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RSA-227 for FY-2021: Submission #1210

Rhode Island
09/30/2021
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights Rhode Island
33 Broad Street
Suite 601
Providence
Ri
02903
http://www.drri.org
401-831-3150
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800-733-5332
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Catherine Sansonetti
Catherine Sansonetti
401-831-3150
csansonetti@drri.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
B. Training Activities
5
105
Disability Rights Rhode Island (DRRI) training activities are often funded by more than one funding source, including CAP. We continue to find that this provides us with the opportunity to present agency trainings across overlapping constituencies that include consumers, families, youth, underserved and unserved groups, and providers. Due to the continued COVID-19 pandemic, in-person trainings were again not possible. However, we did have opportunities to present some virtual trainings.
On July 15, 2021, we presented a training on CAP and DRRI services to VR counselors and staff. We presented to approximately 60 people using the Zoom virtual platform. While briefly describing other DRRI services, we also detailed the CAP program. We included the types of services CAP provides, our various informal and formal strategies to resolve issues between clients and VR, and our ongoing collaborative relationship with VR. Following our training to staff, VR Counselors and staff continue to report favorably on our presentation and have requested that we repeat this training annually. Counselors and staff include those who specifically work with individuals with intellectual disabilities on the responsibilities the VR agency has related to a portion of the RI Department of Justice consent decree. The attendees also included approximately 25 counselors who regularly interact with transition-age youth, including underserved populations. Finally, leadership and other VR staff also attended the training.

As RSA is aware, our good collaborative relationship with VR was highlighted as one of three states that have a positive VR and CAP relationship in the June 23, 2021 panel discussion called “VR and CAP Moving Forward Together: Effective Collaboration Strategies” that was sponsored by RSA, NDRN and CSAVR.
On January 28, 2021, DRRI staff presented to the Employment Committee of the RI Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing using a virtual platform. The presentation was simultaneously translated into ASL. The topic of the presentation was Reasonable Accommodations in the Workplace with a purpose of educating individuals and professionals about their workplace rights. There was a second component to the training regarding health care work incentives such as those available under Medicaid and Social Security. The audience of 16 attendees included vocational rehabilitation professionals who work with individuals who are deaf. The presentation was record and is housed on the Commission’s website where it is available on-demand for viewing by the general public. DRRI staff have also referred clients who are deaf to the video. The video has had 50 views so far.

DRRI also conducted ongoing trainings to transition-age youth on Alternatives to Guardianship and Supported Decision-Making. This year, we conducted 3 such SDM trainings:
• Using virtual technology, we provided an overview of Alternatives to Guardianship and preservation of decision-making autonomy to preserve the liberty interests of individuals who are facing guardianship. The trainings promoted the use of Supported Decision-Making as an alternative to guardianship. We presented to the following audiences –

• On January 30, 2021 to a group of 10 educators and staff of the Providence Public Schools, Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex. There are approximately 100 special education students at this high school, primarily of underserved populations, including minorities, English language learners, and those from lower income communities. The attendees indicated they would share the information obtained in the presentation with their 25-30 colleagues, as well as with families seeking information about guardianship alternatives and Supported Decision-Making.
• On February, 7, 2021, to 9 attendees comprised of educators and individual and family representatives from the Southern Transitional Advisory Council
• February 7, 2021, to 10 educators and staff from the West Bay Educational Collaborative.

In addition to DRRI using CAP funds for trainings, DRRI staff also promotes CAP and all other areas of agency assistance to the public at large when agency staff does training or outreach using other funding sources. This year, DRRI staff attended several events regarding voting and assistive technology.
C. Agency Outreach
DRRI staff have reported for many years about the agency’s efforts to conduct broad outreach across the state using our popular Consumer’s Guide to Rhode Island State Vocational Rehabilitation. We last updated the guide following the passage of WIOA and then used it to widely broadcast DRRI and CAP services to continue to disseminate our Consumer's Guide to Rhode Island State to parent information networks, college disability services offices, providers of mental health services, and providers of developmental disabilities services. We specifically outreached to traditionally underserved groups such as transition-aged youth with behavioral healthcare needs and others who might benefit from VR’s PRE-ETS services. This was an effective strategy to reach a wide audience. As such, we began significant revision of this Guide in 2021 and met virtually with the VR administrator on September 8, 2021 for feedback and suggestions on how to reach underserved and unserved populations given that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the delivery of VR services. This Guide is still being updated. We will have it translated into Spanish, and possibly Portuguese in FY2022 upon completion.

We revamped our CAP Flyer in 2021, and plan to have that translated, if possible, into Spanish in 2022. We have placed it on our website in English, but will add a Spanish version as soon as we can do so. As indicated in Section B. above, we conducted a training to our VR agency’s staff and provided the agency with 200 printed flyers, as well as an electronic copy. As also noted in Section B. we also met with the leadership of the state’s only independent living center and provided them with information about CAP and also gave them 100 printed flyers as well as an electronic copy. The VR agency estimates a census of approximately 2,000 individuals, and hands the flyer out to each new VR applicant and client. The IL Center estimates a census of around 400, and they also disseminate the flyer to the individuals they serve, which includes individuals from underserved and unserved population including youth.

A Staff Attorney regularly attends the Tribal VR quarterly meetings and regularly interfaces with the tribal VR staff. As the Mashatucket Pequot Tribal Nation recently hired a new director, staff from CAP and other programs met with the new director for outreach collaboration. We asked for them to notify our staff of any cultural competence training opportunities to increase our reach to the tribal members who may need our services.
Also in late 2021, we conducted significant research to update contact information for area college disability services coordinators and are in the planning stages of outreach. We will disseminate our Guide, when it is complete, and also provide those coordinators with our Cap Flyer.

As previously reported, for many years, DRRI’s intake staff included a Spanish speaker. With staffing changes, DRRI’s legal advocate remained available to assist the intake department for part of 2021, however, thereafter, the agency did not have a Spanish speaker on staff. The intake department has utilized the Language Line service for translation. This on-demand resource allows us to handle calls to DRRI that are in Spanish, as well as in other languages such as Arabic. Callers are given an introduction that we are using this service but that if needed, we can arrange for in-person intakes using a translator, if available. In addition, the intake department and staff use Video Relay Phone to connect with deaf callers.

The DRRI intake advocate describes all agency services to callers and directs them to the DRRI website, which has grown significantly from 1,436 visitors to 7,576 unique visitors. The DRRI website contains our CAP flyer for download. The website uses Google Translate into many foreign languages, and this year, slightly greater than approximately 10% of visitors translated the DRRI website pages into languages other than English
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
2
21
0
360
0
10
Although not specific to CAP, the agency was featured in 21 news articles. Agency staff was also interviewed on television 2 times. The articles and interviews covered access to healthcare during the pandemic, the DRR investigations, and monitoring of patient neglect at a state hospital and information about the COVID-19 vaccine, among other topics.
The agency also issued 7 Press Releases on our website and conducted 7 Constant Contact email campaigns on a variety of topics.
As also indicated above in Section C., the DRRI website, Press Release tool, and social media have resulted in greater dissemination to the public about DRRI services.
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
DRRI’s presence continues on government and community organization websites through hyperlinks on their pages. These page hyperlinks send visitors to our website directly and/or provide DRRI contact information. These organizations include, but are not limited to, the RI.gov government website, the state VR agency (the Office of Rehabilitation Services (ORS), the Ocean State Center for Independent Living (OSCIL), The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation VR agency, the RI Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals (BHDDH), the Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council, the Sherlock Center on Disabilities, and the Rhode Island Parent Information
Center (RIPIN).

In addition, last year DRRI increased its use of social media. In FY2021, the number of Facebook likes more than doubled from 217 to 524 and had 2 external mentions. Our Twitter followers increased from 179 to 268 and had 19 mentions. We also maintain a Linked In page for DRRI to connect with other disability-rights professionals and organizations, as well as to advertise our agency to individuals and the public at large.

DRRI continued to use the Constant Contact platform for 7 email campaigns to a reach of 2000-3000 individuals.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
8
8
16
2
2
B. Problem areas
0
2
11
1
0
1
0
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
13
0
0
0
0
0
14
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
3
2
1
2
0
4
1
0
1
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
12
0
0
0
0
2
0
0
0
0
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Part III. Program Data
A. Age
0
2
6
8
0
16
B. Gender
5
11
16
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
1
0
0
2
0
12
0
1
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
0
1
1
0
1
3
0
1
0
0
0
0
1
4
0
0
0
2
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
16
E. Types of Individuals Served
1
0
14
0
0
1
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
2
1. State Rehabilitation Council VR involvement in the State Plan Review

In FY2019 we stepped into a leadership role on the SRC as Vice-Chair. We continued this role in FY201 and also retained the position of Chair of the Policy, State Plan, and Quality Assurance Subcommittee, where we educate other members of the council as to the VR requirements and comment on policy changes made by the agency. This year, the SRC began to plan for the VR State Plan Update. In order to engage council members to bring their collective and diverse voices to the state plan review, we requested that the VR agency meet with members of the council to highlight changes to the state plan and answer questions from members. This was a new practice for the agency, and one that the SRC and DRRI are going to recommend continues, as we were better able to understand the rationale and reasons behind the agency’s work goals. The prior practice of the VR agency was to give the SRC the entire state plan and while they were available for questions, it was very helpful with a large document to have the direct access to the VR administrator for questions.


2. Revise VR Agency Release of Confidential Information Form
During the course of assisting a client, DRRI staff noted concerns with the releases used by VR and the check boxes on those releases. We met with the VR administrator to inform the agency that we heard that some clients had some concerns about the use of the boxes, including trust, ethics and potential tampering or authenticity of the document once it left the VR agency. We advocated for VR to undertake a review of this issue. The VR administrator agreed to raise the issue at the next VR agency meeting of staff to evaluate whether revisions could be made to the releases and/or whether another procedure might be warranted (such as having the client or applicant or PRE-ETS student initial the boxes for the items they are agreeing to have released). The VR agency later reported that they had drafted some changes, approved by their legal department, which are being finalized at this time. The VR administrator instructed staff to be specific in requested information, rather than to have clients sign a blanket release of information form. VR also agreed to provide further training to staff once a revision to the form and/or process is finalized. This revision and training impacts thousands of VR clients as the use of the releases is very widespread.
B. Litigation
0
2
1
We reported in the three last PPRs that we had become concerned about the VR agency’s fee schedule for postsecondary education and graduate school.

We previously represented a client at an administrative hearing after the VR agency refused to provide full tuition support for a graduate degree and did not prevail in RI state courts on this issue. In FY2020, we also represented two other individuals on the identical issue, again not prevailing at the administrative hearing level and filing appeals
in the RI Superior Court. Since the last PPR, we learned that we did not prevail on one of the two pending cases. The second case was awaiting decision at the completion of FY21.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights Rhode Island
No
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B. Staff Employed
Due to the relatively small size of our P&A staff DRRI attorneys are not assigned to one specific grant, but generally represent individuals on several grants. Attorneys are also assigned responsibility for systemic activities, which are funded by specific P&A programs. A staff attorney serves as the primary liaison with the state VR agency, and serves as the CAP representative on the Statewide Rehabilitation Council. DRRI employs an intake specialist and intake advocate, who also work on a cross-program basis. The intake advocates screen callers to determine whether their problems fall within our office-wide priorities, collect demographic and case data, and give referral information. Under the current system, attorneys track their time spent on serving CAP eligible clients, and these costs are billed to the CAP program.

Type Of Position / FTE / % of Year Filled / Person Years Professional
Full-Time 9.3 FTE / 7.0%/.66

Clerical
Full-Time / 3.4 FTE /4.9% / 0.17
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
This year, CAP cases concerned the following –

• We assisted a client with a mental illness who had lost contact with the VR counselor during the COVID-19 pandemic to reconnect and reengage in VR services.
• We provided advice regarding controlling VR law and policy to a client who wanted to pursue a postsecondary educational option in relation to current employment.
• Legal advice about Title I of the ADA was provided to a client who had questions regarding whether to request a reasonable accommodation in employment.
• We explained self-employment options and gave legal advice to a client who was experiencing a conflict with the VR agency.
• We connected a client who was seeking communications supports to another agency funded by the Rehabilitation Act.
Certification
Approved
Morna A. Murray
Executive Director
2021-12-27
OMB Notice

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