DARS will be Abolished Sept. 1: Changes Coming

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

Texas state capitol side view
The Texas Legislature works to save the state money, sometimes by abolishing or joining state agencies. photo credit: Texas State Capitol and the Texas Flag via photopin (license)

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

Sign in front of building shows Blind and Deaf symbols.
Many communication disability services will move to Health and Human Services. photo credit: Traffic sign: Deaf and Blind via photopin (license)

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?

Man in wheelchair uses desk modified for the height of his wheelchair.
With some modifications and adaptations at home and work, many people can live more independently. photo credit: Exploring Bruges via photopin (license)

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.

Woman uses hands to read Braille while another woman looks on.
Centers for Independent Living are places where people with disabilities can go to find resources to live more independently. photo credit: Boi Mela 2016 via photopin (license)

Click here to find a Center for Independent Living near you.

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.
    Two people shake hands and words above say, Organization is Teamwork.
    The Texas Workforce Commission has business relationships that will assist in consumer’s job searches. photo credit: Organization-Hannah via photopin (license)

    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.

Young woman buttons a suit jacket and smiles goofily.
Finding a job involves more than dressing up for the part. State Vocational Rehabilitation and Texas Workforce Commission services will now combine to ensure more people get hired. photo credit: puttin’ on the ritz via photopin (license)

“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

Paper with checklist says You're Hired!
Joining Vocational Rehabilitation programs with the Texas Workforce Commission may assist people with disabilities in locating more jobs, faster . photo credit: Career Fair at College of DuPage 2014 14 via photopin (license)

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.

Woman signs I love you.
Is your local Center for Independent Living familiar with working with the Deaf community? Only one way to tell. Ask! photo credit: via photopin (license)

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

Empty coccoon, butterfly emerges, then spreads wings open
Change can be a beautiful thing–if we’re patient.

Learn more about the changes from the DARS’ Transition Page or from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission’s Master Plan.

 

 

 

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