State VR in Illinois Provides Organizational Structure for IPS  

Gene Oulvey, Coordinator of Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, reports that as of July 2009, a new version of the Illinois Vocational Rehabilitation Program Casework Procedures Manual includes a chapter that is specific to working with IPS programs. “

After four years of implementing IPS in Illinois, we were thinking about the roles, responsibilities and contributions of VR to IPS. We wanted to eliminate anything we might be doing to impair a full commitment to the IPS model.” In response Douglas Morton, Manager of Strategic Planning, and Gene with the approval and support of Robert Kilbury, Director of the Division of Rehabilitation Services, and Jeff Standerfer, Bureau Chief for Field Services, spent eight months talking to all levels of VR leadership, colleagues at the department of mental health, members of the provider community and members of the consumer community. They used information from these interviews as well as from VR counselor focus groups conducted the previous year to establish new casework procedures for counselors working with IPS programs. 

The IPS principle of “rapid job search” is one of several areas that the manual addresses. Gene reports, “Our policies say that the VR counselor has up to five months from referral to rehabilitation plan development but that flies in the face of rapid job search. Many counselors feel that they need time to get to know the person and learn about the person’s disability, but this stems from an approach in which the VR counselor does it all for the person rather than working as a member of an IPS team. The new manual shortens the maximum time for plan development from five months to ten days. This works because the VR counselor is meeting with the IPS team regularly and, in some cases, is hearing about people prior to their referral to VR. 

Another change is that if a person engages in a job search with his employment specialist and actually finds a job before his case is open with VR, the VR counselor can backdate the person’s VR opening by 14 days. This rule applies only to IPS so that the program can use a rapid job search.  The new manual encourages local systems to define the documents that are required for a referral packet so that the VR counselor can open the case quickly.

At the state level, we are supporting that by changing the criteria for the person signing off on diagnostic materials. It can be any licensed practitioner in the healing arts in Illinois. By allowing a vastly wider network of mental health practitioners who can sign the documents, it moves the process along quickly. Changes in the manual encourage counselors to ensure that IPS programs are receiving the funding that they need throughout the vocational process. A milestone payment approach specific to IPS allows for payments at 15 days employment, 45 days and 90 days.

 A final, and important, change is a mandate that there is a formal meeting including the VR counselor and the rest of the IPS team at least once a month. For all programs other than IPS, the counselor must meet with the customer every 8 weeks, but is not necessarily mandated to meet with anyone else.” In early 2010, training in all five regions of Illinois will help counselors think about strategies to use the new practices and act as full participants of local IPS teams. 

To obtain a copy of the Illinois Vocational Rehabilitation Program Casework Procedures Manual, contact: Gene.Oulvey@illinois.