In 2016-17, a variety of professional development programs will continue to be delivered to Literacy Zones to assist in meeting their learners’ academic and personal needs. Literacy Zone professional development will be provided in multiple ways including training for case managers so that they can be resources regarding assessments leading to a NYS HSE diploma, career ladders, one-stop referrals, core partner connections, and the Benefits Toolkit. (Page 30)
In 2016-17 New York State will continue to focus on the ways all funded adult literacy programs work with individuals with disabilities. Many of the 49 Literacy Zones formed partnerships with the Independent Living Centers, which provide one-stop services to families with an individual with a disability. The New York State Education Department developed an electronic universal benefits manual that supports all programs including those that serve individuals with disabilities. This resource is updated annually and provides contemporary support to case managers providing services to individuals with disabilities. (Page 31)
- Career Centers will all have the MyBenefits (mybenefits.ny.gov) web site short cut icon on all resource room computers and partner staff will be trained on how to promote and use the site with customers. MyBenefits was developed to help increase access and awareness of various public benefit programs. (Page 54-55)
NYSCB entered into a Partnership Plus Agreement, which enables consumers with a Social Security Ticket to Work to obtain VR services from NYSCB, as well as broad access to community providers to assist in the coordination of Social Security payments and other benefits and services.
Eleven non-profit organizations across NYS were approved as vendors to provide benefits advisement and support the development of economic self-sufficiency. The increased access to DRCs and other ENs increases support in maintaining employment after a consumer’s closure from VR services.
NYSCB uses funds to contract with two private agencies for individuals who are blind to provide pre-college programs for NYSCB consumers entering their senior year of high school. The program goal is to provide students the opportunity to refine their academic, social, and independent living skills before beginning college. (Page 57)
Eleven non-profit organizations across NYS were approved as vendors to provide benefits advisement and support the development of economic self-sufficiency. The increased access to DRCs and other ENs increases support in maintaining employment after a consumer’s closure from VR services. (Page 57)
Over the next three years, NYESS and NYS DDPC will develop an integrated web-based platform called DB101. This system will be integrated with NYESS, CareerZone, and JobZone to provide accurate, up-to-date information and benefits calculators so participants can better assess how going to work will impact their access to publicly funded healthcare and income support like Supplemental Security Income, Social Security Disability Insurance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, housing assistance, and other public benefits. (Page 77)
4. Benefits Advisement: Benefits systems are complex and only limited resources are available to help individuals accurately understand eligibility requirements and the impact of employment on benefits. New York State can utilize emerging tools like Disability Benefits 101 (DB101) and a network of “life coaches” to expand benefits advisement.
5. Medicaid Buy-In for Working People with Disabilities (MBI-WPD): New York can integrate the MBI-WPD program into the online New York State of Health application portal, automating and standardizing eligibility determinations and referring applicants who require additional assistance. (Page 100)
- Disability–related training: including professional conferences in mental health, developmental disabilities, deafness and hearing impairments, the medical and vocational aspects of HIV/AIDS; and substance abuse disorders. Training included post–traumatic stress disorder; traumatic brain injury; epilepsy; mood disorders; personality disorders; autism spectrum disorders; anxiety disorders; addiction; managing challenging behavior; visual acuity; multiple sclerosis; bullying; workforce investment home modifications, and neuropsychology.
- Supported employment: including professional conferences. Training was provided for supported employment; counseling skills for direct service providers; documentation and record keeping; job retention and career development; and benefits advisement. An initial training program on the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) model and recovery from mental illness has evolved into an on–going Recovery–Oriented Vocational Rehabilitation Community of Practice. (Page 204)
ACCES–VR continues to develop local strategies to increase access to employment services for individuals with disabilities. There are 13 Disability Employment Initiative Projects at the upstate NY local workforce areas that focus on Employment Networks and services for VR consumers related to assessment, benefits advisement and placement. ACCES–VR liaisons meet periodically with the Disability Resource Coordinators (DRCs) to better understand and coordinate cross–systems services and to better meet the needs of individuals with disabilities.
ACCES–VR and the Research Foundation for Mental Hygiene (RFMH), representing OMH, have signed a Partnership Plus Memorandum of Agreement. Through this agreement, ACCES–VR can coordinate the Ticket to Work assignment with RFMH, which is acting as a statewide administrative employment network. ACCES–VR is also negotiating the data sharing agreement provided by OMH as part of their collaboration with DOL to transform the One–Stop Operating System into a data and case services system. The system includes all the components of the New York Interagency Supported Employment Reporting Data System (NYISER) that was replaced in 2012 by the New York Employment Services System (NYESS) for its supported employment providers. The NYESS is a combined data warehouse and information sharing system for state and community agencies and a job matching/labor exchange system for consumers and businesses. (Page 212)
Individuals on SSI/SSDI make up 28 percent of all active cases or 13,882 individuals. Those who were considered to have a most significant disability were 70.9 percent of those served in all VR statuses. While individuals receiving SSI/SSDI were only 23.8 percent of all employment outcomes in FFY 2012, the employment rate for these individuals did increase. ACCES–VR is working with the SRC to examine data on consumers who receive SSI and SSDI, and is increasing the use of benefits planning services as a strategy to increase outcomes. (Page 216)
Individuals who are Deaf, Deaf–Blind, Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened The Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation in the Fifth Edition 2008 Model State Plan (MSP) for Rehabilitation of Persons who are Deaf, Deaf–Blind, Hard of Hearing or Late Deafened report that “Hearing loss is the most prevalent, chronic, physically disabling condition in the United States today.” The National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reported in June 2010 that approximately 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss; 15 percent (26 million) of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have high frequency hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds or noise at work or in leisure activities and 4,000 new cases of sudden deafness occur each year in the United States. Hearing loss is becoming more prevalent among the general population. These losses can impact the employment status of individuals, depending on the level of loss. In FFY 2012, ACCES–VR served a total of 3,023 (3.3 percent) individuals who had a primary impairment of deafness, hearing loss, other hearing impairment and deaf–blindness, almost one third more than the number served in FFY 2009. Of these, 63.8 percent were considered to have a most significant disability. In FFY 2012, 612 individuals who were deaf, hard of hearing or deaf–blind achieved an employment outcome. This is 5.1 percent of all employment outcomes. (Page 216)
- Provide benefits counseling at several key points in the VR process.
- Train ACCES–VR counselors who serve as liaisons to mental health programs on OMH Individual Placement with Supports (IPS) model, implementation and provide on–going technical assistance.
- Inform training program providers and the postsecondary education sector about incentives for hiring people with disabilities to encourage those entities
This past year ACCES–VR participated in a joint presentation with NYS Department of Labor to discuss financial incentives credits available to business. ACCES–VR is also working to identify federal contractors/subcontractors, and to obtain the most current information regarding the changes in the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) rules, which advance the recruitment of qualified candidates with disabilities. ACCES–VR ensures that key staffs across the state are prepared to provide customized training to the business community on the benefits of hiring individuals with disabilities, through their participation in the American Disabilities Act (ADA) Trainer Network. This no–cost service is a valuable resource to businesses as they strive to diversify their workforces with qualified candidates with disabilities. (Page 237)
In Spring 2014, NYSCB entered into a Partnership Plus agreement with the Research Foundation for Mental Health. Partnership Plus assures that consumers with a Social Security Ticket to Work are able to obtain the services they need from NYSCB and that as they complete their services with NYSCB, they are given access to broad network of community providers from whom they can select to coordinate issues related to Social Security payments and other benefits and services.
NYS PROMISE Initiative
NYSCB is on the steering committee for New York State PROMISE (Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income), a research project developed to improve transition–to–adulthood outcomes for eligible youth who receive supplemental security income (SSI). This five–year initiative strives to increase access to services for eligible youth and their families to improve academic and employment outcomes, increase financial stability, and reduce reliance on SSI. The priority for the steering committee is to engage local and state partners in defining a broad strategic approach that starts to describe a system of person and family centered intervention. NYSCB actively participates in the steering committee to assess services that are provided to legally blind students through other New York State organizations. (Page260)
In 2012 NYSCB began entering into agreements with nonprofit organizations for the provision of benefits advisement services. Fifteen vendors have been approved for the provision of benefits advisement services throughout New York State. Providers of these services include agencies chartered primarily for provision of services to individuals who are blind, independent living centers, and other agencies that have engaged staff who are trained and certified by the Social Security Administration, by the Cornell Institute of Labor Relations, or by Virginia Commonwealth University. Many of these providers offer advisement not only on Social Security benefits, but also on a host of other benefits which may be affected by entering employment. (Page 267)
Further, modeling likelihood of successful case closures for NYSCB consumers receiving public benefits, it was observed that mental health impairments continues to negatively predict successful case closures for this group of individuals. Receipt of vocational training, high tech devices, computer training, job-related services and job placement services were all positively related to successful employment outcomes for individuals receiving public benefits. Despite these positive relationships between the specific services and outcomes, overall only 6-10 percent of consumers receiving public benefits access these services. Other factors identified in the overall model, also continue to predict positive outcomes for NYSCB consumers receiving public benefits. (Page 281)
Further, challenges continue to persist for achieving employment outcomes for clients who receive public benefits. Though many services (e.g., high-tech devices) appear to positively impact outcomes, only small proportions receive such services. It is likely that efforts such as New York State PROMISE initiative will be helpful in highlighting leading practices and service delivery models to inform program and policy development across various service systems.
Having mental health illness as a secondary condition continues to jeopardize the likelihood of success in the current system. This variable impacts both consumers receiving and those not receiving public benefits. This finding indicates a need to build capacity of practitioners in providing services to people with mental health illnesses. (Page 282)
- Few received training on job placement, Independent Living (IL), placement services from other agencies, how to target business outreach, and benefits and work incentives counseling. These are also topics on which staff reported needing training. (Page 288)
- Increase provision of work incentives advisement to consumers by training counselors on the impact of work on SSI and SSDI and the importance of benefits advisement and financial literacy (Page 298)
- By supporting increased use of benefits planning through Independent Living Centers, DRC’s and other qualified resources, NYSCB anticipates that more consumers will choose careers, and work hours, which will allow them to go off SSA benefits and achieve economic self-sufficiency. In addition, NYSCB has signed a Partnership Plus agreement with the OMH Administrative Employment Network. This will increase opportunities for consumers to obtain continued support to maintain their jobs after case closure. NYSCB works with ACCES-VR to allocate contract capacity for Supported Employment services to try to assure the services are available to individuals with the most significant disabilities seeking those services. (Page 302)
- Mental health impairment as a secondary condition was identified by the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment CSNA) as in indicator for unsuccessful closure. NYSCB increased relationships with Office of Mental Health (OMH) and the Office for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) on both the local and state level. The receipt of public assistance benefits was also identified as an indicator for unsuccessful case closure. Benefits advisement service referrals and providers were increased and are expected to reduce this gap. The Needs Assessment also found that individuals who received high-tech devices were more likely to be successfully closed. A new adaptive technology center (ATC) contract was implemented. The contract guidelines set high standards for the delivery of ATC evaluation and training services.
- NYSCB consumers participated in an employment based medical records program at Baruch College. District Offices have conducted outreach on their own and collaborated with ACCES-VR to expand vocational training opportunities for NYSCB consumers. Both core partners met with Human Resource hiring managers interested in matching consumers with hard to fill positions in their local businesses.
- NYSCB reviewed the vocational training programs currently delivered through community rehabilitation partners and determined that two types of vocational skills training are needed; one to support consumers in increasing employability and a second to meet the demands of emerging labor markets. The first type of training is focused on those consumers planning to enter fields such as customer service, office administration, and other clerical occupations and the potential need to acquire advanced skills levels in Braille, keyboarding, note taking, computer applications and other office practices. The second type of vocational skills training is related to meeting the needs of a particular business or business sector and is developed in conjunction with a business or group of businesses representing a sector which is expected to have a high demand for employees over the next five to ten years. NYSCB will continue to develop and explore the need for new programs and training opportunities. (Page 305)
- Referrals for benefits advisement continue to increase. As a result the number of vendors approved to provide this service increased in FY 15. Select Independent Living Centers provide benefits counseling to active consumers on a pro bono basis thus further increasing the availability and use of the service. In New York City, a financial literacy program for college students was conducted in collaboration with Barclay Bank. NYSCB consumers and District Office Staff attended this program which provided useful information for consumers as they move to enter the workforce.
- Working with the National Industries for the Blind, new call centers and other service sector employment opportunities for NYSCB consumers have been developed this year. A new call center was opened in Brooklyn and actively hired consumers from NYSCB. Management staff at the call centers as well as counselors continually monitor front line staff at these call centers to provide any necessary support to the consumers employed there and to assist them in advancing their employment skills. (Page 307)