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Streamlining the state-federal vocational rehabilitation program.

On February 2, 1996, the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) and the Council of State Administrators of Vocational Rehabilitation (CSAVR) signed an agreement to streamline the vocational rehabilitation (VR) program. Since its inception on June 2, 1920, the state-federal VR program has assisted over 9 million persons to get jobs and enjoy full integration into American society. Under the terms of the agreement, RSA and CSAVR identified specific action steps to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the VR program. Nearly all of the 82 VR programs funded under the Rehabilitation Act, as amended (the Act), have participated in the first wave of streamlining activities. Once begun, streamlining is an ongoing process of self-evaluation and continuous improvement designed to promote effective practices to facilitate the accomplishment of the primary purpose of VR: to assist persons with disabilities to achieve high quality employment.

The articles in this issue of American Rehabilitation present an overview of how several state VR agencies have implemented the streamlining initiative. It is clear that the successes experienced so far in conducting streamlining are due to the strong alliances which exist between RSA, the state VR agencies, the Regional Rehabilitation Continuing Education Programs (RRCEP's), persons served by the VR program, employers, and others interested in improving the livelihood of people who are disabled.

The streamlining initiative is based on a philosophy of a consumer-driven, outcome-based system of vocational rehabilitation. As a result of this effort, many state VR agencies are now observing improvements in service delivery and more high quality employment outcomes for their customers.

Thus far, the following specific actions have resulted from streamlining activities:

* The VR counselor's documentation workload has been greatly reduced, allowing counselors more time to spend with customers and to serve them more quickly.

* State VR agency policies and procedures have been revised for easier use by VR counselors and other staff. It has been observed that state imposed requirements are responsible for most of the barriers to effective service delivery.

* Communication networks among state VR agencies have been strengthened at various levels, and this is promoting the sharing of effective practices.

* Advanced technology is being utilized to implement or improve management information systems to expedite eligibility determinations, the provision of services, and the aggregation of data to enable effective decisionmaking.

* Training activities have been modified and strengthened through the inclusion of topics arising from the streamlining activities.

* Greater use of "teams" has resulted in better management of caseloads and increased use of "counselor assistants," who have access to possible career advancement.

* The combined impact of technological advances, "teams," and increased time for the VR counselor to counsel customers have resulted in greater choice for customers to select goals, services, and service providers.

* State VR agencies have decentralized many management responsibilities to the regional level, resulting in a more innovative and responsive service delivery system.

* The "culture" of the state VR agencies is being redefined according to the tenets of the streamlining initiative, and this is resulting in revitalized partnerships with employers and community providers of important ancillary services, such as transportation, housing, healthcare, vocational education, occupational training, and recreation, which are critical to obtaining and maintaining employment.

RSA is complementing the streamlining activities through the development and implementation of a performance-based monitoring system. The state VR agencies are currently participating in the creation of standards and indicators with which to measure program achievements. Performance-based plans incorporating significant outcome data will be jointly developed and monitored by the state-federal partners. In this manner, limited federal and state resources will be used to target those state VR agencies unable to meet their performance goals and to highlight effective practices useful to other grantees. Technical assistance to address identified deficiencies will be provided by experts from the rehabilitation and business community to develop and implement more effective programs.
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Title Annotation:Streamlining Service Delivery
Author:Schroeder, Fredric K.
Publication:American Rehabilitation
Date:Jun 22, 1997
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