Sunset Review: What is it? How does it impact you?

Every legislative session, the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission is charged with researching various state agencies and finding ways to “eliminate waste, duplication, and inefficiency”. This past August, the commission released a review of their findings for DARS. (You can read the full report here.)

They recommended five big changes:

  • Integrate the Division for Blind Services with the Division of Rehabilitation Services. (Up until this point, this specific population has received social services separately from other disability groups.)
  • Increase case oversight at DARS. (This would mean counselors would be under greater scrutiny about spending and must show proof of successful outcomes.)
  • Require DARS to outsource its independent living services to local Independent Living Centers.
  • Increase collaboration between DARS, Texas Workforce System, and Texas Education Agency.
  • Mandate that DARS design and implement more stringent methods of tracking its performance.

So, at first glance, this looks like a win, win. Cut waste, save tax dollars. However, what is not obvious is how consolidating resources could possibly lead to a reduction of the quality of services provided to d/Deaf consumers.

For instance, the third recommendation is “outsourcing independent living counseling to local Independent Living Centers”. This means that if you now go to your DARS counselor to receive any kind of benefit that helps you live independently (hearing aids, alarm clocks, mobility equipment), under the Sunset Review, you will now go to an ILC to get those services.

Why does this matter? Currently, ILCs serve clients with a wide range of different function and capabilities. Because of this, they may or may not have the cultural and linguistic understanding to provide effective services to d/Deaf consumers. Your ILC counselor may or may not sign, be familiar with Deaf culture, or be up to date on the latest assistive technology.

To some, this doesn’t make much difference. To others, this drastically changes how you access services.

Now, remember, these are only recommendations by an advisory committee – not law. However, we at DAC are waiting to see how the legislature will act upon these recommendations and how we can position ourselves to best advocate for our consumers’ interests.

If you want to be apart of our ongoing efforts, there are several ways you can get involved:

  1. Contact your state representative. Let me them know you’re concerned about the Sunset Review and its implications for d/Deaf consumers. Don’t know who your representative is? Find out!
  2. Educate yourself! Read the Sunset Review and ask your DARS counselor how these proposed changes may alter how you receive services.
  3. Sign up for the DAC newsletter here and be sure to follow this blog. We’ll keep you informed about the latest developments at DARS.

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