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|STATE OF OKLAHOMA|
Department of Rehabilitation Services
Disability Determination Division
9801 N. Kelley
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73131
Monday, April 4, 2011, 10:00 am
Commissioner Ray Kirk
Commissioner Steve Shelton
Commissioner Ben White
PRESENT FROM THE DEPARTMENT
Dona Cartmill, Randy Cochran, Goli Dunkle, Karen Dunn, Melinda Fruendt, Jody Harlan, Diane Hoehn Hyde, Teresa Jackson, Jean Jones, Rose King, Mark Kinnison, Mary Martin, Keith McKee, Jane Nelson, Paula Nelson, Mike O’Brien, Kathleen Reed, Linda Santin, Tom Shadid, Kevin Statham, Sandra Stokes, Malcolm Stoughtenborough, Kay Taber, Noel Tyler, Sally Varghese, Kevin Waggoner, Randy Weaver, Belinda Williams, Terri Williams, Jana Woodward.
Marilyn Burr, Vice Chair ORC
CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL
The meeting was called to order at 10:09 a.m. by Ray Kirk, Commission Chair. Kathleen Reed, Commission Assistant called the roll. With all Commissioners present, a quorum was declared by the Chair.
STATEMENT OF COMPLIANCE
Ms. Kathleen Reed, Commission Assistant, confirmed the Commission for Rehabilitation Services is in compliance with the Open Meeting Act.
INTRODUCTION OF GUESTS
Being none the meeting moved to the next agenda item.
Noel Tyler, DDD Administrator, extended an invitation to all attending the Commission meeting to tour the DDD renovated facilities following this meeting.
QUESTIONS, CONCERNS AND COMMENTS FROM THE COMMISSIONERS
Commissioner Kirk thanked Ms. Tyler for the invitation and commented on how great the facility looks so far. Commissioner Kirk welcomed Commissioner Shelton back from his vacation. Commissioner White commented on how well the major construction at the DDD facility looks and he thanked Ms. Tyler and her staff for hosting the Commission meeting.
REPORT FROM THE DIRECTOR – Dr. Mike O’Brien, DRS Director
Director O’Brien welcomed the Commissioners and the members of the audience.
People with Disabilities Day at the Capitol
Director O’Brien announced that tomorrow, April 5, 2011, is People with Disabilities Awareness Day at the Capitol. Everyone should have this date on their calendar. The registration form is available on the DRS Website. Over 550 people have already registered. Jody Harlan, DRS PIO Administrator, and the Disability Awareness Day Team were up at the Capitol distributing pre- Awareness day packets to the Legislators.
The guest speaker is Bill Lawson of Woodward, President of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. We hope to see a good turnout. There are Comment cards for everyone to send to their Legislators to address primary issues. There are issues worth writing the Legislators about and you will hear some of those in Mr. Nelson’s Legislative Report.
Oklahoma School for the Deaf (OSD)
The OSD Prom coming up on April 28, 2011. The Commissioners are invited to attend. Director O’Brien will be attending and is looking forward to this event.
Three staff people missing – Cheryl Gray, Kevin Nelson, and Larry Hawkins are all at the Capitol presenting testimony in the House regarding SB 939, which was passed unanimously in the Senate and then sent to the House. It does not have the same level of support in the House, and so Ms. Gray, Mr. Nelson and Superintendent Hawkins are there answering questions. There were a number of concerns raised by the House on potential long term impact, reporting impact, financial impact. The agency’s current belief on this legislation, it is legislation that would turn over funding – essentially the money would follow the child -only for the purpose of funding OSB and OSD. It is estimated at $2 million. Senator Jolley has reported that this funding would be in addition to whatever the regular funding is through the agency’s legislative funding. However, it passed 46 to 0 in the Senate, it is now in Committee at the House, and the House has a number of questions.
Director O’Brien and Kevin Nelson have spent a good part of last Thursday at the Capitol answering questions regarding this legislation. So this morning the three above mentioned are at the Capitol giving testimony to garner support for this legislation. This is a major legislation that would provide a major influx of funding for the schools in recent memory.
Snack Bar Legislation
There were some issues regarding Snack Bar problems at the Capitol which spurred some legislation. That legislation has since gone away. The Snack Bar issues have been more or less resolved. Director O’Brien met with Representative Hickman, who authored the Bill, at the Capitol Snack Bar and he was very positive. Representative Hickman met with the new manager and had some very positive comments to make to the new manager. This morning a new coffee stand is opening where the old Snack Bar stood. So some good things are happening there.
Director O’Brien reported that the Consolidation Bills are all essentially intact – consolidation of all Information Technology Units from all agencies into the Office of State Finance. Other consolidation issues include the Finance Services Unit and the Human Resources Unit from all state agencies, however, DRS does not seem to be a part of these bills. The agency is waiting to see what impact these issues will have on DRS.
This is the legislation making State Agency Director’s appointees of the Governor. There is still discussion in the House, which has a different bill, that makes the Commission appointees change. We still don’t know how these two will play out yet, but we continue to meet with legislators and to monitor these bills to keep up with their status.
Director O’Brien succeeded in having an appointment on March 15, 2011, with Janet Barresi, State School Superintendent. They met for almost an hour. It was a very positive meeting. They will be meeting again to further discuss the issues they covered at this meeting. Ms. Barresi has also given her support on HB939, the funding bill for the schools.
Other issues that overlap particularly with education that were discussed are: the AIM Center, the Transition Program DRS has with the schools, and the joint program DRS has with DOE called Tech Now. This was a very positive meeting.
Speaking of Tech Now, that meeting will held on April 16th at Bethany School and the Governor and Director O’Brien are the opening speakers who do the welcome to the students from across the state. So we are quite excited to see that happening.
New Cabinet Secretary
Director O’Brien has had the first official Cabinet meeting under the new Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Sciences – Dr. Terry Kline. Director O’Brien was also able to have an individual meeting with Dr. Kline. It was a very good and positive meeting. They were able to be on pretty even ground on the all the issues that were of concern. Director O’Brien looks forward to this being a positive experience.
Thursday of last week, federal legislation was passed regarding Transition that raises some concern. Consumers will most likely read about it as TEAM legislation.
Three bills were passed out of the House – one specific to Vocational Rehabilitation, one specific to IDEA and the public schools, and one specific to the Co-operational Programs. The biggest issue that DRS is concerned about is that it changes the age of service to kids in the Transition Program to age 14. For DRS it would be a significant financial impact. It also has an impact on the DRS client base because typically DRS Transition has a student client base from 3 to 5 years, this legislation would increase the client base to 5 to 7 years of service for teens, which would have a long term impact on the number of adult clients that can be served. This may cut the budget for adults. So there is some concern about this TEAM Legislation. Although, on the positive side, it does mandate some cooperation that has not existed and there are some other pieces of legislation that appear important. We will know about that once it gets to the Senate
and they respond to it. But we know that it is significant legislation that has potential impact on DRS. So we will have to pay close attention to these issues.
National and Regional Conferences for RSA
On April 18th the Regional Commissioner and the National Commissioner will be at DDD and the next day, April 19th, the Regional Conference for Disability Examiners will be hosted at DDD.
Servant Leadership Training
In the past month, Servant Leadership Training was completed for the Management Services Division, the Financial Services Division and for DDD for both middle managers and field staff.
Director O’Brien will be leaving this Saturday for Washington DC for the CSAVR Conference, he will be there for over a week. He will have CSAVR meetings, the new Social Security Disability Advisory meeting that Directors are being asked to attend and at the end of the week we have NCSAV, which is the meeting for agency Blind Directors. So we will be doing all three in one week.
Director O’Brien reported that DRS, at mid-year, had one counselor who has already achieved 63 closures, which is essentially more than doubled the performance for the entire year. And in looking at the statistics, Director O’Brien considers the Rehab Tech and the Counselor a team, and so this morning, Director O’Brien recognized the DRS Counselor and Rehab Tech with the Director’s Building Blocks for work that supports or encourages the entire foundation of this agency and the direction that we are headed. These particular Building Blocks say “Modeling the Way” and were presented to VR Counselor, Teresa Jackson, and Rehab Tech, Dona Cartmill. Also recognized was their Programs Manager, Jana Woodward.
Final audit on BEP Program Evaluation.
Director O’Brien and the Commissioners had received the final audit of the BEP Program the Friday before the March Commission meeting and there had been no chance for this report to be reviewed prior to presenting it to the Commission. Director O’Brien reminded the Commission that the audit was requested because the DRS Director and new BEP Program Director discovered several anomalies so an audit was requested to determine what actions could be taken to correct these anomalies. In this form of an audit they don’t list official findings, what they do instead is provide recommendations of the things that they did find. Interesting enough, in each of the areas that they were asked to look at and that we were concerned about, they had concerns as well.
in order to meet the recommended changes.
There is actually a great deal more in the report but those are the primary areas.
What has been currently done is that Director O’Brien has reviewed the report and he has submitted back to the auditors that he was in agreement with the report. He then met with the Elected Committee of Licensed Managers (ECM), the group that represents the Licensed Managers and provided them with a review of the report, the discussion of the report and the actions that DRS intended on taking. We have since developed a number of committees for each of the items that were listed as problems in the report and each of those committees involves different people to specifically respond to that. One of the examples that will be seen is that there is a group that is working with CareerTech that will develop external training specific to the Licensed Managers and to our consultants. There is an auditing committee that will specifically respond to the issues of the accounting and the data, etc. These committees have already had their first meetings and assignments, and they have begun their work. The expectation is that most of these committees will be in the initiation phase, in other words the committees will complete their recommendations and begin initiation of the actions by sometime in the middle of the summer. Each of the committees has a targeted date. Director O’Brien is confident that the audit provided us with the guidance we needed regarding the specific concerns we had. Director O’Brien is also confident in the committees that have been established, each of these committees will specifically respond to the items, and he believes that a year from now that every single item in the audit will be accounted for through the committees that have been assigned, the projects that have been assigned, and the work that will come out of that. Director O’Brien is appreciative of the audit and he is confident of the ability to come out of it and remedy the issues that he has seen.
Director O’Brien reminded the Commission that there have been two audits going on. One is this audit that was for all BEP vendors, the other audit is the specific to an individual vendor, that is not yet been received.
Commissioner Kirk: How long do you think it will be before all the recommendations will be implemented?
Director O’Brien: All except one will be implemented by July 1, 2011. The policy changes will take longer because they will have to come before the Commission, there will have to be the Public Hearings and all that. So those will take a little bit longer. Director O’Brien believes all the others will be implemented or ready for policy change by July 1, 2011.
Commissioner Kirk: Sounds like you have been busy, and change is on the horizon for everybody, and it will affect everybody in this room. Change is usually, in the long run, good and we look forward to see those changes. Again congratulations to the two who received the Building Block Awards today.
Commissioner White: Regarding the TEAM Legislation and changing the Transition age to 14. Is this a mandatory thing or is it a financial thing that can be dealt with in the agency or is that just the time when they can be eligible for compensation or reimbursement?
Director O’Brien: It is mandatory in the sense that the agency would have to accept applications at age 14, currently it is age 16 at the earliest, because of the length of time the Transition case takes. The legislation goes a little bit further in that it will provide additional funding for ten states each year to try and create new programs to respond to that, and it mandates an increase in Transition Services. For DRS it will create a little bit of a challenge because DRS is a little bit ahead of the curve. DRS has increased its Transition Services over the last 2 ½ years by almost 500%, and we are almost at our capacity in terms of Transition Services, so we are way ahead of the game. This legislation was developed in response to a number of states who were simply refusing to do Transition Services and so in Oklahoma we are ahead of the game and have sort of solved the problem. So adding those two extra years of service could dramatically change our budget because of the way it may affect the kinds of assessments that are done to a more hands on in the business, and those kind of assessments are much more expensive then our ability to use vocational evaluation and other programs that we currently partner with. Both of those have some financial impact, we believe. However, it has not gotten through the Senate yet, so we don’t know what that how that will imply.
Commissioner White: Regarding the BEP audit. On page 20 of this Audit Findings
Report, at the top of the page it talks about the organization of the State Licensing Agency, it states “ the governing board of the State Licensing Agency is the Oklahoma Commission for Rehabilitation Services”. From the stand point of the Commissioners, we have been aware of the existence of the BEP, we have talked about it from time to time, but we have never concentrated specifically on the obligation that it represents for the Commission. This is a program which requires much more of the agency than it delivers in reimbursement. A major responsibility with minor payment for the services we have. It has also been Commissioner White’s observance that there are cases in which the vendors resent the interference of the agency with their program. It is almost like, okay we have the right to do this, what is the purpose of your interference? So from that stand point this is going to be a very good thing and it maybe more of a wakeup call for them then it is for three Commissioners as to what our obligations are. This may also have a positive impact on the second audit to which Director O’Brien referred. If there is to be follow-up legal action it puts the agency in a much better position.
The other question Commissioner White asked if it is worth it to the agency to do this and does the agency have a choice?
Director O’Brien: This question has to be answered in a couple of ways. First of all the BEP Program is a small program in the grand scheme of things. As an agency we have 1,135 FTE’s in this agency, and we typically have about 1,050 of those slots filled on any given day. The agency will serve about 85,000 people this year across the board.
The BEP has about18 staff and they will serve 48 vendors or Licensed Managers this year. As described, it takes up less than a quarter of 1% of the agency’s budget, but it takes approximately 25% of the Director’s personal time, and 50% to75% of the General Counsel’s time and also takes a lot of the VS Administrator’s time. It is a very time consuming and expensive initiative. However, it is a federally mandated program that has been around since the 1930’s. It does create substantial income for the vendors that participate in it and it creates the kind of income that some of those vendors would not be able to earn in any other method and so it is important to create those opportunities. The part that is most important to the agency is that each of those vendors must also have to make a contribution back to the agency in order for the agency to manage them and for it to be viable there has to be legitimate accounting to make sure the agency gets the full return that it is supposed to get from each vendor. Clearly, in reviewing this Audit Finding Report, the estimates are that the agency has been underpaid by multiple vendors across the board. If the agency can be affective in assuring that the agency get full return from each vendor, which is up to 12% depending on the size of their business, and the agency can increase the number of vendors or locations, and the agency can assure that the vendors are not getting into trouble, then this program has real value for the agency, and this is why the audit was requested in the first place. If however, from the audit, we are not able to change those behaviors, increase the performance, increase the revenue then that raises questions about that viability for the agency long term. That is why it was so important to do this audit, to find the exact problem areas and then to act on them in a way which changes the return and brings back honor and dignity of an 80 year old program that has been important to the people of the blind community to make a difference so they can be independent business operators across the state.
Commissioner White: Does the agency have the authority to examine, if not audit, their records?
Director O’Brien: The agency has the responsibility and is supposed to do monthly reviews, what was discovered was that on our end we have not done that very well. So part of what we are doing is instituting mechanisms that ensure those monthly reviews happen and that the annual reviews are accurate. What we also discovered is that both sides did not necessarily know how to get these reviews done correctly, which is why the training instituted by the third party is going to be critical.
Commissioner Shelton: Regarding the BEP Program, sounds like we are getting a handle on the vendors with this audit. Commission Shelton feels that this is a program that helps a lot of blind people and would like it to continue. We are spending so much time with this program, getting to the root of the problems to get it corrected.
Director O’Brien: It is his expectation that a year from now we should have a very good revised program. The agency has a very good BEP Director who has taken on the challenges and who gets beat up at almost every corner by everybody on every side, but he has been willing to take on those challenges. The audit gave us a clear demarcation of what is working and what is not, and that gives us really the opportunity to act upon every one of those items. If the agency is diligent and does its job as an organization to resolve each of the items listed it is Director O’Brien’s belief that a year from now, his time will drop to minimal involvement and the General Counsel’s time will drop to minimal involvement, and the new VS Administrator’s time will be that of overseer but that there will be minimal involvement and ultimately this program will be great.
Commissioner Kirk: One of the duties of Commission chair is to make assignments to the Commissioners. So, Commissioner Kirk assigned Commissioner Shelton to be the Commission’s Representative on the BEP Committee to make sure all issues are resolved.
Commissioner White: Commissioner White is skeptical that there will be less time involvement on the part of the staff even if these items are resolved to the point we hope it will be. He feels it may remain a disproportionately large portion of time involvement. His hopes is, if action in this process results in accurate information coming from the vendors, as to what their income is and what their payment to DRS should be, maybe it would make it worth our while to do it. He has observed human nature enough to know that people who have been allowed to function in a manner that they determined for a long period of time and suddenly they are required to change, that change is not going to be welcomed. He does not think they will be happy with DRS taking more money out of their pocket to do the things that have to be done in order for this program to survive. His hope is that he is wrong, but he will be surprised.
Commissioner White is grateful for Director O’Brien’s request of this audit, it was more necessary than any of the Commissioners realized and its value will be immeasurably.
Commissioner Shelton: Hopes that if there are vendors that clearly continue to violate the policy, that perhaps they should be removed.
Director O’Brien: This year more vendors have been placed on probation or removed from their businesses then we ever have had prior to this date. He has been very diligent about doing that.