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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:
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.
Below is a 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 TWC was adopted by TWC Commissioners and submitted to a Legislative Oversight Committee who will oversee the transition. The plan includes:
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.