|CONCORD, NH – Today, Governor Chris Sununu has announced that the New Hampshire Department of Education has eliminated the waitlist at the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). In 2018, Governor Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut ordered a reorganization of the VR after discovering financial mismanagement. As a result, the Bureau was required to create an Order of Selection waitlist in order to serve the most severely disabled Granite Staters first. As of January 1, 2020, the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation has eliminated the waitlist and is now without any delay providing a full range of services to Granite Staters.
“Two years ago, my administration under the leadership of Commissioner Edelblut uncovered financial mismanagement from previous administrations that forced our state’s vocational rehabilitation program into an order of selection,” said Governor Chris Sununu. “At the time, I pledged that we would do everything necessary to end this waitlist for individuals who are in need of services and that is exactly what we have done. Very few states that have implemented an order of selection have ever ended it. Commissioner Edelblut and his staff accomplished what many thought was not possible and delivered a win for New Hampshire families.”
“Our VR customers rely on the Bureau to help get them into the New Hampshire workforce. It was imperative to provide these services sustainably, so that we can continue to do so in the future,” Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut said. “Now that we have eliminated the waitlist entirely, we can provide services to anyone in New Hampshire who needs them, sustainably and within our budget.”
“I am thrilled that we can move into 2020 with no waitlist for Vocational Rehabilitation Services. Since we began a waitlist in May of 2018, our staff have worked tirelessly to address the waitlist by having planned releases of customers,” said Lisa Hinson-Hatz, Director of Vocational Rehabilitation. “It is so rare for a VR agency to go from having a waitlist to no waitlist in the span of 19 months. Our participants are now working on developing plans for employment in career pathways to improve their independence and financial security.”
The mission of New Hampshire Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation is to assist eligible Granite Staters with disabilities to secure suitable employment and financial and personal independence by providing rehabilitation services.
The reorganization included reducing staff, transferring the Bureau’s headquarters to a state-owned building to save on rent, and consolidating field offices while expanding partnerships with community VR service providers.
The Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation currently has 27 counselors serving 3,017 individuals, with 143 participants currently working. In 2019, the Bureau completed more than 400 cases by successfully moving Granite Staters into employment. Additionally, since July of 2018, the Bureau has served more than 1,500 students with Student Transition Services (STS). Furthermore, five VR counselors provide services to students as young as age 14 to begin to develop their interests and future vocational goals in more than 80 schools across the Granite State.
Deborah Ritcey, Granite State Independent Living (GSIL) said of the announcement:
“GSIL is thrilled to know the Order of Selection has been closed and 2020 is a year of ongoing accomplishments. For every day a New Hampshire resident was on the Order of Selection, was a day further away from a life of independence. GSIL is committed to those residents of New Hampshire living with a disability and look forward to our ongoing collaboration with New Hampshire VR to ensure all residents are able to achieve their potential.”
Jonathan Routhier, Community Support Network Inc, added:
“The community of programs serving individuals with developmental disabilities and acquired brain disorders is very pleased to see the end of the Order of Selection within Vocational Rehabilitation. Working is a vital component of community life, and for those who need assistance to gain valuable career skills, having timely access to vocational supports can mean the difference between living a life of inclusion as opposed to one of isolation and decline. We applaud the efforts of Governor Sununu and the Department of Education to work through the challenges that led to the Order of Selection and to restore full access to these needed services.”