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a. 1. Input provided by the State Rehabilitation Council, including input and recommendations on the VR services portion of the Unified or Combined State Plan, recommendations from the Council's report, the review and analysis of consumer satisfaction, and other Council reports that may have been developed as part of the Council’s functions;

Current Narrative:

Commission on Rehabilitation Services Input on the 2019 comprehensive statewide needs assessment: As the process of obtaining information for the needs assessment started, a presentation was made to the Commission on Rehabilitation Services.  Commission members provided guidance into the development of the questions and distribution strategy for the survey in late 2018.  Additionally, a summary of findings from the survey was shared with the Commission in March and May 2019 with additional feedback obtained regarding VR priorities. The priorities identified in the CSNA were reviewed in detail with the commission with opportunity for additional input. The priorities can be viewed in section (l), and served as a foundation for identifying state plan goals and priorities.

State Plan: BRS leadership met with the Commission on Rehabilitation Services on January 10, 2020 to review the VR section of the state plan. Commission members provided comments on numerous components of the state plan. They voiced overall support of the identified state plan goals and priorities, and provided several suggestions for enhancements. The goals and priorities were modified based on commission feedback and can be viewed in section (l).

Additional comments are detailed in the sections below.

Services to Students and Youth: The commission emphasized the importance of continued collaboration between schools, Pre-employment transition services (Pre-ETS) providers, and VR staff including VR Youth Counselors, including clarification of roles in transition planning and services. The commission responded favorably to use of the LifeCourse Framework for transition planning and services, including through provision of Pre-ETS. The commission suggested expanding representation on the statewide Transition Advisory Council to include current or former students with disabilities. It was suggested that VR compare students receiving Pre-ETS in each local area or school, compared to the overall population of students as captured by the Department of Education at each local area/school and see if most impactful use of Pre-ETS. The commission also suggested increased opportunity for activities such as reverse job fairs (i.e. employer visits at schools), and students tours at local businesses.

BRS Response: BRS appreciates the support and suggestions from the commission and is in agreement with strategies to: improve collaboration, clarify roles, expand representation on the Transition Advisory Council, increase analysis of data regarding Pre-ETS, and increase opportunity for work based learning experiences.

Supported Employment Services: The commission supported VR’s efforts to explore additional collaboration with the Bureau of Developmental Disability Services (BDDS) on the provision of extended services funding, as well as BRS’ plans to offer a refresher training on extended services. It was suggested that increased training opportunities be provided including strategies to improve access to training by providers statewide, such as training webinars or materials that can be developed and updated regularly but that would be integrated into new hire training and continuing education training. The commission also suggested that VR consider requiring specific training for supported employment providers.

BRS Response: BRS appreciates the support and suggestions from the commission and is in agreement with exploration of strategies to increase training opportunities and evaluating training requirements.

Collaboration with Department of Workforce Development (DWD): The commission voiced support for the collaboration between VR and DWD, particularly regarding employer engagement efforts as well as creating an established process for referrals with documentation, similar to transfer documentation, the customer would take with them after initial conversation with VR or a follow up communication between providers on each side. This was suggested as an immediate need.

BRS Response: BRS will collaborate using customer feedback to develop a referral process that is helpful to the customer and can assist with data capturing for purposes of evaluating alignment of the system.

Other Collaboration: The commission voiced support for the increased collaboration efforts between VR and the Division of Mental Health and Addictions (DMHA), Indiana’s exploration of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Supported Employment Services, and VR and DMHAs joint efforts to secure training and technical assistance through the Department of Labor Visionary Opportunities for Increasing Competitive Employment (VOICE) project. The commission suggested that VR consider individuals with co-occurring disabilities, such as mental health and an intellectual disability, or mental health and blindness, when carrying out initiatives aimed at improving services and outcomes for individuals with mental health disabilities, particularly as it pertains to stakeholder engagement and training and technical assistance needs. Finally, a suggestion was made to provide training to VR staff regarding barriers to employment for individuals with mental health disabilities, including sensitivity training, and training focused on assessing disability priority for this population.

BRS Response: BRS appreciates the support and suggestions from the commission and is in agreement with inclusion of individuals with co-occurring disabilities in initiatives focused on improving services and outcomes for individuals with mental health disabilities and increasing training to VR staff regarding serving individuals with mental health disabilities.

Order of Selection: The commission continues to inquire about capacity building strategies to serve all eligible individuals, and was encouraged by the reduced number of current vacancies in VR compared to the typical vacancy rate in prior years. Capacity of VR vendors was also discussed as a factor to consider in building capacity to serve all eligible individuals.  The commission voiced support for BRS exploring the potential availability of specific services to assist eligible individuals with maintaining employment, regardless of disability priority category assignment. Commission suggestions included improving the referral process to other agencies and organizations to help individuals’ better access services from a variety of entities, and ongoing tracking of data on the number of individuals referred to partner programs. Furthermore, the commission suggested that VR consider reaching out to other agencies and organizations to address training needs and barriers that individuals with disabilities may experience in accessing services, particularly those VR eligible individuals in delayed services status.

BRS Response: BRS appreciates the support and suggestions from the commission and is in agreement with improving cross-referral processes, ongoing tracking of individuals in delayed services status, and outreach and education to other organizations and agencies. VR also agrees that vendor capacity must be considered in building system capacity to serve more individuals. BRS will continue to evaluate its ability to provide specific services to assist individuals with maintaining employment, regardless of disability priority category assignment. VR has sought technical assistance in this area and will continue its evaluation in FY20.