State Plans for Independent Living Focus Groups

Independent Perspective 1762 with Todd Vaarwerk on the State Plans for Independent Living Focus Groups

Host: Welcome to independent perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Todd Vaarwerk, chief policy officer of WNYIL. And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program, Todd.

Guest: Always good to be here.

Host: And it's although you are here for a great many reasons, when you come in this case, you are the pivotal figure in an event that's going to happen in a relatively short time, which is the State Plan for Independent Living focus groups, sometimes called the SPIL. Separate meetings will take place in the conference rooms of WNYIL at 3108 Main St. in Buffalo, Independent Living of Niagara County at 746 Portage Rd., Niagara Falls, and Independent Living of the Genesee Region, 319 W. Main St. in Batavia, all simultaneously on Tuesday, August 15th, from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., with links via Zoom meeting. If you could tell people that aren't familiar with that, why such things even occur, and what their function is.

Guest: Regular viewers might remember me saying things like the government doesn't spend any money without a plan, and this is the perfect example of that. The federal government gives the state a certain amount every year to spend on Independent Living and disability services in the state. We have to write a plan on how the state is going to spend that money, and the plan is redone every three years. Although this year it's four years because COVID added a year.

Host: And what years is this one covering then?

Guest: This would be covering the next three years from now, so 24, 25, 26.

Host: OK, cause some of the printed material I saw said 25 to 27

Guest: Oh, that could be. Well, it does take a while to get all the comment, and everything done for the event. So that wouldn't surprise me if those numbers were accurate. The purpose of the event we're having is to take comments directly from Western New York consumers about how they would want the state to spend money on Independent Living. What kind of things are a priority for them? What kind of things don't get a lot of money spent on them? Just a couple of examples of the kind of questions we'll be asking.

Host: Oh, and you have the interesting role of coordinating comments from three different locations simultaneously.

Guest: That's correct. Because every location at WNYIL will be doing this hearing at the same time we're going to connect those rooms via Zoom. And you can participate from home using the Zoom link yourself if you'd like. We'll be asking those questions to everybody and getting the answers and then putting those responses together in a document and sending it off to the folks at the statewide Independent Living council.

Host: Ah, and similar things are happening all over the Empire State, are they not?

Guest: Well. I know that the SILC itself is running some statewide focus groups to get direct consumer impact. We've just discovered that over the years that it's good to ask some Western New York focused questions amongst the folks that might want to come.

Host: So that that ensures that things of greater interest to people in the western region are brought to the attention of the different stakeholders, State Independent Living Council and.

Guest: Correct, correct.

Host: And I guess there are a couple of other agencies involved also?

Guest: Well, the other Independent Living Centers that are run by WNYIL in Niagara County and Independent Living in the Genesee Region.

Host: I didn't remember reading something or other about the there was a role that VESID-VR was playing in the process.

Guest: Well, VESID-VR is only the administrative agency that handles the money. We're what's called the 723 State, which means centers for the most part act independently and go directly to the feds for their money. But the only exception for that is this is the State Plan for Independent Living money which needs to go to a designated state unit. That designated state unit in New York is ACCES-VR.

Host: Would you believe we're out of time. I'm sure people will have questions. How can they reach you?

Guest: We're looking forward to seeing them at the focus groups. They can give me a call, 716-836-0822. My extension is 101 or they can e-mail me

Host: Thanks for being with us Todd.

Guest: Always a pleasure.

Host: You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today has been Todd Vaarwerk, chief policy officer of WNYIL, and I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.