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

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Minutes

December 8, 2011

Due to budget restrictions, this meeting was held by conference call.  The out-of-town members were connected via telephone while the Raleigh-based members met in the conference room of Fisher Building in Raleigh, NC.

Call to Order
The Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee for the Blind meeting was called to order by Chairman Gary Ray at 1:05 p.m. 

A quorum was not present.  Approval of minutes will be held at the next meeting on March 9, 2012.

Present in the Conference Room:   Gary Ray, Daniel Simmons, Eddie Weaver, Debbie Jackson, Barbria Bacon, Maria Spaulding, and Carla Parker. 

Present on Conference Call:  Jennifer Talbot and Gina Powell.

Report of Entities:

Braille Literacy Council—Debbie Jackson
Braille Literacy is alive and well.  The Braille Challenge is February 16, 2012.  So far, 8 kids registered.  The Council is also working on the 2012 Bell Program.  Information will be sent out after the first of the year.    It is planned for the weeks of July16th and the 23rd and will be held on the GMS campus. 

One braille read-in was held in Asheville back in about October and another is being planned in Raleigh in January.  The date has not yet been determined.  It will be held at the Museum of Natural Science.   The Council meets tomorrow afternoon at 3:00.

Regional Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped—Gina Powell
In Carl Keehn’s absence, Ms. Powell presented his report.

Upcoming Closing Dates:

Christmas                                Monday – Tuesday, December 26-27
New Year’s Day                        Monday – January 2, 2012
Martin Luther King Birthday              Monday January 16, 2012


The Search continues for a replacement for the Director.  Deanna Marcum, who oversees the NLS program has announced her retirement to be effective the end of the year and wants to be involved in the selection process before she leaves.  Roberta Shaffer will replace MS Marcum as Associate Librarian for Library Services.

The proposed merger of the Web Braille program into BARD (Braille and Audio Recording Download) is scheduled for early March.  A BARD ID and password will be required to access web braille at that time.  Readers that subscribe to web braille service but that aren’t registered for BARD will have to register to continue using web braille.

Staffing has been a major concern for us.  We got permission to replace the position in patron processing left vacant by the departure of Corrie White.  We received a much larger than normal number of applications for the position and selected an internal candidate, Hal Starling, who is tentatively scheduled to begin on December 15.  This will leave a vacancy in our circulation unit.

Shawn Lemieux-Faircloth, our Volunteer Coordinator, resigned in mid-October to take a position with the West Virginia Library Commission in their Special Services Division.  Her position has just been posted on the Office of State Personnel website and closes the end of December.

Lyman Clayborn, a reader advisor, submitted his resignation the end of October.  He has obtained a position in the library at ITT Tech.  His position is currently vacant and a justification to fill the position is currently being drafted.

Although Gina Powell, our Outreach and Volunteer Services Librarian will be expanding on the following, I did want to highlight some events.  For the third year we joined other North Carolina libraries in offering a reading program for young readers.

We expanded our programming with a reading program for adults, offered during the fall.  To my knowledge, this is the first time that such a program has been offered by the library.

On Friday December 9, the Library for the Blind and the Government and Heritage Library are offering a jointly sponsored program featuring Scott Mason, the Tarheel Traveler.  Again, this is a first for the LBPH.

Our Volunteer Recognition Dinner featured Mary Boone, State Librarian as the guest of Honor.  As she is retiring the end of the month, we had invited the National Library Service to join us in honoring her support of library service to the blind.  Carolyn Sung, Chief of the Network Division joined us for the event.  She took the opportunity to tour the library and meet with individual staff people.  She later told me that she had been informed by the network consultants that the North Carolina program was the best in the Network and she wanted to see it for herself.

Gina asked if there were any questions.  The following questions were asked:

Eddie Weaver:
The web braille users, when they go to the BARD website, will they be able to use the same ID and password if you are already BARD?

Gina Powell:
Yes.  The basic thing that is that if we have people who are using web braille who haven’t signed up for BARD  they will need to sign up for BARD to get that ID, but the ID will be the same.

Eddie Weaver:
Has there been a replacement for Miss Boone?

Gina Powell:
They are working on that.  Carl is part of the interviewing committee and the Secretary got down to the last two candidates and she couldn’t quite make up her mind between the two of them so she decided to invite them out to lunch and have some other people go with them just to see how they interacted and things like that and so that is where he is today and hopefully maybe in another week or so she will make a decision about it.

Gary Ray:
For any of those who are interested, that Tar Heel Traveler is tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. , State Library Building, 109 East Jones. 

Outreach Report—Gina Powell
The first Adult Reading Program was held this fall.  It went from September 1 through November 30.  We had about 50 people who participated.  We now know who the big winners are and the top reader was Tomeka Polk and she read 292 books, and then we had a tie for second place between Gina Brown and Tim Huff and they both read 128 books.  Our fourth person was Deborah Weeden and she read 111 titles and then Jamie Stowe came in at number 5 with 109 titles.  They will be presented with gift cards in varying denominations.  Tomeka will be the big prize winner.  She will get a $50 gift card. 

We also are giving them a cassette where we have downloaded The Tar Heel Traveler Program and will be presenting them with that as well.  At the program tomorrow where Scott Mason, The Tar Heel Traveler, will do his presentation, we are just going to announce who the winners were for the adult reading program.  The CAAC is invited to The Tarheel Traveler.  It will begin at 10:00 a.m. and last til about 11:30.  Refreshments will be provided.  The Library is doing this in conjunction with the Government Heritage Library. 

Does anybody have any questions about the program?

Daniel Simmons:
How many books in what time period?

Gina Powell:
The time period was from September 1 to November 30.  I don’t know what the grand total was that all of them read, although that is a good question.  The top lady read 292 books.

Gary Ray:
There are some people who keep their talking books going from the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night.  Read 1-3 books a day which is about what it would take if you got that.

Gina Powell:
We looked at her past record.  How much she read before.  The contents and was she a heavy reader before so we feel she really did read all those books.

Daniel Simmons:
Do you know what kind of books she read? 

Gary Ray:
If I remember correctly, it was a lot of romance.

Gina Powell:
I would have to pull our patron records to tell you that.  I don’t really know what type of books she read, but I report on that next time.

Debbie Jackson:
Which reading medium did she use, do you know?  Braille?

Gina Powell:
She used audio. 

Eddie Weaver:
Now that we have BARD and Noble, at one point of time you had a certain period of time to have books borrowed and returned and that type thing.  If you download books now instead, are you still tracking that so you can still see that the patron that is borrowing books and that type of thing.

Gina Powell:
Yes.  We know when you downloaded it and the title.   That becomes a part of your record.  So any way a person chooses to read, it will be recorded.  It may be a combination of reading mediums.

The Library held its Annual Volunteer Recognition Dinner in November.  Approximately 120 guests attended.  The Library attended the Lion’s VIP Fishing Tournament in October.  In conjunction with the Triangle Reading Services, we are in the process of planning a radio program about the library.  Carl Keehn and I have been involved in planning that with the people at Triangle Radio Reading and they have conducted several interviews with various people, patrons, and staff. 

We have an issue of our Tar Heel Talk Newsletter that is at the printer right now so we are expecting to get it back in a week or two so it should be coming out by the end of December.

We had an information booth at the Apex Senior Health Fair and Gina Powell did a presentation at the Pinnick Village Retirement Center to their VI group.  There were presentations also at mini centers in Sanford, Raleigh, Wilmington and Black Mountain

Eddie Weaver:
With the recent events in the news about the post office, do you anticipate any changes in the delivery of free matter for the blind?

Gina Powell:
I don’t know what that’s going to mean.  There probably are some changes.  For sure I would say there will probably be delays for some people.  It sounds to me like that if you live in a rural area or sparsely populated area that could be a problem because your post office could close.  I haven’t heard any really good details from National Library Service but as soon we do we know something more substantial we will certainly let you know.    

Chair Ray, welcomed Deputy Secretary, Maria Spaulding to the meeting.

Governor Morehead—Barbria Bacon
The DPI report that came out from the State Superintendent to the State Board of Education was very exciting for us but full of challenges.  The recommendation as I heard it and read it was that we would keep students on all three campuses.  We would consolidate the Administration on the Wilson and the Governor Morehead School campuses.    We are looking for opportunities to lease and generate revenue at all three campuses.

As to leasing GMS buildings, the challenge we have is that none of our buildings are lease-ready.  They are not ready for renters.  They are full of stuff…equipment and supplies and all kinds of things.  The other thing is that as we have declined in population, we have expanded so a lot of space is not being well used and effectively used.  So those are all challenges that we are looking into.

We are actively pursuing any ideas about what possibly would work.  There are real possibilities in my opinion with other school programs.  GMS has $5.5 million dollars to make up for by renting space or any other ideas anyone else may have.

Ms. Bacon also reported that the challenge we went into this year, along with the financial challenge, was a programmatic challenge.  We had the State Needs Assessment that was conducted by DPI and focused on educational outcomes in testing mostly and we still have to do some work with that.  We also need to look at what makes a successful student with a visual impairment.  We have to help people understand what that is.  We also have to partner with DPI to make sure we are seen as a true part of the continual of services and to make sure that works between the LEA and the residential school in determining what works for the best interest of the child.

Staff Development and Training:   We have Kelly Davis over at the school as a temporary principle this year and she’s doing an excellent job in focusing the staff back towards vision.  We are very pleased with those kinds of improvement and we will continue to focus on those kinds of improvement as well as technology and trying to make sure that we have the money to fund the skills and the training to get that done.

Ms. Bacon added that the GMS staff is stepping up by taking on many more responsibilities, doing many different types of things, not necessarily the job that they were hired for and they are doing it.

Any questions?

Maria Spaulding:
Do you have any time tables or anything that you can share with us in terms of the consolidation?

Barbria Bacon:
Yes, January 15th. is the final report that was published and is on-line and will be given to the General Oversight Committee of the General Assembly and then by June 1 we are to come up with a transition plan so everything will be completed by July 1.  

Ms. Bacon thanked everyone for their support during the past several months. 

Mrs. Spaulding commented that the recommendations came out a lot better than she thought they would. 

Chair Ray also expressed gratitude to the Superintendent of Public Schools, June Atkinson. 

Division of Services for the Blind—Eddie Weaver

I’ll start and say that fortunately about the last 6 weeks or so we were given a reprieve and can start hiring again for vacant positions and posting.  We have started that process and we have filled some positions along the way.  We actually had 2 Social Services Supervisors position and 1 District Rehabilitation position that was vacant for a number of months and we hired from within so we have staff that moved from other positions into those positions so that’s always good so of course, their positions are available and those are being posted. We will be recruiting for those. 

Other vacancies are being filled as well.  We have a lot of retirements this month.  We have 3 from our Greenville Office which is unusual.  Between those 3 people, there is probably over 100 years of experience. 

What we have talked about in other meetings is that sometime in January, Maria expects us to get together (us meaning the division directors for Services for the Blind, Deaf and Hard of Hearing and Vocational Rehabilitation) and meet with her.  Mrs. Spaulding will be working with a consulting group, PCG, which is a group that’s been working with DHHS this year and develop a proposed plan as to what this merger would look like and how it would take shape as of July 1 of 2012.

Mrs. Spaulding commented that she hold fasts to her commitment to maintain the identity of the disabilities that we presently have.  That is a long standing commitment that I have voiced and made and that is my objective.

Chair Ray thanked Mrs. Spaulding and Secretary Cansler for their support of maintaining the individual nature of each disability group.


Gary Ray:
There are lots of questions about the proposed merger.  What happens to State Rehab Council?

Eddie Weaver:
I have checked with RSA (Rehab Services Administration) and they are fine with us having separate state plans, us meaning DVR and DSB having separate state plans.

Mr. Weaver updated the committee on the collaborative effort that has been taken place with the other 2 Divisions (DVR and DSDHH) since last September which is the new case management system, BEAM.  We were anticipating going live in January 2012 but that’s just not going to happen.  There have been some delays with the vendors.  It’s taking longer than we anticipated but it’s going to be a very good program when it gets up and running.

All of the positions on the Commission have been filled.  We finally got the last one approved last week even.  So we are glad to have a full Commission again.

Of course the use of the recovery money ended in September and we had some very good programs as a result of the availability of those funds.  We renovated, updated, and modernized the Rehab Center.  We purchased equipment for our Business Enterprise Program for various stands across the state.  We purchased equipment for staff.  We created positions for our transition coordinators.  We added two of those.  That was a very successful outreach event in terms that they actually went to all 100 counties and all the LEAs across the state and talked to the exceptional children’s coordinators or TVI program in all those counties. 

Effective with the March meeting, the travel restriction is being lifted.  Any out-of-town member that can or would like to attend the Commission for the Blind or the Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee meeting in person will be reimbursed for travel.  It is harder to have a success working committee if the committee doesn’t meet face to face.  

North Carolina Association of Education & Rehabilitation of the Blind & Visually Impaired—Daniel Simmons
A few of the Board members of AER expressed concern over the Alumni Association position paper and the feeling is as we read it we said it feels more like an indictment of GMS more than a supporting position and I guess a couple things that really sort of set us off was that just as this one example:  The higher administration is not specifically trained in VI and our question was which administrators would those be?  Would it be OES administrators or are they simply pinpointing the administrators at GMS?  Now if they are pinpointing the administrators at GMS….The most recent administrators at GMS were Dennis Thurman, Barbria Bacon, Keri Lohmeir, Kathy Davis, Kelly Davis and they have all had VI training and vast experience so we had questions about that and just some of the rhetoric we thought was just very inflammatory and maybe if the Alumni Association would review that and maybe tone it down or to clarify which administrators they are referring to, we would appreciate it.

We are ourselves working on a position paper that will be fairly similar to what we put out in September prior to the public forum but I just want to make sure we are supporting the school and not drawing attention to any deficiencies that we may have.

The North Carolina Conference on Visual Impairment and Blindness conference will be held March 16 and 17, 2012 here at GMS campus. 

The second Raising Cane 5K will be held March 31, 2012.  People who are not typically aware of GMS, runners and participants are asking what’s going on with GMS and how can I get involved.  So I’ve had at least 10 or 15 people do that so I feel good that somehow the race had some sort of impact on our participants of making them aware of the plight of GMS.

Prevent Blindness North Carolina—Jennifer Talbot
In addition to our children’s programs, we are seeing a huge increase in demand for voucher programs for children assistance and adults, particularly adults after October 1.  So far we have been able to fill them both, of course, that won’t go on for indefinitely.  One of the people who gives us glasses with Luxottica has been really good and said that we have an unlimited amount, but now they are requiring that we follow up and confirm that the glasses have been received and get a success follow up story from every pair of glasses that we place which is really time consuming.  

On the adult side, we got some more money form KB Reynolds and we are doing some long-rang planning around community health centers.  We’ve been active at 16 sites doing retinal screening for adults in place for known diabetics that have not been able to get an annual eye exam.  We are hoping to come up with a state-wide plan for continuing this service. 

Questions for Jennifer?

Eddie Weaver:
Can you give me a general overview of your criteria for eligibility for glasses and exams.

Jennifer Talbot:
We run three different programs and they are all different.  The VSP Program has stronger eligibility criteria than Luxottica.   Luxottica is a healthy eye program for adults and children.  Guidelines are pretty loose except they require a social security number or something so that’s where our third one comes in and that’s the Donor Docs Program.  Our Donor Docs Program is taking in Hispanics and undocumented people.   But right now we have pretty much everybody qualifying for one or the other until we run out and what we did is that we created a universal application and we put it on our website so that people don’t have to understand the qualifying for each individual plan they can just fill out a universal voucher and we place them with the right program.

Eddie Weaver:
The reason I ask that question is because as you are well aware,  some Medicaid Programs for adults stopped as of October.  We have a Medical Eye Care Program within DSB and that program has limited funding as well, about $2 million dollars. As of November, we changed what we are able to sponsor because we knew that the way the policy was written there’s just no way the $2 million would last very long.

Jennifer Talbot:
At some point in time, we will run out of money as well, but we haven’t changed our criteria.  We are filling everything until we run out.

Eddie Weaver:
We’re not paying for exams and glasses any longer in that program.  What we have gone to is more a treatment program such as cataract surgery and laser treatments and so forth of that nature and the Lions Club has been hit very hard because of the same reasons and they only have $200,000 that they allocate to their program so their funding is going to be limited and run out very quickly as well.

National Federation of the Blind—Gary Ray
The National Federation of the Blind reports that they will be going to DC the first week in February.   Then the National Convention will be in Dallas next July.  The State Convention will be held at Camp Dogwood this year rather than at a hotel.  

Chair Ray Closing Remarks:
Remember, we do not have a quorum so the only new business I had was to ask the CAAC what they wanted to do about the Governor Morehead School decision and/or the merger decision. 

I encourage the voting and reporting entities if they come up with any kind of a position paper, please send it to me and I will see that they go out to all members of the CAAC and the Blind Commission.

Our next meeting is Friday, March 9th. and you will be reimbursed for mileage/hotel/etc.

The meeting adjourned at 2:40 p.m.




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