After having several cases that involved the Division of Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired (DSVBI) CAP discovered that there was no published appeals method if someone was denied DSBVI eligibility/services. VR DSBVI specialist counselors were also not aware of an appeals process. CAP met with VR administrators several times to discuss the VR/DSBVI authority chain and, while still unclear as to which has more authority, managed to get DSBVI to write a draft policy. CAP is concerned that the policy is not fleshed out enough, and is pressuring DSBVI to come up with a more detailed process with real deadlines and levels of appeal.
CAP submitted a letter to the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee to urge them to resolve some of the barriers that hinder individuals who only want the opportunity to contribute to their communities through competitive employment. This letter included letters written by families who have had difficulty navigating the system. Below is some of the text included in that letter:
"Through our work we have the opportunity to interact with many clients and families who interface with various agencies within state government including the Division of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD), Utah State Office of Rehabilitation (USOR) and the Utah State Board of Education (USBE). In recent months, many of our clients and constituents have voiced concerns about the way these entities interact to provide continuity of services and information for those individuals seeking to become competitively employed.
Research has demonstrated many benefits of competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities including a decrease in dependence on public benefits, federal and state savings, economic self-sufficiency, and increased community involvement. One study cited found that every $1.00 spent on supported employment gave taxpayers $1.17 back in taxes paid, reduced government services, and decreased alternative program costs.'
Forty-seven percent of Utahns with intellectual or developmental disabilities report not having a paid job in the community but wanting one." During Utah's 2015 2016 school year, 4,382 students with disabilities transitioned out of public school (Utah Post High Survey, 2017). Of these students, 273 reportedly had a disability, 187 had an emotional disturbance, 2,840 had a specific learning disability, and 1,082 had a low incidence disability (autism, deaf/hearing impairment, traumatic brain injury, visual impairment, etc.) (Utah Post High Survey, 2017). Over the next ten years, an estimated 54,893 students with disabilities will leave public high school. The estimated total unmet need for employment services is 808 students (includes 245 without postsecondary goals and the 562 with goals not well-suited for their needs). ii
In 2018, the Social Services Appropriations Subcommittee requested that DWS, DHS and USBE study Employment of Transition Age Youth with Disabilities in Utah, including the estimated demand for these services along with any barriers this group experiences. Recommendations cited by the study recommended increased cooperation and data sharing by DWS, DHS and USBE, including data sharing agreements to more effectively track 1) number of transition age youth with disabilities, 2) IEP transition goals and needed services for employment after leaving the school system, 3) referrals to agencies from the schools, 4) outcomes from the agencies if services were provided, and 5) the unmet service need among transition age students with disabilities. Providers echoed this recommendation stating that increasing clarity between the roles and responsibilities of state agencies would be beneficial to providers, educators, and family members.
Another recommendation cited by the report is that the state needs to offer incentivized, flexible employment service options for customized employment. Provider companies reported in focus groups) that in order to offer more customized employment services and improve outcomes among transition age youth, they need higher paying and more flexible transportation, employment, and day service codes to adequately compensate for the time and resources a more customized approach requires. This need remains true whether transition age youth are referred for customized employment services by LEAs, USOR, or DSPD. Vil Providers also recommended that state agencies work to reduce the "lag time” that often occurs following graduation and initiating post school services. viii While USOR has created two new codes for customized employment, these codes have not been put into practice.
The CAP team has noted multiple instances of frustration from transition age youth and their families regarding the difficulties accessing support for competitive, integrated employment. Specifically, many of these individuals report problems accessing customized employment. Multiple clients report that this is due to a lack of providers in large parts of the state. Additionally, of the few providers that do exist, multiple clients indicated that the providers do not have the necessary familiarity working with clients with significant disabilities to result in a positive employment outcome.
This is a theme the CAP team has also observed particularly as clients with intellectual disabilities have tried to access services through USOR. For example, clients with intellectual disabilities have been told they cannot move forward with vocational support without filling out financial aid or other complicated government forms. In several instances that we are aware of, clients have also been required to set up follow up appointments with third parties like speech therapists or mental health providers without the support or coordination necessary to ensure the individual can complete these tasks. All too often this has resulted in the individual and their family being left to try and find supports on their own rather than access the funding expressly available for this population. In 2015, USOR moved their service model to an order of selection. This meant that the first priority for services would be given to eligible individuals with the most significant disabilities. This means that USOR's funding priority is to serve the very individuals who require customized employment services, yet the DLC has heard from many individuals and families who have been unable to meaningfully access these services."