In FY 2020 CAP continued meeting on a quarterly basis with Michigan Rehabilitation Services' (MRS) policy division director, her staff, and the Southeastern Michigan district director to discuss client concerns and issues. As a result, CAP has been able to provide input and help develop strategies to improve relationships and services to MRS clients. Some of the concerns addressed with MRS staff included:
1) Cost of Services: Counselors consistently tell clients that something costs "too much" for the services they need.
2) Delay of Services: CAP has seen many issues with MRS services unnecessarily and inexplicably delayed to clients, causing unneeded stress and confusion.
3) Psychological Evaluations for Students: CAP has noticed there are a lot of psychological evaluations required for students who have grades that support their abilities.
4) Trauma Informed Practice: CAP asked about trauma training after witnessing client concerns being met with dismissiveness. Trauma has an impact on many of the clients we serve and should be considered during all aspects of the VR process.
5) Language Issues: When a client’s first language is not English, there is great disparity in the services provided and the attitude of the counselor toward the individual.
6) College Cases: The College Supports Program (CSP) for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder at Eastern Michigan University and what the program benefits are for the students.
7) Social Security (SS) beneficiaries: Some counselors are telling students who receive SS benefits to contribute to paying their college expenses. CAP informed MRS directors that students can be asked if they can contribute but cannot require that they do so. Also, MRS cannot deny services if the student cannot financially contribute.
During the COVID -19 pandemic, CAP presented four concerns to MRS staff that have arisen during this time:
1) Pre-ETS and transition services, students without internet and Zoom access.
2) MRS counselors have been advising customers who are in college they will not pay for housing if classes go online which is of great concern for students who have already signed leases with the understanding that MRS would pay for their housing.
3) Delay in services in some MRS office.
4) The services being provided during the pandemic for summer pre-ETS students.
Throughout FY 2020 CAP staff actively participated in the MRS Policy Cadre by reviewing and assisting in re-writing MRS policies and procedures impacting applicants and consumers. Staff reviewed the Comparable Benefits policy, the Confidentiality policy, Request and Release of Information policy, Vocational Needs Assessment policy, Medical Marijuana policy, Informed Choice Policy, and Guidance and Counseling policy.
The CAP Director requested documentation of the number of MRS consumers who are beneficiaries of Social Security and are receiving support from MRS for college for the time period of 2016- 2020. Additionally, using FOIA, MCL 15.231 et seq., CAP requested data on the number of those individuals matching the above description who are contributing financially to their services. The data shows the number of consumers who are receiving SS and going to college is 118, and 49 of them contributed financially to the cost of their college services.
CAP staff reviewed the MRS Bluebook to make it more accessible by simplifying the language, addressing the need to consider careers (not just low-paying jobs) for MRS clients, and ensure the language reflects the expectations spelled out in WIOA.
The CAP Director continues to serve on the Michigan Council for Rehabilitation Services (MCRS). The Council gives advice and works in strategic partnership with both state VR agencies. This provides an external, client-oriented perspective when designing and implementing programs and policy. The Council also provides consumers of VR with mechanisms to influence the direction of rehabilitation programs at both the systemic and policy level. In FY 2020, MCRS members reviewed the Unified State Plan Process, approved MCRS’ Response to MRS’ Unified State Plan VR Section, approved MCRS’ Response to BSBP Unified State Plan VR Section, reviewed MCRS’ Resource Plan Update and reviewed DSU Updates – VR Services during COVID-19.
CAP staff participated in and shared information and strategized with the MRS Diversity Advisory Group to enhance their understanding that disability is part of diversity and individuals with disabilities have their own culture, traumas, and experiences that impact the ways they interact with the world around them. Staff was able to provide feedback and discuss the intersectional ways in which clients experience oppression and systemic injustice.
CAP targeted the practices and procedures of VR agencies involving students with disabilities who are eligible for transition services. This helps to ensure students with disabilities receive appropriate transition services and support for school and VR services. This work was comprised of the following:
1) CAP is involved with the Michigan Inter-Agency Transition Team (MITT). The MITT team is comprised of professionals from all state agencies (MRS, BSBP, DHHS, CMH, MTSA, MI Works and DD Council) who are working with youth and students with disabilities. MITT’s goal is to develop a state model for secondary transition supported by all state agencies.
2) CAP is involved with the Michigan Association on Higher Education and Disabilities (MI- AHEAD). MI-AHEAD is an organization for professionals who work with students with disabilities in higher education. The purpose of MI-AHEAD is to strengthen the professionalism, expertise, competency, and the promotion of equity and opportunities for students with disabilities. MI-AHEAD members were provided with information and resources to provide their students with options for accommodations, disability-related resources, referrals to VR, and information about the CAP program.
3) CAP met with the College Support Program (CSP) Director at Eastern Michigan University and with the MRS Division Director for Professional Enhancement to create a standardized process for approval and authorization of services with MRS. The CSP works directly with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder to understand and support campus life and to manage academic responsibilities. CAP negotiated with CSP and MRS to modify the invoices that reflect the list of the services MRS can provide for the students.
DRM continues to participate in the Employment First work group to coordinate efforts to increase competitive employment opportunities and eliminate subminimum wage. The updated Employment First report was released by the DD Council and copies were provided to DRM for circulation. The Employment First report showed a 50% decrease in sub minimum wage employment since 2014. The work group is now focusing on developing common data sources. The group identified the ability to share data on employment services and outcomes as a strategy to support access to employment for Michigan citizens with disabilities. The group convened to identify data of interest, priorities, and policies that would influence implementation of enhanced data sharing. The group included representatives from Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO), Workforce Development (LEO-WD), Michigan Rehabilitation Services (LEO-MRS), Michigan Bureau of Services for Blind Persons (LEO-BSBP), Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (LEO-UIA), Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Administration (BHDDA), the Michigan Department of Education, Office of Special Education (OSE), Office of Career and Technology Education (CTE), Office of Systems, Evaluation, and Technology (OSET) and the Department of Technology Management and Budget/Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI). The group developed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the purpose of developing the first data sharing agreement, and policy guidance, and strategy recommendations on unified data. The MOU will also maximize competitive, integrated employment for students, youth and adults with disabilities, and will improve the quality of the employment outcomes. DRM will not be part of the MOU.
CAP continues to participate in Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment (CSNA) activities. CAP Staff had a meeting with a committee from Michigan State University and provided them information about CAP experiences with VR agencies and the challenge people with disabilities are facing in Michigan. We discussed disabilities, such as mental illness, Deaf/ Deaf-Blind, and those among children that are becoming increasingly more common in Michigan, the geographic implications, VR services, and CAP’s roles and recommendations to strengthen VR services. The CSNA final report identifies unserved/underserved groups and the unmet needs of individuals with disabilities. The result of the consumer survey highlights a strong need for Pre-Employment transition services. However, a relatively low number of students and their parents indicated a need for assistive technology and help with applying to college. While students and their parents indicated a high interest in exploring career and job opportunities parents expressed concerns regarding decision-making, goal-setting, and problem-solving skills, and learning how to talk to employers about their disability. VR agencies need to use the CSNA findings to change their priorities and goals and implement programs to target a certain group. Eventually, the impact of CSNA can be used for policy or practice change.
The CAP Director has been approached by Michigan State University to join other professionals with a Michigan Employment Clinic (MI-EC) for the FY 2021. MI-EC’s vision is to support the efforts of people with disabilities or criminal records in securing employment, while promoting employers’ hiring and workplace practices to create more inclusive employment opportunities.