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l. 2. Identify the goals and priorities in carrying out the VR and Supported Employment programs

Current Narrative:

GOAL 1:  Improve the quality of services and outcomes:

Priority 1.1:  Implement new innovative training strategies for VR Counselors and other VR staff, such as increased use of itinerant (working lead) VR Counselors as regional trainers, enhancements to web-based modules including development of content for VR Case Coordinators, or other strategies. Provide training to staff on post-secondary services, transition responsibilities, extended services to youth with a most significant disability, and training on strengths-based service provision to specific populations such as individuals with mental health disabilities and individuals transitioning from subminimum wage employment to competitive, integrated employment. At least two new training focus areas will be identified annually with training provided to applicable staff during FY20-FY21.

Priority 1.2:  Identify and implement at least two new strategies during FY20-FY21 for effective training to VR employment service providers, including opportunities for hands-on training to build skills, training focused on strengths-based service provision to individuals with high support needs, opportunities for joint training with VR staff, and other needed topics. Also, track data on the number of foundational training hours Establishment project provider staff receive annually, ensuring that staff receive at least 10 hours of foundational, hands-on training annually through the life of the Establishment projects (through March, 2021).

Priority 1.3:  Convene appropriate stakeholders, including VR, Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Community Mental Health Centers, NAMI, Key Consumer Organization, individuals with lived experience, and others through a statewide task force during FY20-FY21. The taskforce will identify specific strategies aimed at improving services and outcomes for VR participants with mental health disabilities (including individuals with co-occurring disabilities), such as exploration of the use of establishment projects, training, resource mapping, or other activities with at least two strategies implemented during FY20-FY21. Establish baseline data on services and outcomes for VR participants with mental health disabilities by the end of 2020.

Priority 1.4:  Identify and implement strategies to improve employment outcomes, such as exploration of the need for Establishment projects to further improve service provision by community rehabilitation programs, analysis of the impact of discovery activities on employment outcomes, increased utilization of supported employment services, sharing emerging best practices, or other strategies. The number of VR participants achieving employment will increase by 10% from FY19 (baseline 2160) to FY21, and average hourly wages will increase by at least 5% from FY19 (baseline $11.48) to FY21.

GOAL 2:  Improve capacity to serve VR eligible individuals.

Priority 2.1:  Identify and implement strategies to improve staff capacity to serve eligible individuals, including improved recruitment through use of interns in VR field offices, outreach to colleges and universities, or other strategies; and improved retention through implementation of strategies to improve VR staff job satisfaction such as improved communication and training to staff, and increased opportunities for staff to participate in special projects and workgroups in areas that match their interests. At least one recruitment and retention strategy will be implemented annually in FY20-FY21.

Priority 2.2:  Identify and implement strategies to improve fiscal capacity to serve eligible individuals, including exploration of opportunities for blended funding, review of VR rules on high cost service areas (e.g. home modifications, vehicle modifications), increasing knowledge of comparable benefits such as those offered through core WIOA programs, and other strategies. Implement at least one new strategy annually in FY20-FY21.

Priority 2.3: Continue streamlining efforts such as continued system modernization including enhancements to the VR Claims Payment System, exploration of a streamlined referral process with core WIOA programs, and review of VR rules and processes to identify opportunities for reduced administrative burden. At least one streamlining effort will be implemented annually in FY20-FY21.

Priority 2.4: Increase education to stakeholders including schools, VR vendors, state agencies, local organizations, advocacy groups, and others about order of selection and the actual v. perceived impact on VR applicants and eligible individuals. Maintain and update an informational page on the VR website including annual updates to local resource guides to improve awareness of other organization and programs that may be able to provide services to VR participants who are assigned to a closed priority category. Present to a wide range of stakeholders such as those mentioned above to share relevant information, encourage referrals to VR, and address perceived barriers to making referrals to VR. At least two educational opportunities will occur annually throughout FY20-FY21.

GOAL 3:  Enhance collaboration with a variety of partners to ensure that job seekers with disabilities have access to a variety of pathways to employment.

Priority 3.1: Continue collaboration with core WIOA partners through strategies such as implementation of a combined state plan, maintaining and enhancing written partnership agreements, implementing Indiana’s SWIS agreement, joint participation in special projects such as the Visionary Opportunities to Increase Competitive Employment (VOICE) training and technical assistance project, and other efforts. At least one new or enhanced collaboration effort will be achieved annually in FY20-FY21.

Priority 3.2:  Continue to build capacity for business engagement through implementation of new and innovative strategies and partnerships. Strategies may include development of a toolkit for businesses with helpful resources for hiring job seekers with disabilities, education to workforce development boards on improving opportunities for employment for individuals with disabilities, enhancing resources such as a dedicated VR webpage for businesses, providing training to stakeholders including employment service providers, conducting awareness and education events during National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and increasing partnerships at the local, state, and national level. At least two new or enhanced strategies will be implemented annually in FY20-FY21.

Priority 3.3:  Identify best practices in the delivery of required Pre-ETS activities such as incorporation of the LifeCourse Framework, and identify areas of growth such as increased focus on career and technical education for students with disabilities and collaboration with Department of Education on a new student portfolio and graduation pathway requirements. Enhance Pre-ETS coordinating activities through increased transition efforts of VR staff including dedicated VR Youth Counselors. Enhance the Memorandum of Understanding with DWD to increase participation of students with disabilities in the Jobs for America’s Graduates (JAG) program. Provide an annual summary, highlighting Pre-ETS efforts and the number of students served. Ensure that 15% of VR federal funds are earmarked for Pre-ETS each federal fiscal year and increase the number of students receiving Pre-ETS annually.

Priority 3.4: Continue collaboration with other state agencies, such as participation in key advisory groups for BDDS home and community-based waiver redesign, co-leading the VOICE training and technical assistance project with DMHA, and collaboration with other state agencies in the implementation of Employment First philosophy in Indiana in alignment with the Employment First Act. Increase opportunities for targeted local partnership such as enhanced collaboration with 14c facilities, local workforce programs, community mental health centers, local schools, and others. Increased collaboration may improve education and awareness across organizations, create opportunities for shared participants or shared service costs, and increase referrals to VR. At least one new collaborative partnership will be achieved annually in FFY20-FFY21, as evidenced by an increase in referrals for a targeted population or implementation of process for shared service provision.