RSA-227 for FY-2020: Submission #1161

Connecticut
09/30/2020
General Information
Designated Agency Identification
Disability Rights Connecticut
846 Wethersfield Avenue
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Hartford
CT
06114
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8602974300
8008427303
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Operating Agency (if different from Designated Agency)
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Additional Information
Bob Joondeph, Interim Executive Director
Jennifer Jenkins, CAP Advocate
8602974300 ext. 114
Jennifer.Jenkins@DisRightsCT.org
Part I. Non-case Services
A. Information and Referral Services (I&R)
6
0
0
0
0
1
7
B. Training Activities
1
25
Training Type 1 – Presentation – Advocacy in Counseling

a. Topic – Advocating for Your Clients as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor

b. Purpose of the Training – The purpose of the session was to educate students who are studying to receive Master’s Degrees in Vocational Counseling. The training focuses on advocacy in working with vocational rehabilitation clients.

c. Description of the Attendees – Master’s Level Candidates for Degree in Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling.

The CAP at Disability Rights Connecticut (DRCT) was invited to speak at a vocational rehabilitation counseling class of 25 students. The instructor asked the CAP advocate to discuss with the class how they can be better advocates for their clients. The training included information about DRCT and CAP and a discussion of advocacy tips to remember when working with a client. The last session was interactive and included various scenarios that counselors may encounter and what how the situations might be addressed. DRCT presenters disseminated information about DRCT and CAP, Tips for working with the vocational rehabilitation system, DRCT’s Disability Resources Directory and copies of the PowerPoint used for the presentation. The instructor let us know that the class enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot from the session.

Outreach and training events were halted in March of 2020 with the onset of social distancing guidelines because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Towards the fall of 2020, staff became increasingly proficient at utilizing web-based platforms for training activities and began to provide virtual guidance to groups again. For some, this was a welcome format allowing them to participate in events they might otherwise have missed. For others, challenges with internet access presented a barrier to participation. In total, DRCT staff provided outreach/training at 11 events, reaching almost 1,400 people.

During the 2020 fiscal year, DRCT made a concerted effort to improve its connection with the disability community and its partners by increasing presence on social media and email distribution. The DRCT Facebook page gained 336 followers and 332 page likes. The DRCT website was updated frequently and had 48,498 hits during the 2020 fiscal year. A dedicated COVID-19 resource page was created and regular updates on DRCT activities were posted on the home page. The DRCT Website is www.disrightsct.org.
C. Agency Outreach
Outreach Mapping - Our primary responsibility as a P&A is to protect and advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. As part of that responsibility DRCT is asked to pay “particular attention to members of ethnic and racial minority groups.” We must also describe how we targeted “unserved or underserved individuals or groups, particularly from ethnic or racial groups or geographic regions (e.g., rural or urban areas).”
This long-term project is aimed at fulfilling these requirements and the desire of DRCT to serve people with disabilities who are also marginalized in other ways. Our work on this project included the following goals and steps. 1. Aim to truly be a statewide organization reaching and serving each town in Connecticut. 2. Aim to identify our underserved populations. 3. Aim to identify barriers to reaching underserved populations. 4. Aim to intersect outreach, to underserved populations, based on focus areas, and to have a consistent reach across the state. We performed a range of research and data analysis of DRCT clients and people with disabilities in CT to help determine our underserved populations. We also developed a list of barriers to reaching these populations and began considering ways of better reaching these populations. This work is an ongoing effort that will continue in the coming fiscal year.
D. Information Disseminated To The Public By Your Agency
0
2
0
854
11
0
N/A
E. Information Disseminated About Your Agency By External Media Coverage
DRCT, or it’s work along with partner organizations, was featured in 59 newspaper articles, radio or television interviews over the course of the 2020 fiscal year. Every time DRCT was mentioned in the news, information about our agency as a resource for individuals with disabilities could be highlighted, leading potential CAP clients to our website for more information. All of these pieces can be found on our website at www.disrightsct.org/newsroom.
Part II. Individual Case Services
A. Individuals served
5
8
13
0
6
B. Problem areas
0
3
4
4
0
2
0
0
C. Intervention Strategies for closed cases
1
0
6
0
0
0
7
D. Reasons for closing individuals' case files
1
5
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
N/A
E. Results achieved for individuals
0
0
1
0
0
3
0
3
0
0
N/A
Part III. Program Data
A. Age
1
2
5
3
2
13
B. Gender
7
6
13
C. Race/ethnicity of Individuals Served
1
1
0
3
0
6
1
1
D. Primary disabling condition of individuals served
1
1
0
0
0
1
4
0
1
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
3
0
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
13
E. Types of Individuals Served
7
0
5
0
1
0
Part IV. Systemic Activities and Litigation
A. Non-Litigation Systemic Activities
0
In March of 2020, DRCT’s Board of Directors made the decision to pursue new leadership for the agency moving forward. The Board concluded that DRCT can be more effective if it increases its legal capacity and focuses more on systemic issues that affect large numbers of people with disabilities. An interim Executive Director was hired, and the Board began a nationwide search for a permanent ED. DRCT underwent an internal reorganization moving our staff into issue-focused teams and refining our focus areas.

Most staff began to work remotely in late March. Members of administration worked diligently to ensure that safety precautions and procedures were in place throughout the duration of the pandemic. Most staff continue to work remotely but are available by phone, email, video or U.S. Mail. In-person appointments may be scheduled when necessary with adherence to social distancing and safety precautions.

The Connecticut Client Assistance Program continued to address issues learned through participation on the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC) and the Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind Advisory Council. CAP also learned about issues facing vocational rehabilitation applicants and clients through acceptance of CAP cases and discussions with colleagues in Connecticut.

1. Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) and Bureau of Education and Services for the Blind (BESB) State Rehabilitation Council(s) (SRC) – The CAP Advocate was a member of both Advisory Councils during the 2020 fiscal year. Attendance at the meetings, provided the CAP with an opportunity to network with other agencies and individuals and share vocational rehabilitation experiences. The pandemic posed new challenges for the VR system in Connecticut. Improvements in pre-employment transition services for students in Connecticut were set to begin in the Fall of 2020 with the addition of 10 staff trained by the State Education Resource Center (SERC). These educators were intended to provide the Pre-ETS services in schools in order to supplement the work of the Level-Up counselors with their knowledge of teaching methods and developmentally appropriate curriculums.
The extent of the pandemic forced some CRP’s to reduce services or shut down temporarily. BRS has only 13 contracted Community Rehabilitation Providers (CRP) limiting choice for consumers across the state. The CAP advocate addressed the potential lapse in services for clients several times at SRC meetings. In September of 2020, the first CRP withdrew from its contract with BRS. SRC members were assured that VR was in the process of procuring contracts with other providers.

2. Roadmap to Competitive Integrated Employment – After discussion with community partners concerned about access to competitive employment, the CAP contracted with Washington Initiative for Supported Employment (WISE). The goal of the project will be for WISE to identify the current state of competitive integrated employment in Connecticut and provide methods that can engage stakeholders such as state agencies in building capacity for expanded competitive integrated employment opportunities. Our hope is to provide stakeholders with a roadmap to building a healthy system of supports in Connecticut that will improve outcomes for individuals often determined ineligible for VR services because they are found to be "not competitively employable".

3. BRS Systems Change project – CAP staff are requesting documents from BRS in order to gather information about issues and identify possible remedies for recurring client concerns within state vocational rehabilitation. Through individual advocacy, DRCT staff have identified areas such as eligibility determination, compliance with WIOA and lack of informed choice as barriers to employment for people accessing VR services. Concrete data is needed to understand whether or not these are widespread or isolated issues. During the 2021 fiscal year, DRCT will request information from BRS under the Freedom of Information Act.
B. Litigation
0
0
0
DRCT has no systemic litigation activities under CAP at this time.
Part V. Agency Information
A. Designated Agency
External-Protection and Advocacy agency
Disability Rights Connecticut
No
N/A
B. Staff Employed
During fiscal year 2020, CAP funds were used to pay the partial salaries of two CAP Attorneys and two CAP Advocates. The CAP Attorneys assisted DRCT Advocates with assessing cases and developing strategies for clients. The salaries of the two attorneys together equal 0.15 FTE. The majority of the CAP work was done by DRCT’s Lead Advocate who also supervises another CAP Advocate. Together their CAP salaries equaled 0.40 FTE. CAP funds were also used for partial salaries of additional advocates who handled Information and Referral and projects. The FTE for these Advocates totals 0.18 FTE . Total professional FTE for the CAP program equals .73 FTE.

In addition to the direct salaries, a portion of the Administrative salaries of the Executive Director, Director of Finance & Administration, Office Manager and Secretary were paid with CAP funding. Total FTE for program 1.02.
Part VI. Case Examples
Case Examples
Case Example 1
"Kate" is a client of BRS who is gainfully employed. She works part of the week in her home where she needed an accessible bathroom due to her diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. Kate typically uses a walker. She requires a wheelchair when her symptoms worsen and will use one more frequently in the future. Kate requested a home modification from BRS in order to maintain her employment. This request was denied based on CT state VR policy. DRCT provided individual advocacy efforts to request an exemption to the state’s policy. When those efforts failed, DRCT staff attorney represented Kate at mediation and secured an agreement that waived the state’s cap on modification services and provided maintenance to Kate while the bathroom is being renovated. Because BRS does not provide adequate oversight of the chosen contractor and progression of the home modification, DRCT has continued to provide advocacy throughout the process and will keep Kate’s case open until the home modification is complete.

Case Example 2
"Jessie", a 23-year-old, has been a client of Connecticut’s vocational rehabilitation system, the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) since before she exited the school system as a 21-year-old. As part of the pre-employment transition services offered by BRS, Jessie had participated in some work experiences and training and upon her exit from educational services applied for services with BRS. Jessie was required by BRS to complete two Trial Work Experiences, TWEs, to help determine is she was eligible to receive BRS services. After completion of the two TWEs she was determined ineligible for VR services based on her being “unable to benefit from services”. Jessie and her mother contacted Disability Rights Connecticut after receiving the letter stating the denial of services.
The DRCT CAP advocate assisted Jessie and her mom with requesting a reconsideration of her eligibility for services from BRS. After reviewing Jessie’s records, the CAP advocate met with Jessie and her mom to determine the best course of action. The CAP advocate argued Jessie’s eligibility should be reconsidered based the two TWEs Jessie had completed having a lack of variety, being of an insufficient length, and not being in line with her skills, strengths, interests, and abilities. In addition, BRS had failed to provide appropriate accommodations during the TWEs. The CAP advocate met with Jessie, her mom and BRS representatives to advocate for a new counselor, a new service provider, and a new TWE in an appropriate placement with the appropriate accommodations. Jessie is currently working successfully in her TWE aiming to be determined eligible for continued BRS services.

Case Example 3
"Alex" is a 30-year-old male with an anxiety disorder and has been a client of Connecticut’s vocational rehabilitation system, the Bureau of Rehabilitation Services (BRS) since 2007. Over that time, Alex has worked with numerous counselors and Community Resource Providers and received a variety of services. He has had no success in finding employment during the past 12 plus years for several reasons and has had many concerns about the quality and type of services he has received from BRS. Alex contacted Disability Rights Connecticut to speak with a CAP advocate about the inadequate services and lack of results he has and is receiving from BRS. He was interested in getting employment services that are appropriate for him and developing an IPE to reflect his strengths, interests, and abilities.
The DRCT CAP advocate assisted Alex with these requests by providing individual advocacy support and attending several meetings with him and his vocational rehabilitation counselor and community resource provider. The CAP advocate assisted in requesting an updated IPE and employment goal and changes to the services he is receiving including appropriate training based on his employment goal. Currently Alex is working with a new community resource provider and “job coach” as he works toward determining the appropriate training to meet his needs and continues with his employment search.
Certification
Approved
Robert Joondeph
Interim Executive Director
2020-12-30
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