84th Legislative Session Means Many Changes for DARS Programs

Authors: Scott Bowman, Interim Assistant Commissioner, Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services – Division for Blind Services

Keywords: Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services (DARS), Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), Transition Services, Blind Children’s Program

Abstract: Mr. Bowman reviews the legislative changes for the programs in the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and discusses plans underway to make a successful transition.

As the 84th Legislative session adjourned on June 1 “Sine Die”, otherwise known as the last day of session, a new course was set for the programs administered by the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS).  On September 1, 2016:

  • The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) will operate all of the Vocational Rehabilitation programs (including General, Blind, transition services, and the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center), the Business Enterprises of Texas program, and the Independent Living services (IL) for Older Individuals who are Blind.
  • The Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) will operate the Blind Children’s Program (BCP), Blindness, Education, Screening and Treatment (BEST), IL- Part B, Autism, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services, Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services and Disability Determination Services.

As a part of transition, the affected agencies are required to submit a plan to the Health and Human Services Legislative Oversight Committee, which will review the plan and hold public meetings.  All of the members of the Oversight Committee have been named and will be co-chaired by Senator Jane Nelson and Representative Four Price. The Oversight Committee was created by the Legislature to allow for a more public and thoughtful vetting of the transition process.

There is much to do in order to make this transition a success and to ensure that quality services are continued throughout this process.  To this end, DARS, HHSC and TWC have begun working diligently to map the processes that must occur.  DARS and TWC have held seven public meetings across the state to allow the public to address the transition of programs to TWC.  These were important meetings and we appreciate everyone who took time to attend.  Your participation makes these meetings worthwhile.

TWC and DARS have recently completed a draft of their transition plan. This has been presented to the TWC Commissioners and will be sent to the Oversight Committee in the near future.  HHSC’s version of this plan will be submitted to the Oversight Committee in March.

DARS, HHSC and TWC are committed to making this transition a success; however, we cannot do this without your support. Your thoughts about these programs are important to ensure we continue to serve consumers in the manner best for each consumer.

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