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Rehabilitation Council of Texas 2014 Annual Report

Letters

Lori Henning

 

Lori Henning

Chair

Rehabilitation Council of Texas

It is mixed feelings that I finish my second term as chair of the Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT). The past two years have been an incredible journey as I have worked with dedicated staff and amazing RCT members who together embraced many changes and worked toward continuous improvement in services delivered through the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).

Over the past year, RCT committees have worked tirelessly to ensure that the state plans for the DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Division for Blind Services (DBS) are comprehensive, focused, and consumer-oriented. We studied numerous reports, including needs assessments and consumer satisfaction results, and looked carefully at areas where consumers expressed concerns or dissatisfaction. The RCT hosted nine town hall meetings across the state to encourage consumer input and learn more about complex issues faced by many consumers.

The RCT also participated with the Sunset Commission review process and reviewed the DARS strategic plan. We hosted guest speakers from Education Service Center Region 11, to educate members on Youth Transition Services, and we challenged DARS to develop new ways of working with high school students with disabilities and to provide better transition services to people who need them. The RCT also:

  • participated in the DBS statewide conference;
  • represented the RCT at two national conferences; and
  • hosted a joint meeting with the State Independent Living Council.

As I leave the council after serving six years, I am proud of the council and the volunteers who work so diligently and promote the mission of the RCT. This report reflects the many accomplishments of DRS, DBS, and the council—all working together to provide effective services and help Texans with disabilities reach their potential and find employment. On behalf of all RCT members, it is my pleasure to present the 2014 RCT Annual Report.

Sincerely,
Lori Henning
Chair • Rehabilitation Council of Texas

 

Veronda L. Durden

 

Veronda L. Durden

Commissioner

Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services

Through a successful partnership between the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and the Rehabilitation Council of Texas, we make it possible to improve the lives of Texans with disabilities. Together, the RCT and DARS work to make a difference for Texans with disabilities to enable them to live independent and productive lives. I have had the pleasure of working closely with the RCT, and I can tell you that they are one of the most dedicated and hardworking councils in Texas.

The leadership of the RCT has been instrumental in ensuring that the vocational rehabilitation programs administered by the DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Division for Blind Services (DBS) are accessible to our consumers. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” Progress is about working together to achieve success, and together the RCT and DARS focus on successful outcomes for our consumers.

Our partnership with the RCT continues to guide our efforts to help consumers find employment or go back to school; these many successes are illustrated throughout this report in the consumer success stories. One success story shows how a teenager with an autism spectrum disorder is now working towards his dream of becoming an executive chef. With the help of DARS, he attended Project HIRE and is now a chef ’s assistant. Work opportunities open doors to consumer’s independence and participation in community life.

I am committed to ensuring that, together with the RCT, we continue to meet the needs of Texans who have disabilities. On behalf of DARS, I invite you to learn more about our successes in the 2014 RCT Annual Report.

Sincerely,
Veronda L. Durden
Commissioner • Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services

 

Cheryl Fuller

 

Cheryl Fuller

Assistant  Commissioner

DARS • Division for Rehabilitation Services

As the assistant commissioner of the DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services, I am committed to building a strong and productive partnership with the Rehabilitation Council of Texas. As we each fulfill our respective roles in a spirit of partnership and collaboration, we have a wonderful opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of many Texans with disabilities.

As I write this letter, I have just passed the one-year mark in my tenure as assistant commissioner. It has been a busy and fulfilling first year. I have enjoyed getting to know DARS staff, consumers, stakeholders, and RCT members. I have had the opportunity to travel across the state to visit staff, providers, and partners in Waco, Arlington, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio, Harlingen, McAllen, Corpus Christi, Houston, and Lubbock.

DARS staff and RCT members had a great opportunity to work together during the past year to learn more about the needs of Texans with disabilities and to consider how our services can grow and improve to meet those needs. In particular, RCT members played a key role in the Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment that informed our State Plan for Vocational Rehabilitation for Fiscal Year 2015. The council members conducted town hall meetings throughout the state to gather feedback from consumers and other stakeholders. This feedback was invaluable  and will continue to inform our State Plans for the next two years, in addition to Fiscal Year 2015. But we aren’t stopping there. We are already collaborating on ways to improve our needs assessment process in the future so that it yields even more robust feedback to support our planning and program improvement efforts.

I appreciate your feedback, advice, and counsel throughout the year, and I know the RCT will continue to play this important role for many years to come.

Sincerely,
Cheryl Fuller
Assistant Commissioner • DARS Division for Rehabilitation Services

 

Barbara Madrigal

 

Barbara J. Madrigal

Assistant  Commissioner

 

DARS • Division for Blind Services

By the time this year’s Rehabilitation Council of Texas’ Annual Report is in your hands, I will be starting my retirement after a wonderful career of more than 35 years of working with individuals who are blind or visually impaired. On one hand, it is difficult to leave a career that I have cherished, as well as the dedicated team of professionals in DARS Division for Blind Services. On the other hand, it is comforting to know that DBS — with the strength of its many partnerships developed through the years — will continue its quest for continuous improvement and quality in delivering specialized services to our consumers.

DBS has always been proud of the relationships developed with its partners and stakeholders, including the business community; local and statewide consumer organizations; other agencies (such as the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired and the Texas Workforce Commission); other educational partners (such as the education service centers and our many independent school districts); and our thousands of service providers and vendors. That being said, the partnership at the very top of the list is with our consumers, the Texans who are blind or visually impaired and who need our services to find or keep a job.

The RCT does a terrific job of representing the consumer viewpoint and helping our agency ensure that we focus our resources where they are most effective. We always welcome and appreciate the advice we get through the RCT and its involvement with everything from the planning process to new and innovative service delivery methods.

With the commitment and strength of DARS leadership and the commitment from our frontline workers, the future is looking quite bright for Texans who are blind or visually impaired.

Sincerely,
Barbara J. Madrigal
Assistant Commissioner • DARS Division for Blind Services