possibility of closing Priority Group III due to some budget concerns. Since that time in VS I’ve asked the counselors to take a pro-active look at the services that we offer providing to the clients. We don’t want to exclude any necessary services to any clients, but I think we can be smarter on our approach as to what is absolutely necessary to help that person achieve their goal. Counselors can look for less expensive alternatives in medical providers and still meet the objectives to help that individual. One of the services that has increased is transportation. There is a possibility to reduce our spending in that area by utilizing family members, friends, and anybody out there that can help. It has been stressed the importance of bringing status 28 closures down in comparison to 26 closures.

Question: Could you review the status 28 and 26 for those of us that don’t the numbers.

Response: Yes, 26 closures are the successful closures for clients who go to work and achieve employment objective.  28 closures are unsuccessful closures, who are clients that we provide services to, but did not achieve successful employment outcome.

Ms. Islam had numbers to share on closures; this is the fifth year that we have more unsuccessful closures than successful. This is due to reduction our case load size. Counselors’ carrying 400 cases on their caseload is extremely high and it is too much.  Counselors can not handle that many individuals. So we are in the process of reducing caseloads and we are hoping to reduce to fewer than 100.  Ms. Parker wanted to clarify; we are not just throwing them off the caseload, the data has been reviewed for the caseload and it appears that we had cases that were on the caseload but were not receiving any services of any sort. Cases were reviewed and identified, whether the person was still actively interested in pursuing a vocational outcome or not. The cases were closed if the person was either not interested or move out of state.

Tim Williams, Field Coordinator, reported the field coordinators have sent out memo to all staff requiring documented contact with every person on their caseload once per quarter. The primary reason is the unsuccessful closure is due the people we lose; and it also discourages counselors keeping people on their caseload that are unproductive.

There has been a screen developed in ORMIS, where the program manager can look at this screen for any counselor and it will bring up all cases that have not had a contact with in the last year and that’s now being changed to the last quarter.  

During the program managers meeting it was stated that they are not in favor of Priority Group III closure and want to keep it open. Program managers are working on proposals to present to administration to see what they can do to reduce expenditures in the field without closing priority group III.

Question: Is closures applicable to all groups or is there a goal for each group? Response: It is either close or open an entire group at a time. Priority Group II is the most productive.

Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council:

Theresa Hamrick disseminated the ORC report that is submitted for the Commission Meeting.  During September she attended various meetings and in October she started seeing progress from those meetings. The Meet the Candidate forum the ORC worked with the Heartland Council of the Blind and State Independent Living Council (SILC) had 65-70 attendees with some traveling from Tulsa.  There were fifteen candidates in attendance.

Question: Were the questions disabled focus?

Response: There were two, transportation and healthcare.

On October 27, 2006 the SILC had their meeting and Glenda Farnum will be our representative.  Her confirmation will be expected in the next 30 days from the Governor’s office.  DeLorna Strong will remain the ORC as the Native American representative at this time.

Committee Reports:

Transition and Employment: Kim Nickerson, chair stated this committee has not met yet, but e-mail has been sent to organize a date.  December 4, 6, 7, 2006 has been given to meet sometime in the afternoon for 2-3 hours at the very most.  It was agreed to do conference call for some and December 6, 2006 at 1:30pm was set.  Theresa Hamrick will send an e-mail to remind everyone of the date and time.

Policy & Legislative Committee: Milissa Goforth could not be in attendance but she sent an updated.

To: Oklahoma Rehabilitation Council –Policy & Legislative Committee

I wanted to bring you up to date on the activities of the ORC Policy & Legislative Committee.

v     Re-Authorization – I will be attending the Council of State Administrator of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) national conference the week of November 11th with Theresa.  I plan on attending sessions that will provide an update on the reauthorization of the Rehab Act as part of WIA.  I do know the Senate and House have each passed versions of the bill and the next step will be to conference and work out the differences.  I also get periodic updates from Jean Jones staff member of DRS and will pass those along.

v     Success Stories – the form is complete.  Theresa gave an overview of the form (attached) and its purpose at the state meeting of VS and VR on October 25th.  Rehab Techs at the local offices will be in charge of requesting the information from clients after case closure.  The tool is intended to be used to get the word out, especially to local legislatures and other policy makers on how DRS can help people with disabilities become employed. 

v     Advocacy Tool Kit – ORC has permission to use and edit the “Health Advocacy Tool Box” developed by ConnecticutHealth Policy Project.  Once the Tool Box has been converted to give “Oklahoma” information it will be placed on the ORC web site.  A meeting to continue the work is scheduled on December 4th, 2nd Floor Conference Room after lunch.  The time is not set because lunch will be at the conclusion of the DRS Commission meeting scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m.  I urge committee members to join Linda Jaco, Melinda Fruendt, Jean Jones, Theresa Hamrick and myself to assist with continued update of materials.  To view the tool box go to: http://www.cthealthpolicy.org/toolbox/

v     Chapter 10 Policy Issues – the goal for this workgroup is to outline/identify what the Rehab Act says for Vocational Rehabilitation and compare it to the OK DRS Policy Chapter 10 and the regulations to the Rehab Act.  This workgroup is a part of the Customer Service Improvement (CSI) Committee.  The workgroup will be a continuous work in progress and will review DRS policies thoroughly by each sub chapter.  The group as had two meeting in which we discussed sub chapter 1 and 3.  The next meeting is scheduled for November 21st 10:00 a.m. to noon.  We will review subchapter 7.

v     VR Website – Ronda Laws is our contact person – no update at this time.

v     Coordinate Federal & State Legislative Initiatives with SILC – I have spoken to Charlie Bowen program manager for the SILC informally.  I am assuming we will take a closer look at the State legislative agenda on disability issues after the first of the year.

v     ORC to coordinate & work with agency on planning and marketing the DRS public hearings for Policy and public hearings for State Plan – I will call on the members to provide mailing list and other strategies to announce the meetings.

 I will be out of state at the next ORC meeting scheduled for November 16th.  So I would like to schedule a committee meeting the first week of December.  Please let me know which date and time would work best for you:

   December 4th 3:00 p.m.      or         December 7th 10:00 a.m.

If you have suggestion or specific interest in participating with any of the activities listed above please let me know. 

Planning and Program Evaluation: Jack Roper, no report due to being out of state. A meeting has been planned December 5, 2006.

Council Members Reports/Updates:

Kim Nickerson, A submission for OSEP federal grant was done in July and it was awarded in October for 4.5 million dollars. This is one of the components of the grant for mentoring special education teachers and also for incentives and stipends.

Transition annual meeting was held in October.  The next Oklahoma Transition Institute will be held May 30-31, 2007 in Norman.

Doug Macmillan, There is a vehicle now that if you have concerns about the governor’s council, you can voice complaints. You can go to the governor’s council web site where you can see individual committee leaders.  You can write letters or enter comments at this site.  Next what I want to talk about is work keys.  Work keys is the certification process for employers to have jobs determined for specific skill levels. Employers are allowed to test to these skill levels; and as future employees take work keys they can match the two. There has been a date set for Youth Day in November 2007.

Unfinished Business:


New Business:

Priority group 3 possible closure:  Administration wanted to close this group immediately but the program managers and field coordinators asked for time to go back and analyze the expense that are going to put over for client services. DRS agreed to wait until December before a decision would be made on closure.

Informed choice – What is Informed Choice, D. Macmillan wants presentation next meeting in February.

Consumer Comments:



Meeting adjourned.