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

Commission for the Blind Meeting Minutes

June 13, 2009

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, Invocation, and Pledge of Allegiance

Chair Beth Butler called the 298th meeting of the NC Commission for the Blind to order at 10:05 a.m. on Saturday, June 13, 2009.

The following members were present in the conference room:  Debbie Jackson and Julie Kagy.  Others present were Mary Flanagan, Joann Samuels Wood, Jan Fesperman, Dr. Bernstein, Cynthia Joos, Diane Wormsley, Gary Ray and Carla Parker.

Members connected by conference call were:  Beth Butler, Allen Casey, Anita Heath-Cunningham, Tommy Jenkins, Ruth Haines, Kathy Brack, Richard Oliver, and Terri Meyers.  Others connected by phone were John Miller and David Arthur. 

Chair Beth Butler offered the invocation.

Chair Beth Butler welcomed everyone and reminded members of the Ethics Awareness and Conflict of Interest order.  If any board member has any known conflict with respect to any matters coming before the Board, please identify the conflict or appearance of conflict and refrain from any undue participation in the particular matter involved. 

Approval of Minutes

A motion was made by Ruth Haines, seconded by Richard Oliver, and carried to approve the minutes of the March 14, 2009 meeting. 

COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Public Relations Committee—Kathy Brack

No Report

Intercommittee Relations Committee—Julie Kagy and Ruth Haines

No Report from the Intercommittee Relations Committee.

Ruth Haines reported that the NC Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) is now 501 (c) (3) which means  if someone makes a donation to SILC, the donor can claim it on their taxes.    SILC now has an office in Raleigh on Oberlin Road and have hired an Executive Director, Mr. Chris O’Hanlon.    

Advocacy Committee—Tommy Jenkins

Mr. Jenkins has been working with Gary Ray in finding out the particulars about the legislature’s recommendation that the Governor Morehead School be closed and services combined with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing school.  Gary Ray will provide more information during his report. 

Personnel Development Committee—Julie Kagy and Diane Wormsley

Diane Wormsley provided an update on the VITP at North Carolina Central University.  The VITP is going very well.  The position that Julie Barden vacated in March has been recruited for and the top candidate will be in town next week. 

The summer program has over 8 students in each class and that is very good for a VI Program.  The program currently has 26 active students. 

As of August 1, the program received a grant from RSA that would provide tuition funding for students who are in the program to work in Orientation and Mobility with adults or teenagers of transition age.  This will also build up the Vision Rehabilitation Therapy Program that has been developed. 

The Low Vision Clinic is moving to the 2nd floor of Lineberry Hall next week.  The clinic will be accessible to the classroom and students can observe low vision examinations. 

Director’s Report—Debbie Jackson

Ms. Jackson referred to Mrs. Mary Flanagan, Assistant Director, to discuss a rule change.  Mrs. Flanagan explained that DSB is planning to use some of the American Recovery for Reinvestment Act (ARRA) money to purchase technology for our consumers without regard to economic need.  Currently, there is an economic needs test.   There are 2 ways to change a rule:  1) emergency ruling; 2) special provision—through legislation.  DSB has completed and submitted the special provision.  As a backup plan, an emergency rule has been developed.  For emergency rules, the Commission members must vote on acceptance, the rule must be published on the Office of Administrative Hearings website and a public hearing will be held. 

The language of the rule change consists of removing the economic needs requirement for the purchase of technology for individuals who have an IPE in place and DSB would also purchase books and supplies for individuals who are going on to post-secondary education.  This will be in place until the federal recovery money expires (2011).  This will be in effect when the budget is passed. 

Chair Beth Butler wanted to assure that we avoid any perceived conflicts of interest.  Since some of the Commission members are legally blind, they could benefit from this if they were to become unemployed.  Debbie Jackson did not see this as an ethics issue.  The general statute requires that a majority of the members of the Commission for the Blind be legally blind and at any given time, any person could benefit. 

A motion was made by Beth Butler to approve the rule change as presented, seconded by Kathy Brack, and all were in favor of changing the language of the economic needs test. 

Debbie Jackson updated the Commission on budget issues.  DSB has not actually spent any recovery money yet.  The budget codes and funds have been established.

DSB is planning to hire a couple of part-time temporary employees to work with people who are applying for SSI or SSDI to help them better understand the services that DSB can provide and any impact this would have on their SSI/SSDI.  RSA recommended that DSB work more with these people.  These positions will be funded with the Recovery money.  Plans are now that one temporary person will be in Raleigh and the other in the Winston-Salem or Charlotte office. 

A budget has not been approved yet.  As of now, the Senate proposes that DSB will lose:  3 vacant positions, $150,000 in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, and inflationary increases.  The House proposes that ½ position will be lost, lose some money in the operating budget (travel, supplies), $150,000 reduction in the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, reduce the amount paid to providers, and lose the inflationary increases.  The proposals change constantly.  When the budget is finalized, Ms. Jackson will e-mail the Commission with the final outcome. 

Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee—Gary Ray

In the Senate version of the proposed budget, a reduction in the capacity at the deaf schools was mentioned.   The House version was different.  OES and DHHS were asked to respond to several different options regarding reducing the amount that is spent to educate the deaf and blind.  Approximately $30 million is spent ($9.2 is Governor Morehead School).  Of the options that were presented, OES recommended that the School for the Deaf in Morganton be closed and merged with the School for the Deaf in Wilson—leaving one school for the Blind in Raleigh and one school for the deaf in Wilson.  Another option was to merge all of the schools to the Governor Morehead School campus. 

In the House Appropriations Subcommittee for DHHS, the proposal was to close the Governor Morehead School for the Blind and the students would be moved to the deaf schools in either Wilson or Morganton.  An amendment was added that changed the responsibility for developing the closure plan from OES to a special task force to be appointed by the Senate, House, and Governor.

The Consumer and Advocacy Advisory Committee has voted to advise the legislature that this is not in the best interest of the blind and visually impaired children of North Carolina.  The CAAC will develop a resolution to this effect and send this to the legislature.  Mr. Ray encouraged the Commission for the Blind to take a position on this proposal and send it to the legislature. 

A motion was made by Beth Butler and seconded by Tommy Jenkins that the Advocacy Committee within the Commission for the Blind develop a position paper or resolution opposing the closing of the Governor Morehead School for the Blind.   This position paper will be shared with the rest of the Commission members and then forwarded to the House and Senate Conference Committee conferees.    

Mr. John Miller offered his assistance by contacting the State Council Chair requesting the Lions develop a resolution also. 

There will be a march of the blind and visually impaired in front of the legislature on Wednesday, June 17, from noon til two. 

Professional Advisory Committee—Cynthia Joos

On April 1, the Medical Eye Care Program resumed services of providing basic eye exams, eye medication, and emergency surgery/treatment.  As of June 11, expenditures were $1,851,000.

DSB is recruiting for the vacant Nursing Eye Care Consultant position in Charlotte.

The Professional Advisory Committee will discuss what types of services we may be offer next fiscal year.

Old Business

None

New Business

Jay Williams’ term expires in June and he will be replaced by Kim Lambert.  Ms. Lambert will represent the American Indians which is a requirement under Section 121 of the Rehabilitation Act. 

Adjournment of Commission Meeting

A motion was made by Ruth Haines, seconded by Richard Oliver, and carried to adjourn this meeting at 11:30 a.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Beth Butler, Chair, Commission for the Blind                      
Debbie Jackson, Director, Division of Services f/the Blind 

 

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