Sunday, January 8, 2017

Vocational Rehab, Part Deux

Last October I published some observations on Vocational Rehabilitation Questions. I received a response from a reader, Pat Studenroth, at the New York State Workers' Compensation Board. Those thoughts are interesting. With permission, they are reproduced here (all the colored text is direct quote). 

Having read the Vocational Rehabilitation question posed by David Langham, I was compelled to respond on behalf of that profession. I was appalled to read that some agencies were basing their success on the number of interviews and evaluations performed. Interviews and evaluations are useless unless they lead to viable employment. I suspect the person to whom he spoke worked for a private agency, as the state agencies base their success on the number of successful placements.

I am a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and hold a Masters in counseling psychology, with a focus on working with the disabled. I also hold a CAS and am a LMHC. I have worked as a vocational counselor in the field for over 18 years. Please allow me to explain what a real VRC (Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor) does for their client.

First, a VRC must have completed a Master’s program with a CORE, (Council On Rehabilitation Education), curriculum on rehabilitation counseling. Once graduated, these individuals are eligible to sit for the “CRC”, the nationally recognized Certified Rehabilitation Counselor exam. Not all take the exam, but the state run agencies require their VRC’s to be eligible to sit for it. This ensures the highest level of training in working with individuals with disabilities/injuries.

Using New York State’s vocational agency for the disabled (ACCES-VR, formerly VESID) as an example, Federal guidelines require tracking of: the number of participants served, the number of plans written, the severity of the disability, and the number of successful placements (measured by a minimum of 90 days of employment). For the last several years that agency has placed over 12,000 individuals every year.

The success of vocational rehabilitation hinges on four things:

1. The VRC’s ability to connect with the individual and create an alliance.
2. How well new counselors are trained when entering the job.
3. The availability of specialized placement counselors with experience working with a disabled or injured population (these can also be VRC’s).
4. Communication with treatment providers, employers, and any other stakeholders involved in the participant’s case.

In 2009, Washington State launched a pilot program to determine if early intervention (utilizing their VRC’s) and provision of expanded services resulted in more positive outcomes and reduction of expenses.

The program was so wildly successful that they now have over 110 VRC’s across the state.

- The average life of a case dropped from four years to one.
- There was a significant drop in litigation
- They realized over $600 million dollars in reduced costs to WSWCB

That is what a good VRC can do for their agency, and for the job seeker.

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