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p. 1. A. Identify the strategies that contributed to the achievement of the goals

Current Narrative:

GOAL 1:  Purposefully collaborate with the WIOA core programs and other appropriate agencies to provide a client-centered approach to service delivery to assist individuals with disabilities achieve their employment outcomes.

Priority 1.1:  Develop a common understanding among WIOA core programs and other appropriate agencies (e.g., Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services and Department of Education) of Vocational Rehabilitation and the services it may provide to eligible individuals, in varying capacities, in order to provide integrated service delivery and improve employment outcomes. VR Leadership will continue discussions with appropriate agencies throughout FFY 2016 and develop and/or revise written agreements in FFY 2016.

Outcome: Achieved. An updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was developed with DWD and regional Workforce Development Boards in 2016, and negotiations regarding infrastructure funding agreements were finalized in 2017. In June, 2017 BRS and DWD jointly conducted a Roundtable Summit to encourage open conversation about serving job seekers with disabilities and to better understand training needs of Work One offices. In follow-up to this summit, BRS and DWD collaborated on the development and provision of training on working with job seekers with disabilities for Work One center staff. The BRS Director also continues to be active member of the State Workforce Innovation Council (SWIC) and several BRS staff are represented on SWIC task forces.

Priority 1.2:  Continue systems modernization efforts, including development of a web-based VR case management system to improve the efficiency and enhance the mobile working environment of VR field staff and enrich the data utilized by VR to make informed program decisions.  The system will also ensure appropriate system integration and data-sharing to align resources, collect common participant information, increase efficiencies, track effectiveness of the program, and ultimately to improve the participant’s experience in VR in meeting his/her employment goal. Develop a project plan and process flow in FFY 2016 and begin design of a new case management system in FFY2017. Efforts toward system modernization will also include identifying strategies to streamline billing procedures and improve efficiency of staff time, such as exploration of an electronic vendor claims payment system. Strategies will be identified by FFY17 and implemented in FFY18. 

Outcome:  Met. VR entered into a contract agreement with an entity to develop an electronic claims payment system and this project kicked off in 2017. Also in 2017, VR entered into a contract agreement with an entity to implement a new VR case management system, replacing VR’s 20-year old legacy system. Significant efforts occurred throughout 2017 and 2018 and into early 2019, with both systems implemented in May, 2019. 

Priority 1.3:  Develop and enhance processes and procedures to ensure proper and consistent referrals to and from VR and WIOA core programs (and other appropriate programs) in order to maximize the service options and service delivery for individuals with disabilities. Develop and conduct cross-training for VR and DWD staff in FFY 2017.

Outcome: Partially Achieved. Cross-training was conducted in 2017, however more work is needed to improve referral processes. Work is ongoing, and VR and DWD jointly participated in a Department of Labor customer service cohort in 2018 to identify additional strategies for improved referral processes, including securing scheduling software that would allow all partners to take and share referral information across programs. Additional efforts are needed to put this strategy into place, such as training on the scheduling software for WIOA core program staff.

Priority 1.4:  Ensure VR staff is trained, highly knowledgeable, and are providing information on services across WIOA core programs, and other appropriate programs that may assist individuals with disabilities achieve their employment outcome. New staff will participate in both web-based and classroom-based training throughout, at minimum, the first year of employment.

Outcome: Achieved. In late 2017 and early 2018, all VR staff received face-to-face training regarding DWD and Work One programs and services. VR Intake Counselors provide information about Work One during intake meetings with VR applicants and make referrals as applicable. A WIOA focused course was developed and added to VR’s web-based orientation and training platform in 2018 aimed at educating VR staff on overarching goals of the federal legislation as well as information about WIOA core partners. This module can be accessed by both new and seasoned staff at any time. VR will explore the need for further training in 2020. 

Priority 1.5:  Work in partnership with WIOA core programs to strategically enhance employer engagement and work-based learning opportunities for individuals with disabilities.  This includes expanding VR employer engagement to develop appropriate disability-related information and resources (e.g., disability awareness training, business-to-business resources for beginning disability hiring initiatives, etc.) for employers. A plan for joint data collection will be developed by the end of FFY17.

Outcome: Achieved. Disability Awareness training has been presented to hiring managers with Indiana State Personnel as the State of Indiana is an employer/customer to VR. VR Employment Engagement leadership have expanded the partnership with DWD throughout 2018 and 2019, and representatives from both VR and DWD are now jointly meeting with businesses to explore hiring opportunities. Additionally, VR and DWD are using a single system to jointly track business engagement efforts. The VR Business and Community Engagement team received training on the system and began capturing business engagement efforts in the system in 2018.

GOAL 2:  Increase the number of people with disabilities in integrated, competitive employment.

Priority 2.1:  Develop a coordinated process with the Bureau of Developmental Disabilities Services and State and local educational agencies in assisting individuals with disabilities, especially youth with disabilities who are considering subminimum wage employment or who are already employed, at a subminimum wage, to maximize opportunities to achieve competitive integrated employment. Provide initial career counseling and information and referral (CCIR) services, and appropriate documentation, to youth seeking sub-minimum wage employment as well as ensure that all individuals employed at sub-minimum wage receive CCIR services by July, 2017, an annually thereafter.

Outcome: Achieved. Career counseling and information and referral services (CCIR) are provided to youth who are considering subminimum wage employment or individuals of any age who are already employed at subminimum wage, either by a VR Counselor or through a partnership with the Arc of Indiana and Self-Advocates of Indiana.  As part of CCIR, local resources regarding employment services and other-related information are communicated to education about opportunities and available services to assist with pursuit of competitive, integrated employment.  Following the discussion, the participant receives a certificate of participation to document completion of the CCIR activities. BRS, BDDS, and The Arc of Indiana continuously explore options to enhance the CCIR sessions, such as the development of an informational video and providing the services virtually. VR leadership has also been active in BDDS efforts toward waiver redesign, including increased emphasis on competitive, integrated employment for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. 

Priority 2.2:  Identify best practices, create strategies, and partner with other agencies to better serve students and youth with disabilities to ensure a pathway and appropriate services to meet their employment outcomes.  This includes earmarking 15% of federal VR dollars for Pre-ETS annually.

Outcome: Partially Achieved. 15% of VR dollars were earmarked annually in 2017, 2018, and 2019, however actual expenditures were below 15%. VR modified the funding structure in contracts with providers carrying out Pre-ETS, and also encouraged contractors to expand service areas. Both of these strategies resulted in increased service provision. Additionally, VR provided additional guidance and training to VR staff on allowable use of staff time for coordination of Pre-ETS as well as arranging and providing required Pre-ETS activities. The VR Youth Team has also partnered with the VR Business Engagement Team to carrying out several Pre-ETS mentoring days in 2017 and 2018 at local businesses, in collaboration with DOE, local schools, the local WorkOne, and Self-Advocates of Indiana. Furthermore, VR and DWD entered into a written agreement in 2019 to expand the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program to more students with disabilities and enhance the curriculum to include instruction in self-advocacy and increased work based learning opportunities. Pre-ETS spend has increased significantly each year and VR is on target to spend 15% of funds for FFY19. VR is hopeful that RSA will provide additional technical assistance that may expand activities that are an allowable use of Pre-ETS.

Priority 2.3: In collaboration with the Transition Advisory Council, Department of Education, and other stakeholders, ensure that required Pre-ETS activities are widely available in all 92 Indiana counties by the end of FFY 2018.

Outcome: Achieved. Pre-ETS services have been available in all 92 Indiana counties since July, 2018. VR continues its partnership with numerous state agencies and other stakeholders through facilitation of a statewide Transition Advisory council, with representation from DOE, DWD, local schools, Pre-ETS providers, DOC, INSOURCE parent information network, IU Center of Excellence, and many others.

Priority 2.4: Continue development of blind entrepreneurs through the Business Enterprise Program and increase trainees of the program. At least 50% of trainees will secure employment as licensed vendors within 6 months of completing training.

Outcome: Achieved. Three individuals completed training to become a licensed vendor in 2016, and two, or 67% of those individuals obtained employment within six months of training completion.  

GOAL 3:  Develop program initiatives and training that adequately support VR staff and community rehabilitation providers in the provision of quality services.

Priority 3.1:  Conduct a systematic review of the new Employment Service Model (effective July 1, 2015) to identify best practices and determine necessary system revisions to ensure the quality of services and employment outcomes. Review trends in service provision and employment outcomes on a quarterly basis throughout FFY 2016, and continue to meet at least quarterly with the Employment Service Model workgroup to review strengths and identify areas of improvement.

Outcome: Achieved. An evaluation of services and outcomes under the revised employment service model, compared to services and outcomes under the previous Results Based Funding (RBF) employment service model has been ongoing since August, 2016. Baseline data was obtained in August, 2016, and an initial summary report was completed and posted on the VR website in November, 2016. Data has continued to be updated and shared in subsequent VR employment service evaluation reports, with the most recent report completed May, 2019. Highlights include increased access to discovery and supported employment services, and improvement in average hourly wages for those placed through a CRP. The average hourly wage for individuals placed through a VR employment services prior to implementation of the revised structure, was $8.69. The most recent evaluation report shows an average hourly wage of $9.47 as of March, 2019, which represents a 9% increase in average hourly wage over approximately a three year period. Additionally, the Employment Advisory Group continues to meet quarterly to share successes and address areas of improvement. With continued feedback from the advisory group, VR staff, and providers, additional modifications and improvement to employment services have been made over the last three years. This includes simplification of payment structures, streamlined documentation requirements, and a rate increase. Additional training has also been provided each year, including training on discovery and supported employment.

Priority 3.2:  Continue development of VR staff through professional development and training, including both face-to-face training, one-on-one mentoring, and the ongoing enhancement of web-based training modules (VR Leadership Academy) to increase knowledge about VR service delivery and to build skills of VR staff. VR will introduce new training by March 2016 that will aim to increase focus on counseling and guidance. BRS will continue to evaluate employment outcomes to determine whether enhanced training has impact on the quantity and quality of employment outcomes in FFY17 and FFY18, compared to prior years.

Outcome: Achieved. BRS contracted with Education Data Systems, Inc. to develop a curriculum centered on the building skills for the provision of high quality counseling and guidance to VR participants including career counseling. All VR Counselors and Supervisors completed this training in 2016, and the training continued to be provided for new hires quarterly throughout 2016 and 2017.  In 2018, VR enhanced training on this topic area by incorporating an interactive component including review of case scenarios, discussion and role play. In 2019, VR provided regional training on counseling and guidance strategies during regional quarterly meetings. In 2020, there are planned sessions on this topic area during a statewide training event with potential support from WINTAC on career pathways training.  Through ongoing evaluation of the VR employment services process, average wages were $9.59 in September, 2016 for individuals receiving services through an employment service provider, and $10.12 in September, 2018, demonstrating an overall positive trend. As outlined in the 2019 CSNA, individuals may be remaining engaged in the VR process at an improved rate. In FFY16, 31.9% of VR eligible individuals exited the VR program prior to receiving services, while this rate of exit dropped to 23.1% in FFY18. 

Priority 3.3:  Develop training and technical assistance opportunities to community rehabilitation programs (CRP) and staff (e.g., program managers and employment specialists) to ensure best practices and improve the quality of employment services, including supported employment services to individuals with the most significant disabilities. BRS will continue to evaluate employment outcomes to determine whether enhanced training and technical assistance has impact on the quantity and quality of employment outcomes in FFY17 and FFY18, compared to prior years. Additionally, BRS will collaborate with VR Commission members who represent the business community to better understand needs of businesses, and identify necessary training to build and enhance skills of CRP staff in engaging with the business community while assisting VR participants with job development, placement and coaching activities. The VR Business & Community Engagement team developed and conducted an introductory webinar for VR field offices and community partners in 2019. Topics covered included resources available to employers such as disability awareness training, and common best practices when working with community partners and employers

Outcome: Achieved. VR continues to provide funding to Indiana University’s Center on Community Living and Careers, Indiana Institute on Disability and Community (CCLC/IIDC) through a contract agreement, to provide training and technical assistance to VR employment service providers. Training topic areas include supported employment, discovery, customized employment, and a variety of other topics. Additionally, CCLC/IIDC under contract with BRS, provided one-on-one training and technical assistance to more than 20 CRPs in 2016 and 2017. BRS entered into Establishment project contracts with 47 CRPs in 2017 for the purpose of enhancing training and building sufficient staffing capacity to provide high-quality, responsive services to VR applicants and eligible individuals. Through this funding, CRP’s have been able to increase the provision of training, including hands-on foundational skills training, to their direct services staff.