[NFBWATlk] Department of Services for the Blind News from the Director
Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov
Fri Jun 28 18:27:42 UTC 2019
From: Durand, LouOma (DSB) [mailto:louoma.durand at dsb.wa.gov]
Sent: Tuesday, June 25, 2019 5:43 PM
To: DSB DL Executive Team <ETeam at DSB.WA.GOV>
Cc: Cox, Kristina (DSB) <kristina.cox at dsb.wa.gov>
Subject: Department of Services for the Blind News from the Director
I would like to share some recent DSB news.
Our biennial budget results were positive.
I am pleased to report that we received an increase in state funding for Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) of $550,000 ($225,000 per year). And an increase in state funding For Independent Living (IL) of $230,000 ($115,000 per year). This was not as much as we had requested, but still remarkable given the competing funding requests from other agencies that the legislative budget committees had to resolve. This was the first increase for our Independent Living program in many years.
Our original requests for both VR and IL were fully supported by the Governor's office. So, we plan to submit both a VR and an IL request again as part of the Supplemental Budget process at the end of August. We will continue to work closely with our legislative budget staff on this new request.
We also received increases for compensation, IT, and other costs of doing business.
Order of Selection (OOS):
As a result of OOS, our employment outcome numbers are lower than at this same time last year. But the quality of employment outcomes is consistent. Average wages are over $21 per hour for this time period. A wide range of occupations and ages is represented in our list of successful outcomes and includes a 90 year old self-employed psychologist and a 23 year old office/administrative worker).
As new resources become available, we are gradually taking people off the OOS wait list. To date, we have released a total of 69 into active status. This includes 22 Job Retention cases and 47 from Category One (three or more functional limitations/ needs for services). Currently, there are 101 VR cases on the wait list.
We continue to encourage people to apply for VR, so they can be made eligible and get in the queue for services. We endeavor to do the best we can to support individuals while they are on the wait list. Teams provide robust information and referral services. They make an effort to spend significant time assisting people to get connected with other resources, and to help customers figure out productive steps they can take while on the wait list. Teams are actively growing more local partnerships that can benefit those on the wait list.
DSB recently held a day-long statewide Open House. All offices participated, and the event was open to all, including those on the wait list, community providers, families, etc. Anyone could participate. During the Open House, we provided training sessions (via Skype) on the ADA, and on disclosing a disability. Our hands-on Assistive Technology and Low Vision open houses around the state are also open to everyone.
Apart from the impact of OOS, we have ample resources for youth services and are expanding those programs statewide. So, we make sure that youth get connected with our Youth Programs before they go on the VR wait list.
Pre-Employment Transition/ Youth Programs are booming.
We have expanded our skills and assistive technology workshops across the state, plus our summer work experience programs and college prep on-campus programs. WSSB and Jack Straw Cultural Center have been important partners with us for youth programming over the years. We are currently exploring with them, and other partners, new possibilities to provide more year-round skills training and work experience opportunities across the state.
We began last state fiscal year with just the basic federal IL grant funding and state match ($740,000 for Older Blind and $64,000 for Younger Blind). Fortunately, we were able to infuse the program with additional one-time dollars when they became available ($ 20,600 for Older Blind and $ 10,000 for Younger Blind). This July we will start the IL contract year with $115,000 more than was available last year for direct client services.
Now a big impact on IL services is the closure of Sight Connections, the organization which served King County, Skagit, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, and Island and San Juan counties for many years. There will be a lag in IL service delivery capacity in these counties until new provider capacity can be developed to fill the need. We are currently exploring partnerships and provider relationships to assure continuity of services.
DSB's top priority is to provide as much direct service to as many individuals as possible. And this requires provider development. We cannot provide IL direct services without qualified providers.
DSB is happy to be wrapping up the implementation phase of our new Business Management System - AWARE.
We are proud that we reached our launch date on schedule! And that we came in under budget!
The project took enormous effort from cross-agency teams, each tasked with specific outcomes, as well as external consultation and oversight. The new system is a big change in terms of how staff are used to doing business.
Even so, DSB has received recognition by external evaluators for the success of our process and is considered an exemplary model for systems project implementation in state government. We especially excelled in the areas of communications and employee engagement. Now we are being asked to share and present our best practices and lessons learned in various forums and formats.
Change is our norm. And we are currently experiencing a lot of staff turnover.
This brings challenges of on-boarding, team building, in some cases, reorg and role changes. Cross training and transfer of knowledge are critical, especially in a small agency.
Our former Business Enterprise Manager, Bobby McCalden, made a career change and we are hiring for that position.
Our OTC Manager Julie Brannon will be retiring at the end of September. We are recruiting now so that Julie can train and mentor the new Manager. Please check out our updated recruitment announcement. Fortunately, there will be a general salary increase for state employees starting July 1 plus an additional King County premium, which enhances the salary range significantly, and the revised range is in the new announcement. Please let anyone who is interested know.
You may check our web site at www.dsb.wa.gov<http://www.dsb.wa.gov> to view other open DSB positions.
DSB is wrapping up our current five-year Strategic Framework and Plan.
Our process now is to identify and celebrate what has been accomplished; then discover where we need to place our strategic focus as we move forward. We began with soliciting input from staff and from our State Rehabilitation Council. Next, we will reach out to the community and our partners for input.
DSB will use the strategic ideas we gather to refresh our strategic direction, inform our resource decisions and operational plans. This process will also inform our Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (Talent and Prosperity for All) State Plan goals.
We are pleased to report that the Governor and Cabinet recognized our Agency as a top performer in the state for diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as for employee engagement, at a recent televised statewide Results WA event.
Never a dull moment at DSB!
Have a great summer,
Lou Oma Durand
Executive Director, Dept. of Services for the Blind
PO Box 40933
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