Department of Assistive & Rehabilitative Services Program Transition

Overview

Beginning Sept. 1, 2016, the state agency known as the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) will be dissolved and several of its programs will be transferred to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). These include:

  • The Vocational Rehabilitation program for individuals with visual impairments, including the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center
  • The Vocational Rehabilitation program for individuals with other disabilities
  • The Business Enterprises of Texas program
  • The Independent Living Services program for older individuals who are blind.
  • The changes are the result of legislation passed during the 84th Texas Legislative session which places all of the state’s programs funded through the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) together under one agency.

All other DARS programs will be transferred to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC). For information about the transfer of those programs, visit HHSC Transformation.

Transition teams made up of individuals from DARS, HHSC and TWC are working together to ensure a smooth transition with no disruption to service delivery. The teams are strategizing in the areas of Communications, Contracting, Data Performance, Data Sharing, Facilities, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology, Legal and Program & Policy, and are reporting regularly to a Transition Steering Committee made up of executive level staff from all three agencies. 

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TWC Chairman & Commissioners Welcome Transitioning Programs

Below is a video welcoming DARS customers and transitioning employees associated with the DARS programs transferring to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Video welcoming DARS customers and transitioning employees associated with the DARS programs transferring to the Texas Workforce Commission

For an accessible version of this video, please follow this link: http://bit.ly/2bmeeW4

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Transition for Consumers of DARS Services

TWC and DARS are working to ensure that the transition for consumers of DARS services will be seamless. All Vocational Rehabilitation counselors are transferring to TWC and will continue to serve the same consumers, and in most cases, from the same locations before and after the changeover from DARS to TWC. Counselors will continue to receive the same level of specialized training and will have access to the resources and accommodations currently provided to its consumers. Over the next few years, there will be some relocation of staff and service locations, but adequate notice for these changes will be given so that proper accommodations can be made and any new facilities will be equipped with the space and technology needed for staff and the public.

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Transition for Employers That Work with DARS

Current DARS staff who work with employers will transfer to TWC and will continue to work closely with and maintain established relationships with employers. As required by legislation, over the next few years, Vocational Rehabilitation services will be integrated within Workforce Solutions offices around the state. The partnerships that are developed with Workforce Solutions staff, both before and after co-location, will create opportunities to build on those relationships by expanding employer networks and sharing contacts and expertise with Workforce Solutions staff. Employers are a priority audience for TWC and their Workforce Solutions partners. Through coordinated collaboration with economic development organizations, education and training partners, and workforce development professionals, these relationships will continue to grow and develop after the transition.

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Transition for DARS Contractors & Vendors

Contracts with Community Rehabilitation Programs (CRP) and others will transfer to TWC. No changes to CRP credentialing requirements are planned due to the transition. Contracts utilized by programs transferring to TWC will remain in effect after the transition. Vendors do not have to take steps to ensure that the transfer takes place. Check DARS Contracts Procurement for information related to the transfer of contracts. Over time, contracts with vendors who are serving both the Blind Services Division and the Rehabilitation Services Division will be consolidated into a single contract, but not immediately. Any changes to future billing and payment, purchasing, and contracting will be communicated to these groups before taking effect.

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Transition for DARS Staff

Staff associated with the transitioning programs will become TWC staff. Transition Teams composed of DARS, TWC and HHSC staff are working together to make sure that the staff transition will be as smooth as possible. Staff will continue to be state employees, they will simply work for a different agency. There will be no disruption of pay, benefits, leave time or job function as a result of the transition and most staff will continue to serve in the same role before and after transition and from the same locations.

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DARS Website & Contact Information

Online resources currently available on the DARS website for programs and services transitioning to TWC will be available at www.texasworkforce.org by Sept. 1, 2016. 

The phone numbers for most DARS staff will not change. The DARS telephone inquiry number, 800-628-5115, will remain the contact number for inquiries or complaints related to the programs transitioning to TWC.

Email addresses for DARS staff will begin to change over the next few months and by Sept.1, all will have an @twc.state.tx.us suffix. However, emails will automatically forward to the new address for a period of time to allow people to note the new addresses for their contacts.

The postal mailing address for all mail previously delivered to 4800 N. Lamar Blvd in Austin will change to 101 E 15th St, Austin, TX 78778-0001. However, in most cases, physical addresses will remain the same and mail currently being sent to other facilities will still be sent to those same addresses.

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Transition Plan

Transition teams helped develop a Transition Plan with input from the public gathered at a series of seven public meetings held throughout the state in the summer of 2015. These meetings gave the public the opportunity to make recommendations to the WIOA State Plan as well as the transition plan. The resulting plan for the transfer of DARS services to TWCPDF was adopted by TWC Commissioners and submitted to a Legislative Oversight Committee who will oversee the transition. The plan includes:

  • Measures to ensure that there will be no disruption to the provision of services
  • A schedule for implementing the transfer of services and programs effective Sept. 1, 2016
  • A strategy for the integration of General Vocational Rehabilitation and Blind Vocational Rehabilitation
  • A strategy for the integration of Vocational Rehabilitation staff into local Workforce Solutions offices 

In developing the transition plan and implementing its strategies, careful consideration is being given to minimize any impact to the more than 1,860 DARS employees who will join the TWC family in September and the estimated 96,000 consumers of the transferring programs. Bringing workforce services and disability services together through this transfer will enhance the service delivery of both agencies through strengthened collaboration and in-house experts with a deeper understanding of the barriers that individuals with disabilities face in employment.

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Key Dates

  • By March 1, 2016—HHSC’s executive commissioner submits a transition plan, which includes the plan for the transfer of programs transferring to TWC, to the legislative oversight committee, the governor, and the Legislative Budget Board.
  • March 3, 2016—Texas submits the WIOA State Plan to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. This is a four-year plan for achieving the state’s workforce goals.
  • Sept. 1, 2016—Vocational Rehabilitation programs, oversight of Independent Living Services programs for older individuals who are blind and Business Enterprises of Texas programs transfer from DARS to TWC.
  • By Oct. 1, 2017—TWC integrates the separate programs for individuals with visual impairments and individuals with other disabilities into a single Vocational Rehabilitation Program.
  • By Aug. 31, 2018—TWC integrates its vocational rehabilitation staff into the state’s local workforce development boards and Workforce Solutions offices to the extent possible based on expiration or renegotiation of leases and available office space at Workforce Solutions facilities.

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