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NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Services for the Blind

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

March 9, 2012

The Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee (CAAC) for the Blind met in the conference room of the Fisher Building on Friday, March 9.  The budget now allows for out-of-town members to attend in person if they wish and get reimbursed.  If not, members may join the meeting by conference call.

Call to Order

The CAAC for the Blind meeting was called to order by Chairman Gary Ray at 1:05 p.m. 

Present in the Conference Room:   Gary Ray, Senator Bill Purcell, Debbie Jackson, Eddie Weaver, Barbria Bacon, Vickie Smith, James Benton, Karen Clark, Bruno Toffolo, William Tubilleja, Carl Keehn, and Carla Parker.

Present on Conference Call:  Tim Jones, Steve Harris, and Allen Casey, Lawrence Carter, Ann Avery, and Jennifer Talbot

Gary Ray, Chair, informed the Committee that the reporting entities will be out of order today since some of the members need to leave early.  The Chair gave an overview of today’s discussions—1) Future of the residential schools.  As you know, the NC legislature voted that one of the residential schools would be closed by the Department of Public Instruction--School for the Deaf in Morganton, Eastern School for the Deaf in Wilson or the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh.  After many discussions and public hearings, it was agreed that GMS would be administratively closed.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction, June Atkinson, believed there should be a residential program for the blind in Raleigh so she figured out a way to meet the legislative mandate and keep a residential program on the Governor Morehead School.  The administrative functions of GMS will be merged with the Eastern School for the Deaf.   Ms. Atkinson believes she has the support of both the House and Senate in this endeavor.  The legislature has the cut the budget by $5.5 million dollars for the 3 schools.  GMS will be leasing space to Wake County Schools to make up some of this $5.5 million.  Wake County Schools will be leasing some of GMS’s buildings and bring approximately 200 students to the campus.  The other 2 schools are looking at ways to lease space and other cutbacks.

The Governor Morehead School Human Rights Committee met last night and raised concerns about how GMS is going to handle 200 sighted kids and 50 visually impaired kids on this campus.  The Human Rights Committee voted to draft a letter to Superintendent Atkinson and Mr. Tata to raise their awareness of these issues and to assist them as much as possible.

The blind community and advocacy groups will support the Superintendent‘s efforts to keep a residential program on the GMS campus. 

Bruno Toffolo’s group, GMS Friends, have concerns of the definition of a satellite program.  GMS Friends have expressed this concern to legislators and others.  GMS Friends are willing to assist in making this residential satellite program succeed on the Governor Morehead School campus.

Senator Purcell suggested making contacts with the House and Senate DHHS Appropriations Committee and raising their awareness of our concerns.

Chair Ray thanked Senator Purcell for his support throughout the years.

Governor Morehead School—Barbria Bacon

Mrs. Bacon reported that this year has been exciting but challenging in working with the Education Oversight Committee and LEA’s.  We have had many discussions regarding what will be best for the students.  The Eastern School for the Deaf will offer courses in the Science technology, engineering, and math.  The Morganton School for the Blind will offer vocational programs. 

There has been a concerted effort to keep visually impaired students here on the Governor Morehead School campus, in a more urban area than a rural area.   The campus will be open for other activities.  The YMCA will hold a week-long summer camp and they will utilize the track, gym, and the upper field.  This is a good time for us to merge the education of the blind with public school systems and add additional opportunities for students.  There are a number of good things that can come from this merge.

Elected Committee of Vendors—Tim Jones

Mr. Jones thanked Senator Purcell for his dedication to the visually impaired and blind of North Carolina.

Senator Corman from Ohio introduced an amendment to the transportation bill.  Amendment 1724 would give the State’s the authority to commercialize the rest areas on interstate highways throughout the country.  If this is passed, it would be devastating to the blind and visually impaired citizens whom support their families with these vending locations.  I am encouraging members of the CAAC and anyone else interested to make phone calls to Senator Burr and Senator Hagen’s offices and ask them to oppose Amendment 1724 introduced by Senator Corman. Chair Ray will send the information to Carla and she will email pertinent information to members of the CAAC.   Question was raised regarding who owns these machines at the rest areas? The State of North Carolina owns these machines.

Senator Hagan’s telephone number is 202-224-6342.
Senator Burr’s telephone number is 202-224-3154.

The National Federation of the Blind has a couple of legislative issues they will be addressing—1) funding for Newsline and 2) Governor’s Executive Order 85, Section 7b.  NFB will be talking to legislators trying to get someone to rescind this order.  Fiscal research is convinced that this will save a lot of money.  We are convinced it will not save money.

NFB’s State Convention will be held at Camp Dogwood, September 6-9.

The Federal Convention will be held the week of July 4 in Dallas, TX. 

Disability Rights NC (DRNC)—Vickie Smith

Disability Rights NC has been very busy.  Currently, there are 5 federal lawsuits pending.  None of these directly impact the blind and visually impaired.   One lawsuit may have some impact on the blind and it is about personal care services.  It challenges the State’s move to raise a higher level of need for people receiving personal care support if they live in their own home rather than living in an adult care home.  Personal Care activities are typically activities of daily living such as bathing and mobility.  DRNC prevailed in the Eastern District.  The judge issued a preliminary injunction stating the State should not have a lower standard of living for adults who choose to remain in their homes and live independently than adults who live in an adult care home or other facility.    The State appealed this decision to the 4th circuit and asked the 4th circuit to “stay” that decision and they prevailed.   This means that unless the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services allow a service that is supposed to expire on May 1 to continue beyond May 1, then there will no personal care services for anyone.

Two other lawsuits relate to the State’s transition to a manage care model of providing services under Medicaid. 

There is also an employment discrimination lawsuit. 

We continue to monitor conditions in facilities.  Last year, DRNC was in over 100 facilities including the 3 residential/campuses.  The schools are their priority.  DRNC attempts to attend all Human Rights Committee meetings.  If we find concerns, they try to resolve them with the Director or Principal.  The only concern we have about the transition from DHHS to DPI is we need a formal and final abuse/neglect reporting mechanism. 

DRNC cannot use any federal dollars to lobby at the General Assembly so any presence we have downtown is from donations and other fund raising activities. 

Ms. Smith reminded the group that DRNC is coming up on its’ Fifth Birthday and everything they have done they had to learn how to do it.  She is extremely proud of the staff at DRNC. 

Merger--Chair Ray and others are looking for someone from the controlling party to introduce the legislation to do away with Executive Order 85.  Senator Purcell will work with Mr. Ray with the Newsline bill. 

Approval of Minutes

A motion was made by Allen Casey, seconded by William Tubilleja, and carried to approve the minutes of September and December 2011 meetings.

Reporting Entities (continued)

Prevent Blindness North Carolina—Jennifer Talbot

Everything is running pretty smooth at Prevent Blindness.  There was extra money given to DPI for equipment for the Exceptional Children’s Program.  Prevent Blindness now has equipment in all 100 counties and training was provided to two people on each piece of equipment.  In the future, training will be provided to other staff in the counties. 

Prevent Blindness is completing the third year as a pilot State for maternal and child health bureaus Center of Excellence for Early Childhood vision screenings.  We are now in the process of doing our renewal grant for the next three years.  We were fortunate to have three doctors from Duke to participate and make national recommendations for early childhood equipment, data collection, and performance measures. 

Regional Library for the Blind & Physically Handicapped—Carl Keehn

Upcoming Holidays

Friday             April 6             Good Friday
Monday          May 28            Memorial Day


In mid-December, the National Library Service announced the phasing out of analog service over the next three years.  They have assigned a quota to each library, which mandates that each year a quarter of the cassette collection will be withdrawn so that by the end of 2015 no further cassettes will remain in inventory.  Withdrawn materials are disposed of according to NLS policy and are sent to an NLS contractor for recycling.

The Library of Congress announced that a new director has been selected to replace Kurt Cylkie, who retired in February 2011.  Presently the position is filled on an interim basis by Ruth Scoville.  Karen Keninger will begin as Director on March 26.  Previously, since 2008, Karen Keninger has served as Director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.  Prior to that, she was the Regional Librarian for the Iowa Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, for 8 years.

North Carolina has a new State Librarian as of February 1, Cal Shepard, who replaced Mary Boone when she retired.  Cal has previously worked in the State Library as the director of Library Development and is very familiar with the LBPH program.  More recently she was a consultant working with LSTA grant funding, at Lyrasis in Atlanta Georgia.

The Friends of the Library commissioned the Triangle Radio Reading Service to produce and broadcast a 30 minute program on the Library for the Blind.  The agreement established that TRRS would produce the program and would broadcast it at least twice per month.  In addition they would make the program available for rebroadcast without charge, to other radio reading services in the state.  TRRS will also broadcast a series of spots promoting the program and the library service.  The program is also available for streaming from the Triangle Reading Service website and can be streamed or downloaded from the Library website.

More recently the program was recognized by the National Library Service as a “Best Practice” in publicizing the NLS service.

Staffing continues to be a critical issue as position vacancies and long term illnesses has plagued us.  Currently we have staff vacancies in the Volunteer and Outreach unit, the Public Service Unit and the Circulation unit.  Compounding the staff shortage in the Circulation Unit is the absence of the Circulation supervisor, due to a long term illness. 

Interviews have been held for the Volunteer Coordinator position and the reader advisor position.  The circulation unit vacancy has been prolonged as the result of the illness of the Circulation supervisor as he was the hiring supervisor for that position.  Since then, I have been appointed as hiring supervisor so that I can access the online applications and get the hiring process back on track.

Division of Services for the Blind—Eddie Weaver

Mr. Weaver along with Jan Withers and Linda Harrington have met with Maria Spaulding, DHHS Deputy Secretary, about the merger.  Mrs. Spaulding hopes to have a plan in place by April. 

DHHS has a new Secretary, Mr. Al Delia.  Mr. Delia was appointed February 1 and he will serve until a new Secretary is appointed at the end of the year.  Mr. Delia is very interested in meeting our staff and he will be visiting the Rehabilitation Center and attend one of our Leadership Meetings. 

Budget—DSB’s part of the reductions set by DHHS is approximately $315,000.  We have submitted our ideas on how to meet this reduction.  DHHS has not responded to these ideas.   The short session of the legislature will begin in May.  This year the House and Senate budget will be completed before the Governor’s budget. 

There will be some restructuring of the DSB offices on the GMS campus.  The vacant space will be leased. 

The annual SAVVY program at the Rehabilitation Center will be held July 8-August 3.  The program is for visually impaired students.  It consists of 3 components:  1) College Prep, 2) World of Work, and 3) Youth Transition. 

Chair Ray thanks Mr. Weaver for his efforts in attempting to make the Wi Fi in the conference room just as accessible to blind and visually impaired as it is to sighted individuals.  Due to policies from DHHS’s privacy and security office, each office is required to set restrictions on State-owned servers.  Mr. Weaver is continuing to work with DHHS and DIRM to provide access to the Wi Fi for the devices that the visually-impaired use.

Another DHHS privacy and security requirement is to have a sign-in register at the front door.  Chair Ray is concerned about the blind and visually-impaired being aware that it is there.  Weaver will convey this to the DHHS privacy and security office and ask for suggestions on how to make this accessible to all people.

NC Council of the Blind—Allen Casey

Mr. Casey recently returned from a legislative seminar in Washington D.C.  They were able to meet with 4 members of Congress. 

Two presentations were particularly interesting:  1) Commercialization of the interstate rest areas; 2) TSA discussed a new program that people can get pre-approved and exempted from many of the security measures.  The blind and visually impaired sometimes have a difficult time understanding exactly what the security officers want them to do, i.e. Guide dogs.  There are inconsistencies of procedures from one airport to another airport and this makes it even more difficult.

The State Convention will be held in Greensboro, NC, September 28-30.

North Carolina Association for Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired—William Tubilleja

NCAER will have a business meeting during the Super Conference March 16-17.  All new officers will be elected.  The Super Conference will be a little different this year.  Along with the professionals that are normally on campus, we will have a youth group from NFB that will be organizing the vendor session.  We will also have two parent groups that will be conducting their own events.  

NCAER and BANA (Braille Authority of North America) asked that each State Chapter to appoint a liaison for BANA.  This person will be an advocate for braille and convey information from the State Chapter down to the professional level. 

The Two-Year National Conference for AER will be held in Belview, Washington.  Four NC AER members will be attending. 

Due to the economy, “Insight”, a journal that AER produces four times a year, will now only be available in a digital format and will be produced three times a year. 

North Carolina Association of Workers for the Blind—Ann Avery

The next meeting of the North Carolina Association of Workers for the Blind will be held August 3-5 on the GMS campus. 

GMS Alumni—Lawrence Carter

The Alumni’s convention will be held August 3-5.  The majority will be held at the Garner Road campus.  Members will be staying at the Holiday Inn North. 

Braille Literacy—Debbie Jackson

Braille Literacy is involved in 3 events:  1) Braille Read-In which was held at the Museum of Science, 2) Braille Challenge—one was held on the GMS campus and had 12 students to participate and other was held in Catawba County with 9 students participating, 3) BELL Program—This is a summer program for kids and will be held on GMS campus from July 16-27, Monday through Friday. 

Old Business:

New Business:  Karen Clark reported that the Alliance-Disability Advocates office has moved to 505 Oberlin Road, Suite 148, Raleigh, NC.

William Tubilleja reported that GMS Outreach has moved out of the Penland Building and into the Department of Public Instruction’s building in downtown Raleigh.  Their address is 301 N. Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC 27601.

The next meeting of the Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee for the Blind is Thursday, June 14, from 1 til 3 p.m.


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