RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1121

New Jersey
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights New Jersey
210 S. Broad Street
3rd Floor
Trenton
New Jersey
08608
http://www.drnj.org
(800) 922-7233
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Mary Ciccone
Mary Ciccone
(609) 777-0955
mciccone@drnj.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
20
0
0
0
0
0
20
B. Training Activities
16
643
On October 7, 2019, Disability Right NJ hosted “Making It Work”, a conference devoted to employment for people with disabilities. Cheryl Bates-Harris from the National Disability Rights Network was the keynote speaker, and she spoke about the value of competitive integrated employment to people with disabilities. In addition to the keynote speaker, the conference had eight workshops. The workshops included topics such as workplace accommodations, employment discrimination, SSI/SSDI benefits planning, transportation, transition, assistive technology and services from agencies such as Disability Rights NJ, NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services, NJ Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired, NJ Work Incentives Network Support, and the independent living centers. Approximately 156 people attended the event.

DRNJ staff presented a workshop on employment and people with disabilities to attendees of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey Annual Summit in Edison, New Jersey on October 25, 2019. 2 professionals attended the workshop.

DRNJ staff was a panel participant at an event sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind in New Jersey on November 8, 2019. DRNJ staff provided information about DRNJ, CAP and how to obtain VR services. Approximately 50 consumers attended the panel discussion.




DRNJ provided information regarding CAP and the vocational rehabilitation system at the New Jersey Statewide Network for Cultural Competency Annual Conference in New Brunswick, New Jersey on December 4, 2019. Approximately 150 professionals attended the event.


DRNJ staff were guest speakers at the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Professionals Class at Rutgers School of Health Related Professions in Scotch Plains, New Jersey on January 24, 2020. DRNJ spoke about CAP and DRNJ services, the vocational rehabilitation system, and laws affecting individuals with disabilities. Approximately 50 professionals attended the event.


DRNJ staff presented a workshop on employment self-advocacy at the Brain Injury Association of NJ’s annual conference on May 12, 2020. Approximately 85 attended the virtual event.

During FY2020, DRNJ staff began a project to speak to every local DVRS office in order to provide them with information about the CAP program and how we can assist vocational rehabilitation clients. Three trainings representing four different offices were in person and approximately 42 professionals attended those presentations. After Covid-19 shut down the VR offices, CAP staff arranged for the trainings to be conducted virtually. CAP held seven virtual presentations which encompassed nine offices. Approximately 108 professionals attended one of these presentations.

C. Agency Outreach
Disability Right NJ distributed CAP resources to attendees of Connecting Communities to Resources Event sponsored by Camden City Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse held on October 3, 2019. Approximately 80 consumers, 20 family members and 20 professionals attended the event.

Disability Right NJ distributed resources regarding CAP to attendees of the Fall Resource Fair, sponsored by the Camden CMO, Partnership for Children held on October 17, 2019. Approximately 100 consumers, 100 family members and 50 professionals attended the event, many of whom were Spanish speaking and from minority communities.

Disability Rights NJ distributed resources regarding CAP to attendees of the Community Disability Resource Fair sponsored by Children’s Home Society of NJ held on November 2, 2019. Many of the individuals attending the event were Spanish-speaking. Approximately 25 consumers, 50 family members and 25 professionals attended.

Disability Rights New Jersey participated in the Immigrant Rights Summit sponsored by the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Rights which was held in Ewing, New Jersey on December 11, 2019. Approximately 10 consumers, 20 family members and 120 professionals attended the event.

D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
0
0
6750
12
0
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E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
In an effort to increase public awareness about New Jersey’s Client Assistance Program, Disability Rights NJ designed a webpage about CAP and its services and requested that the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services include the webpage on its newly redesigned website. After numerous conversations, DVRS included the webpage on its website, and placed the link to the page on its front page so that individuals using DVRS’s services may be able to locate the page and seek CAP services.

Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
14
26
40
1
10
B. Problem areas
1
6
13
3
1
17
0
1
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
11
8
11
0
0
0
31
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
10
10
2
2
0
2
1
0
4
0
0
0
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E. Results achieved for individuals
17
0
0
0
6
2
2
1
0
3
Client refused to cooperate - 1
Client did not respond - 2
Part III. Program Data
A. Age
4
8
17
11
0
40
B. Gender
24
16
40
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
9
0
1
14
0
16
0
0
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
0
1
0
1
0
4
4
0
0
4
0
2
4
0
0
0
0
0
0
4
5
0
2
0
2
0
0
0
0
2
0
1
0
4
40
E. Types of Individuals Served
18
0
19
0
1
2
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
0
In March, 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced many employers to close. In addition, the NJ Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services closed its physical offices, and counselors were working from home without access to individual files. Disability Right NJ worked with the Director of DVRS in order to ensure that individuals still had access to DVRS services during this time. In addition, Disability Rights NJ created a FAQ regarding the economic impact payments for individuals who receive SSI or SSDI and distributed the materials through social media. CAP also prepared a list of resources on the Disability Right NJ Covid-19 website for individuals who are having employment difficulty during the pandemic.

In September 2019, DRNJ visited approximately 25 sheltered workshops in New Jersey to learn more about them and how they operate, and to gather data about the individual consumers. One of the single most important observations our monitoring activities discovered was that workshop participants had little, infrequent and less than meaningful contact with DVRS personnel regarding obtaining non-workshop training and employment. Our monitoring at the sampled workshops confirmed DVRS’s lack of contact with participants and the small number of referrals made by workshops to DVRS. It also revealed that participants are unaware of their options, appear bored with their jobs, and the appeal of the workshop was more social than about remunerative employment.

The states own published data demonstrates minimal success in moving persons from sheltered workshops to competitive integrated employment. Past attempts at reducing or eliminating dependence on subminimum wage workshops have been unsuccessful, despite other states having phased out such workshops, including the disabled in their minimum wage laws, and providing sustained and comprehensive vocational rehabilitation services. Our monitoring confirmed that those workshops we visited were not providing meaningful job training, placement services or making regular referrals to DVRS for further services.

In March, the sheltered workshops were closed due to the pandemic. Disability Rights NJ is continuing its project by seeking to learn more about what activities individual consumers were doing while the workshops were closed, and their feelings about returning to the workshops when they reopen. Four Sheltered Workshop workers have participated in the interview process, and we are still recruiting others to contribute to the project. As we gain more insight into the perspectives of the consumers, this will guide our systemic advocacy on sheltered workshops.
B. Litigation
1
0
0
Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of 43-year-old resident of Essex County who has a visual impairment and receives SSDI benefits. The individual was a client of the Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. He contacted Disability Rights NJ because CBVI refused to sponsor his higher education at Rutgers. Disability Rights NJ contacted CBVI, and they reconsidered and agreed to provide full sponsorship, but still declined to pay two fees that Rutgers required, even though federal law requires that a vocational rehabilitation agency is not permitted to require financial participation for an SSDI recipient. Disability Rights NJ requested an impartial hearing to challenge the refusal to pay for the fees. Disability Rights NJ represented the student at the hearing, and following the hearing, the administrative law judge ordered that CBVI pay the fee. CBVI then refused to pay for the fee during the summer session, and Disability Rights NJ requested a second fair hearing to challenge this new refusal. Disability Rights NJ will continue to request fair hearings to challenge the vocational rehabilitation agencies’ determination to require financial participation for SSI/SSDI recipients.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights New Jersey
No
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B. Staff Employed
CAP Positions

During FY 2020, there were 2 attorneys assigned to the CAP program on a part-time basis. In addition, there were 4 advocates assigned to the CAP program on a part-time basis. There were 2 support staff assigned to the CAP program on a part-time basis. There was 1 legal director assigned to the CAP program on a part-time basis. And there were 2 intake specialists assigned to the CAP program on a part-time basis. The FTE allocations is as follows:

Attorney - 1 FTE
Advocate - .8 FTE
Support staff - .45 FTE
Intake staff - .06 FTE
Legal Director - .05 FTE
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 55-year-old resident of Burlington County who has schizoaffective disorder, and is a SSDI beneficiary. The individual contacted Disability Rights NJ because he was having difficulties with his DVRS office. He was enrolled with the Camden County DVRS office, but he did not have a counselor, even though he had requested one for over a year. In addition, the DVRS office had not been paying for his tuition and books at Camden County Community College. Disability Rights NJ investigated his complaints and learned that he did not have a current individualized plan for employment. Disability Rights NJ staff worked with the supervisor of the DVRS office to address his issues. The DVRS office assigned a new vocational rehabilitation counselor to him. In addition, the individual has been provided with a current IPE that aligns with his current vocational goals. Finally, DVRS agreed to pay for his tuition, fees and books.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 48-year-old resident of Mercer County who has a mental illness and a traumatic brain injury. He contacted Disability Rights New Jersey because he was seeking assistance from the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation Services. He had been attending Mercer County Community College (MCCC) for over ten years, but had not obtained an Associate’s Degree because he was unable to pass a statistics course due to his disabilities. Due to his long tenure at MCCC, DVRS would not sponsor his continued attendance. Disability Rights NJ contacted MCCC to discuss that the student’s disability was preventing him from completing this one course. Based upon the information that Disability Rights NJ provided, MCCC agreed to waive his one course, and provide him with an Associate’s Degree as he had obtained enough credits for his degree. As a result, the student was able to graduate.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 28-year-old resident of Atlantic County who had been diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury and dyscalculia. The individual contacted Disability Rights NJ because her county DVRS office failed to provide career services to her. She explained that she has a BFA in Dance Theater, and she wanted to pursue a career in her field, but the DVRS office advised her that they do not offer any career services in that area so they were unable to assist her. Disability Rights NJ contacted the local office to discuss the individual’s situation. The individual advised that she would like to obtain a teaching certificate in dance and suggested that DVRS sponsor a mentorship in the field. Disability Rights NJ attended a meeting with the client and DVRS and DVRS agreed to provide funding for the teaching certification. In addition, DVRS agreed to consider a mentorship or job coaching services once she completed the certification. The client and DVRS signed an IPE with the client’s stated goals and services.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 22-year-old resident of Burlington County who has autism. His mother/legal guardian contacted Disability Rights NJ because she did not believe DVRS was providing appropriate services for him. She believed that DVRS did not believe that he would be able to benefit from their services. Disability Rights NJ requested that DVRS obtain a psychological evaluation to determine his functional level to assist with career planning. Following completion of the evaluation, Disability Rights NJ, the client, his mother and DVRS met to discuss potential training options for him. At the meeting, the client and DVRS agreed that he would attend a culinary training program which would begin in the spring.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 26-year-old resident of Camden County with intellectual disabilities. She contacted Disability Rights NJ because she wanted a new DVRS counselor and had been denied. She had a bad relationship with her prior service provider and believed that the provider had poisoned her relationships with other service providers including DVRS. She wanted a fresh start. DRNJ requested a meeting with her DVRS counselor and the supervisor. At the meeting, which was also attended by the manager, DVRS agreed to assign her to another DVRS counselor.

Disability Rights NJ intervened on behalf of a 28 year old female resident of Atlantic County, diagnosed with Specific Learning Disabilities and Traumatic Brain Injuries. The client initially contacted Disability Rights NJ due to DVRS’s lack of effort to expand their resources to include mentors in visual and performing arts as she wanted to pursue a career as a dance teacher. DVRS did provide a job coach to client. However, the job coach was not equipped with knowledge or experience in pursuing a career in the performing arts. Disability Rights NJ contacted the vocational rehabilitation counselor to find out the status of services. The counselor advised that the client would need to apply for fresh services in order for any new request to be considered. Disability Rights NJ and the client met with DVRS and the client reapplied to DVRS for financial sponsorship of a certification program that would provide her the training necessary to pursue her chosen career as a dance teacher. DVRS agreed to the funding, and the client is now taking the coursework and trainings in order to become a dance teacher.


Certification
Approved
Gwen Orlowski
Executive Director
2020-12-18
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