PA 13-7—sSB 853

Human Services Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING TECHNICAL AND OTHER REVISIONS TO STATUTES CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF REHABILITATION SERVICES

SUMMARY: This act makes changes to the Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS) reporting requirements. It also (1) eliminates a per person cap on the amount that DORS may spend to provide employment assistance to blind people; (2) increases for wheelchair and certain equipment the amount DORS may spend on purchases; (3) expands Assistive Technology Revolving Fund loan eligibility; (4) authorizes the DORS commissioner to adopt regulations to implement its provisions; and (5) makes several minor, technical, and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2013

2, 5 & 7-10 — REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

The act requires the DORS commissioner to annually submit a report in electronic form to the governor and the Human Services and Appropriations Committees on services the department provided to people who (1) are blind or visually impaired, (2) are deaf or hearing impaired, or (3) receive vocational rehabilitation services. The report must include the data the department provides to the federal government on evaluation standards and performance indicators for the vocational rehabilitation services program. The act eliminates a requirement that DORS annually report such data to the Human Services and Appropriations Committees.

It eliminates requirements that the DORS commissioner annually submit to the governor and General Assembly a report (1) recommending programs needed to assist deaf and hearing impaired people and (2) stating department activities related to services it provided to legally blind or visually impaired people in the state during the prior year.

1 — EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE FOR THE BLIND

Prior law authorized the DORS commissioner to help needy capable blind or partially blind people secure employment in industrial and mercantile establishments and in other paid positions. The act instead conforms the law to practice by authorizing the DORS commissioner to help legally blind people secure employment. (Capable blind and partially blind are obsolete terms. )

The act also eliminates a per-person expense cap of $960 per fiscal year.

6 — PLACEMENT AND ADAPTIVE EQUIPMENT AND WHEELCHAIRS

The act increases the amount that DORS, within available appropriations, may spend to purchase (1) wheelchairs and placement equipment (from $3,500 to $20,000 per unit) and (2) adaptive equipment, including equipment to modify vehicles (from $10,000 to $120,000 per unit). The act removes DORS' authority to purchase modified vehicles costing up to $25,000 for people with disabilities and instead allows the department to purchase the equipment to modify such vehicles for up to $120,000 per unit. In practice, DORS only pays for necessary adaptations and modifications made to a vehicle; it does not purchase the actual vehicles.

3 — ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY REVOLVING FUND

The act conforms law to practice by authorizing the DORS commissioner, rather than the Department of Social Services (DSS) commissioner, to (1) establish and administer the Assistive Technology Revolving Fund and (2) make loans to people with disabilities for certain equipment and services. The act:

1. expands loan eligibility to include senior citizens or the family members of seniors or people with disabilities,

2. allows the loans to be used for assistive technology and adaptive equipment and services instead of just assistive equipment,

3. extends from five to 10 years the maximum loan term and caps the interest at a fixed rate of up to 6%, and

4. removes language allowing the State Bond Commission to set the interest rate. (In practice, DORS sets the interest rate; the Bond Commission has not done so for years. )

The act also requires the DORS commissioner to adopt regulations to implement these changes.

4 — VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION COUNSELORS

By law, DORS assists public school students with disabilities by offering vocational and training services to schools throughout Connecticut within available appropriations. Under prior law, it had to place vocational rehabilitation counselors in the Bloomfield, Hartford, Norwich, West Hartford, and Wethersfield school districts and in any other district the department selected. The act instead requires DORS to provide vocational rehabilitation counselors throughout the state.

RELATED ACT

PA 13-234 ( 108) makes the same changes to the Assistive Technology Revolving Fund as section 3 of this act.

BACKGROUND

DORS

PA 11-44 created a new Bureau of Rehabilitative Services (BRS) and transferred to it functions of the Commission on the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, the Board of Education and Services to the Blind, DSS' Bureau of Rehabilitation Services, and some additional disability-related programs. PA 12-1, June Special Session, renamed BRS the Department of Rehabilitation Services.

OLR Tracking: KGD: DC: PF: ts