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Rehabilitation Council of Texas 2015 Annual Report

Looking Forward to 2016:

Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities

Committee speaking at a panel meeting

We selected the theme "Navigating Challenges, Seizing Opportunities" for the 2015 Rehabilitation Council of Texas (RCT) annual report to highlight the fact that the RCT and Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) have always seized on the many opportunities that arise in the midst of change. Our ability to adapt and use any challenge as a catalyst for improvement has been a defining element of our partnership and has enabled us to provide more effective services and better advocacy for Texans with disabilities. This ability will help us navigate the year ahead.

One of the primary changes we face in 2016 is implementing the DARS and Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) Sunset bills — House Bill 2463 and Senate Bill 208 — as finalized by the 84th Texas Legislature, regular session. These bills direct DARS to transfer the Division for Rehabilitation Services (DRS) and Division for Blind Services (DBS) Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) programs to TWC by Sept. 1, 2016.

Texans who receive or who would like to apply for VR services should feel assured that VR services will continue to be provided by DARS until the transition to TWC occurs and that these services will continue to be provided by TWC after the transition. In addition, one of the RCT's primary goals in 2016 will be to continue to work with DARS to determine a transition plan that is consumer-focused and which minimizes any disruption to VR services. One way we will accomplish this goal is by keeping open communication to ensure the transition plan responds to public comments, including those provided at the seven joint DARS-TWC public meetings held throughout Texas between July 21, 2015, and Sept. 17, 2015.

The RCT and DARS, as well as TWC, are committed to working together to make the transition of the VR programs to TWC a smooth one. To help ensure this is the case, a Transition Legislative Oversight Committee has been established to oversee the transition process. This committee is composed of four members of the Senate, four members of the House of Representatives, three members of the public and three ex-officio members, including the Texas Health and Human Services Commission executive commissioner, TWC executive director and DARS commissioner.

Although the transition of VR programs to TWC will change the agency we partner with, the RCT's dedication to advocating for Texans with disabilities, core values and mission will stay the same. We feel confident that our future partnership with TWC will be a productive one and that Texans with disabilities will continue to have access to the VR services they need to achieve their goals of employment and independence.

Two women in wheelchairs side by side

The RCT is thankful for DARS' partnership over the past 12 years and proud of all that we have accomplished together. Our efforts have made a significant and positive impact on the lives of thousands of Texans with disabilities who now enjoy competitive employment and greater levels of independence and participation in society. The strength of the partnership has contributed to the recognition of Texas as a national leader in the provision of VR services and provided the opportunity to share our success with VR agencies and leaders from many other states.

As we look to the year ahead, we are excited about seizing the opportunity to forge a partnership with TWC. We look forward to embracing these opportunities of this new partnership that we believe will result in benefits for Texans with disabilities, businesses and communities across our state.

Sincerely,
Martha Garber
Chair