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A Publication about Visual Impairments and Deafblindness for Families and Professionals

Keisha Rowe, Director, Office of Independence Services Health and Human Services Commission

Abstract: This article outlines the program services provided by the Rehabilitative and Independence Services section of HHSC.

Keywords: HHSC, services, disabilities

The Blind Children’s Program is part of the Texas Health and Human Services system, which is dedicated to helping millions of people each year. For people who need medical care, food for their children, dignified care in a nursing home or an assisted living facility, or independent living resources – HHS is ready to help.

More than 3.4 million Texans have a disability. HHS programs offer an array of services to meet the needs of people with disabilities, including providing guidance and referral expertise to a family whose child was just diagnosed with a disability; helping people find and secure independent housing; working with community partners to create jobs; and locating service providers who provide in-home care in order to help keep people out of institutions.

HHS’s Health, Developmental and Independence Services programs offer information and support in the following areas:

  • Acquired brain injury
  • Autism
  • Blindness and visual impairment
  • Comprehensive rehabilitation services
  • Deaf and hard of hearing services
  • Early childhood intervention
  • Employment services
  • How to pay for services
  • Intellectual or developmental disabilities– long-term care
  • Medical or physical disabilities
  • Person-centered planning
  • Service coordination

HDIS’s Rehabilitative and Independence Services is home to numerous programs to Texans with disabilities.

Blind Children’s Program

The Blind Children’s Vocational Discovery and Development Program helps people 22 and younger who are blind or severely visually impaired learn the skills required for personal independence, potential employment and integration into their community. BCP’s comprehensive habilitative services enhance children’s ability to develop skills comparable to those of their sighted peers. It also helps children achieve financial self-sufficiency as adults. Blind Children Program’s specialists serve a dual role as case managers and direct service providers.

Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment Program

Blindness Education, Screening and Treatment services reduce the incidence of blindness throughout Texas. The program encourages people to protect their eyesight by seeking professional care if they are at risk for potentially serious eye conditions. The program provides medical treatment to people without health insurance, helping to prevent blindness. The BEST program contracts with the agency Prevent Blindness for screening services and collaborates with ophthalmologists for treatment services.

Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services

The Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services program fills a service gap for intensive rehabilitation services for people who have sustained a traumatic brain injury, traumatic spinal cord injury or both. The program helps people live independently in their homes and communities. It focuses on three main areas that affect both function and quality of life:

  • Mobility 
  • Self-care
  • Communication skills

Services are provided in the consumer’s home, a hospital, a residential facility, an outpatient clinic or in a combination of settings to encourage the maximum flexibility in service and independence. Depending on the person’s needs, different program services are available, such as in-patient comprehensive medical rehabilitation services, post-acute rehabilitation services -- both residential and non-residential -- and outpatient therapies and supports.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services oversees and manages 11 programs that advance opportunities for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. These programs reduce societal and communication barriers to ensure full and equal opportunity to participate in public life. The program also raises public awareness of the needs of people who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as the development and coordination of programs, policies and regulations.

Guardianship Services Program

The Guardianship Services Program serves adults with diminished capacity who are substantially unable to provide for themselves and have been referred by the Department of Family and Protective Services. It also serves youth moving out of DFPS conservatorship. HHSC is appointed guardian of people affected by abuse, neglect, self-neglect and/or exploitation.

For adults to be referred by DFPS for guardianship, they must either have a disability or be 65 or older and have been abused, neglected or exploited. For youth moving out of conservatorship, they must be in CPS conservatorship and appear to meet the adult definition of incapacity.

Independent Living Services

The Independent Living Services program enhances the quality of life of people with significant disabilities, including those who are blind or visually impaired. It promotes independence in the home and community and provides access to rehabilitative services and supports. The program places special emphasis on helping people accomplish daily tasks independently; participate in their favorite activities; improve communication and transportation access and mobility; gain a better understanding of their disability; and increase their self-confidence, access to the community and participation in society.

Surrogate Decision-making Program

The Surrogate Decision-making Program authorizes family members and surrogate consent committees to provide written informed consent for people who receive community-based services, lack the capacity to make treatment decisions for themselves and have no legal guardian. This consent applies to the areas of major medical treatment, major dental treatment, use of psychoactive medication and use of highly-restrictive procedures. Volunteers make decisions for people who are living in community-based intermediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities or related conditions.

To learn more about these and other programs offered at HHSC, please visit the HHSC website at: https://hhs.texas.gov/