The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, or DARS, will be abolished Sept. 1, 2016, according to the Master Transition Plan drafted by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.
DARS’ services will transfer to Health and Human Services or to the Texas Workforce Commission.
Why DARS is being abolished
As a result of a Texas Legislature review of the departments of Health and Human Services, legislators approved a bill to combine some departments and abolish others.
According to the plan, “The passage of Senate Bill 200 gives [Health and Human Services] an opportunity to develop a more fully streamlined, efficient system that more effectively provides services and benefits.”
DARS is one of the agencies that will be abolished, but it’s a unique situation.
Some DARS’ services will transfer to Health and Human Services
This September, according to the plan, “select functions at [DARS],” will transfer to Health and Human Services.
DARS’ programs transferring to Health and Human Services are:
- Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services,
- Disability Determination Services,
- the Independent Living Program,
- Children’s Autism,
- Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development,
- Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment,
- Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services, and
- Early Childhood Intervention.
What are Independent Living Services?
According to the DARS’ website, Independent Living Services “promotes self-sufficiency despite the presence of one or more significant disabilities.”
To qualify for services, a person must be certified by a counselor:
- “to have a significant disability that results in a substantial impediment to their ability to function independently in the family and/or in the community, and
- there must be a reasonable expectation that Independent Living Services assistance will result in the ability to function more independently.”
Another Service Provider is Added
While Independent Living Services will transfer to Health and Human Services, DARS’ website describes an additional change: that another law “also requires DARS to contract with Centers for Independent Living to provide all Independent Living services, including services for older individuals who are blind, no later than August 31, 2016.’
“Health and Human Services Commission will oversee these contracts effective September 1, 2016.”
Independent Living Services, according to DARS’ website, have had waiting lists to receive services.
Some DARS’ programs transfer to the Texas Workforce Commission
Four of DARS’ programs will transfer to the Texas Workforce Commission, which is the main governmental job training and job search program for the State of Texas:
- Vocational Rehabilitation,
- Independent Living Services for Older Individuals Who are Blind,
- the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center,
- and Business Enterprises of Texas.
According to the commission’s blog, Solutions, it will add more than 1,860 DARS’ employees and more than 96,000 program participants to its service network.
DARS’ consumers transitioning to the commission will still receive the same services, “from the same counselors and, in most cases, from the same locations. DARS’ online resources associated with the programs transitioning to TWC will be available on the TWC website.’
“People with questions about DARS’ programs moving to TWC should continue to use the DARS’ inquiries phone number, 800-628-5115. Most direct phone numbers for current DARS staff will remain the same after September 1,” according to the blog.
What Vocational Rehabilitation is
Vocational Rehabilitation services support working or preparing for employment.
“The Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) Program helps people who have physical or mental disabilities prepare for, find or keep employment. Gaining skills needed for a career, learning how to prepare for a job interview or getting the accommodations needed to stay employed are just a few of the ways this program helps people with disabilities increase productivity and independence,” according to the DARS’ website.
How bringing Vocational Rehabilitation to the Texas Workforce Commission May Help
Consumers will now be working together with contacts who know how to locate jobs, the commission’s specialty.
How it will affect DARS’ consumers
For the most part, the transition plans attempt to make sure that consumers will receive their services without any interruption. However, the quality of services or the time it takes to receive them may change.
Special considerations for consumers who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, or Deaf-Blind
While Health and Human Services and the Texas Workforce Commission are used to providing accommodations for people with communication access needs, Centers for Independent Living across the state have different levels of experience with these needs.
Since centers began as grassroots organizations developed by people who had certain disabilities in their area, they now must expand to have greater representation for all abilities. While center staff members are at least half-represented by people with disabilities, they may not have communication disabilities and there may be a learning curve in different parts of the state.
Some centers do have Deaf staff members and Deaf programs and are very familiar with Deaf culture and sign language. Some centers also have staff members who are blind and regularly use magnification devices, screen readers, or Braille.
Deaf community members seeking to live independently but not necessarily work would be the ones who would be contracted out to meet with their local center’s staff. Though the state has many centers, some areas also don’t have a center nearby.
Where to learn more
Learn more about the changes from the DARS’ Transition Page or from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Master Plan.