- Program-Specific Requirements for Vocational Rehabilitation (Combined or General)
The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Services Portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan  must include the following descriptions and estimates, as required by section 101(a) of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by title IV of WIOA:
 Sec. 102(b)(2)(D)(iii) of WIOA
- o. State's Strategies
Describe the required strategies and how the agency will use these strategies to achieve its goals and priorities, support innovation and expansion activities, and overcome any barriers to accessing the VR and the Supported Employment programs (See sections 101(a)(15)(D) and (18)(B) of the Rehabilitation Act and section 427 of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA)):
- o. State's Strategies
o. 8. B. Support innovation and expansion activities; and
IDVR will continue to maintain the two ongoing primary innovation activities, supporting the activities of both the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and the State Independent Living Council (SILC). The SRC serves as IDVR’s advisory council and together with the Division and the CSNA inform the goals, priorities, and strategies for agency.
Additionally, the Division is targeting CRP services, Benefits Planning, and Customized Employment as Innovation and Expansion needs. These innovation activities are driven by WIOA regulatory changes and information derived from the past two CSNAs
The Division is particularly interested in designating funds for the purpose of improving the quality of CRP services to individuals with disabilities. The Division will evaluate the best approach for improvement, including input from the CRP community, and allocate resources to begin this innovative activity. It is expected that the Division will begin this process in earnest in PY2022 and continue efforts into PY2023. As of 2021 the Division has a dedicated CRP Manager position created and filled. IDVR is currently working toward an overhaul of the IDVR fee schedule and structure as a prerequisite to the formal CRP innovation project.
The expansion of Benefits Planning services to individuals who are SSI/SSDI recipients:
The Division historically has used the services provided by Montana State University, Billings, Work Incentives Planning and Assistance Program (WIPA), however, this service is only for those individuals with disabilities who are employed. The Division has prioritized the delivery of benefits counseling to customers who receive Social Security Disability benefits to promote better informed decisions regarding work, and to resolve any ambivalence/anxiety about losing benefits, as early in the VR process as possible. The Division engaged in two separate Invitations to Bid (contracts) through the Division of Purchasing to solicit vendors interested in providing this service to IDVR customers. The first bid solicitation, November 2020, resulted in sufficient bids in half of the regions across the state. The second bid solicitation, August 2021, resulted in having sufficient vendors across the entire state. The Division took the opportunity to expand Benefits Planning services in the second contract, based upon lessons learned from the first contract. Staff have been trained on the immense value of this service and referrals continue to increase. The Division actively monitors referrals and vendor performance.
The expansion of Customized Employment (CE) services through a pilot relaunch (Pilot 2.0):
IDVR engaged in an initial pilot program to launch CE services in three pilot sites across Idaho. The Division worked closely with WINTAC and our CE training provider, Griffin-Hammis Associates to train educators, CRP staff and IDVR staff including five-days of face-to-face instruction and distance and in-person technical assistance. Ultimately, the CRPs who participated in the training were unable to retain the staff trained in the pilot, and subsequently IDVR was left without the capacity to deliver CE or expand CE delivery statewide.
Staff turnover continues to be a significant issue for CRPs, and the Division is exploring potential changes to the structure of the pilot to include expanding the array of providers who are recognized as qualified CE providers as well as evaluating sustainable CE training delivery models. IDVR will continue efforts in the CE Community of Practice.
While the Division intended to develop and implement a CE Pilot 2.0, COVID response initiatives required the Division to pivot and table this initiative. The Division along with all CRP vendors have experienced significant staff and employment challenges during the past two years. CRP recruitment and retention are increasingly tenuous, and some CRP vendors have declined referrals for service provision due to their inability to hire and retain adequately trained staff.
In an effort to promote and partner with CRP vendors, the Division implemented a $2.00 an hour CRP interim rate increase. This increase is specifically targeted to raise the salaries for frontline staff. The Division intends to stand up CRP innovation and expansion activities for traditional VR services prior to the CE 2.0 launch due to the inherent difficulty in retaining trained staff during the pilot. IDVR believes strengthening foundational services should allow a better opportunity to advance with the more complex requirements of CE.