OVR, Center for Living Independently share success stories, discuss challenges

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THE Office of Vocational Rehabilitation and the Center for Living Independently on Saturday highlighted their successes and challenges in implementing programs for people with disabilities in the Commonwealth.

The State Rehabilitation Council and the Statewide Independent Living Council also presented their reports during a joint general meeting at LaoLao Bay Golf & Resort.

The officers of the two councils were then reelected for another term in the new fiscal year.

The State Rehabilitation Council members retained Hilma Castro as chairperson of the executive committee; Preston Basa, vice chairperson; and Emeterio Fitial, fiscal officer.

Statewide Independent Living Council chairperson John Demapan Jr. reports to the members during the joint general meeting of the State Rehabilitation Council and the Statewide Independent Living Council at  LaoLao Bay Golf & Resort on Saturday. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano


Office of Vocational Rehabilitation Executive Director Maryann Borja-Arriola speaks during the joint general meeting of the State Rehabilitation Council and the Statewide Independent Living Council at LaoLao Bay Golf & Resort on Saturday. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano


Center for Living Independently executive director Susan Satur makes a slide presentation during the joint meeting of the State Rehabilitation Council and the Statewide Independent Living Council at LaoLao Bay Golf & Resort on Saturday. Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

The council’s employment and marketing committee chairperson, Irene Holl, was elected as the new secretary after Angelray Guerrero  stepped down.

Robert Mendiola is still the council’s transition and assistive technology committee chairperson while Julia Victoria Benavente remains the quality assurance and quality improvement committee chairperson.

OVR Executive Director Maryann Borja-Arriola is an ex officio member of the council.

Statewide Independent Living Council reelected its officers: John Demapan Jr., chairperson; Connie Atalig, vice chairperson; Susan Satur, sergeant-at-arms; Antonelli Rosario, fiscal director; and Stanislao Benavente, secretary.

Lack of funding

In her report, OVR Executive Director Maryann Borja-Arriola noted the lack of funding and resources, the lack of jobs for people with disabilities, and a limited number of counselor and counselor aides amid increasing consumer caseloads.

Another challenge are the resistance and “attitudinal” behavior of some businesses in hiring people with disabilities, she added.

But efforts to address these challenges are already being carried out, she said.

These include “the improvement of delivery of competitive, integrated employment to OVR clients; the facilitation of seamless transition of students with disabilities to employment or continued education through the provision of Pre-Employment Transition Services or Pre-ETS in coordination with the Public School System’s special education program and the CNMI Transition Coalition; a stronger partnership with employers to identify and provide opportunities for competitive integrated employment to OVR clients including transition students with disabilities; continuous collaboration with the Workforce Investment Agency to prepare clients for employment; improvement of OVR services to effectively meet the needs of clients with significant disabilities; increase in the number of consumers receiving employment services and continuous employer engagement activities.

Among OVR’s recent successes  include its first self-employed consumer, Virgie Camacho, who opened her dress shop in San Roque, and OVR’s consumers on Rota and Tinian who are performing ground maintenance work, Borja-Arriola said.

She also reported that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres and Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios have commended OVR and its staff for their exemplary job in revamping programs to ensure proper and timely delivery of services for people with disabilities.

In addition, OVR received a grant of $86,000  from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Of this amount, $50,000 is a community facilities grant and $36,000 is an economic impact grant.

State Rehabilitation Council

In her report, State Rehabilitation Council chairperson Hilma Castro shared a plan to launch a survey prepared by its employment and marketing committee among employers.

She also mentioned the orientation on Sept. 19 during which they discussed an overview of vocational rehabilitation program and disability awareness and etiquette.

CLI report

Center for Living Independently Executive Director Susan Satur’s  reports highlighted the $9,900 humanitarian grant the CLI received; the trip to Tinian for Pre-Employment Transition last month; CLI’s participation in the ground-breaking ceremony for the new site of the CNMI Office of Transit Authority; the registration of CLI in the Disaster Response Registry; the $110,000 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act grant that was used to buy iPads for consumers and the daily video conferences on the Covid-19 pandemic; training on compliance and monitoring protocol to achieve excellence; the Bookmobile on Tuesdays and Wednesdays; the 200 face masks from Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Humanities Council grant; the new security system and the regular Tuesday meetings with Paula McElwee, technical assistance coordinator for the IL-NET National Training and Technical Assistance Center for Independent Living at Independent Living Research Utilization. McElwee moderates training calls monthly for new CIL executive directors, assistant directors/program managers, financial managers of CILs, designated state entities, and  SILC staff and board members.

SILC report

Statewide Independent Living Council chairperson Demapan reported that on Sept. 14, he conducted a general meeting with members, the OVR director and her staff. He said they discussed OVR’s client success rate data and how many were deemed qualified to receive services, and how much was spent on items for clients to ensure a “smooth employment journey.”

Right now, SILC is seeking ideas or suggestions for a successful observance or participation in the 2021 International People with Disabilities Day.

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