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By Barbara J. Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner, Division of Blind Services
Abstract: In Assistant Commissioner Madrigal's debut article in See/Hear, she reviews the recent changes in state government and discusses the things that have not changed in the Division of Blind Services, such as the service delivery systems, the quality of programs and staff, and the gratitude to those who support staff and programs.
Key Words: News & Views, blind, deafblind, Division for Blind Services, DBS, DARS, consolidation, Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program, Transition Program, succession planning, consumer mentoring program.
This is my first article for See/Hear as Assistant Commissioner of the Division for Blind Services (DBS). I am honored to serve in this capacity, and I appreciate the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) Commissioner Terry Murphy's confidence in me.
This is an interesting time to work in state government—particularly in the health and human services arena where so much is changing so rapidly. It can be quite a challenge to maintain high quality services to Texans who are blind while managing the demands of changing roles, responsibilities, organizational structures and other things associated with building a new, consolidated agency. Nonetheless, let me assure you that DBS staff is meeting the challenge!
I have never been more proud to work with this fine group of professionals than I am now. They are dedicated to our mission. They are working hard to stay focused on what's most important—the consumers and families who rely on our expertise and support.
Much of the news we hear about DARS and HHSC is what has changed or is about to change. I think it's important to remember a few things that haven't changed at DBS. Our staff's commitment to providing quality services certainly tops the list.
Our service delivery programs have not changed. We are still the vocational rehabilitation agency for persons who are blind. We have the same regional structure, same number of counselors, teachers, independent living specialists and support staff members as there were before DARS came into existence. Our Blind Children's Vocational Discovery and Development Program, Transition and Independent Living programs are thriving. We have more and better workshops and activities for children and their families than ever. A recent example is the First Confidence Builder's Conference - Foundation for Life - held in Corpus Christi at the end of July with 30 families and over 140 individuals attending the three day conference. Consumers, parents and siblings had an opportunity to interact, learn and increase their confidence! The Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center (CCRC) continues to do an outstanding job of teaching independence, confidence and how to LIVE with blindness. And our programs to assist employers provide assistive technology and offer employment opportunities through Business Enterprises of Texas (BET) are as strong as ever.
Something else that will not change is our gratitude to friends and colleagues for their ongoing support of our programs. We know the changes we experience often have an impact on others—directly or indirectly. We appreciate everyone's patience and guidance as we work our way through these changing times. And we look forward to working together now and in the future to promote the independence and productivity of Texans who are blind.
Speaking of the future, we have a full agenda in the immediate months ahead. As you may know, we have just started a new state fiscal year—SFY 2005. Like the other DARS divisions, we are likely to face more changes and refinements to strengthen the consolidated agency in the coming year; but it appears most of the major structural changes are behind us.
That's a good thing because it's time to devote attention to the upcoming legislative session and our Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR). For the latter, we have already started meeting with the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) staff to negotiate performance measures, among other things. I will provide more detail about the LAR and other legislative issues as we get beyond this preliminary work.
In the meantime, I'm proud to report that we ended SFY 2004 in good shape in terms of our service numbers. We are still tallying the results, but it appears that we maintained our previous level of service in all programs, and gained ground in a couple. Considering the climate of change and uncertainty our staff was working in, we can be proud that it did not have a negative impact in terms of the number of people we served.
That gives us something to build on as we start this New Year in this new environment. We're steadfast in our determination to continue to strengthen our programs and services to the benefit of Texans who are blind. As an example, we have already started work on a couple of exciting initiatives that may be of interest to you:
In future columns, I'll keep you posted on our progress on these and other initiatives aimed at continuing to provide the best possible services to Texans who are blind. In the meantime, I hope you will feel free to contact me if you have questions or concerns about DBS activities. As always, thank you for your interest in our programs and services.
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Last Revision: September 1, 2010