Effective Rural Vocational Rehabilitation Job Development – A State of the Science Event

Overview and Background

On July 22, 2017, State Vocational Rehabilitation staff and administrators, researchers and job development providers from across the country participated in RTC:Rural’s State of the Science webinar exploring how Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) payment models influence the availability of job development services in rural areas. The event aimed to help participants understand which models may facilitate better VR outcomes in rural areas, and encourage conversation between VR and providers about how payment models impact job development services.

While VR agencies use a variety of models to deliver job development services, the majority contract with third-party providers to deliver services such as resume development, job coaching, and job placement. There is evidence, however, that different payment models (such as hourly, fee-for-service, or performance-based benchmarks) influence the availability and quality of job development services in rural communities.

Archived Materials

A recording of the webinar and the materials developed for it are available for viewing and download at the following links:


This Rural VR Job Development webinar explored the relationship between VR payment models, geography, and VR outcomes. The webinar was designed to provide current and pertinent information to stimulate a rich discussion among participants. Strategies to address VR outcomes were discussed such as hybrid models that draw upon the strengths of different delivery models and the use of incentives to serve rural areas and “hard cases.”

The webinar featured a review of current research from the Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural), followed by reactions from a panel of experts representing a variety of perspectives within the field of VR service delivery.


Dr. Catherine Ipsen headshot

Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Director of Employment Research, RTC:Rural
Presenter Dr. Catherine Ipsen, Director of Employment Research, leads the Employment & Vocational Rehabilitation program at the Research & Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities. This program explores solutions to assist rural rehabilitation service providers in helping people with disabilities achieve and maintain employment. Panelists represent various perspectives in VR including VR directors, regional staff, job development providers, & research. Dr. Ipsen holds a PhD in Multidisciplinary Studies & an MA in Economics, both from the University of Montana. Dr. Ipsen has over 20 years of experience in disability research and evaluation, with a focus on service delivery strategies to support rural consumers in securing & maintaining employment.

headshot of Betsy HopkinsElizabeth E. Hopkins, M.S., Maine Department of Labor, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation
Panelist Elizabeth (Betsy) Hopkins is the Director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR) at the Maine Department of Labor. The Maine DVR program has 130 staff and assists approximately 10,000 people with disabilities a year to obtain or maintain competitive employment. Betsy has a B.S. in Counseling from New Hampshire College; an M.S. in Education, Rehabilitation Counseling, from the University of Southern Maine; and a post-graduate certificate from San Diego State University in Rehabilitation Administration. Betsy is currently enrolled in her 4th year at the University of Massachusetts Boston as a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Global Inclusion and Social Development (SGISD). As part of the State of the Science webinar, Betsy spoke about Maine’s efforts to implement a hybrid payment model.
headshot of Mimi ShaferMimi Schafer M.S., C.R.C., Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services
Panelist Mimi Schafer has worked in the Vocational Rehabilitation field the last 13 years. She currently serves as a Rehabilitation Area Manager for Minnesota Vocational Rehabilitation Services. In this role, she manages 18 staff across 4 rural offices and 18 rural counties and oversees a Project Search with Avera Hospital located in Marshall Minnesota and two Individual Placement Support (IPS) Projects. Mimi graduated with both a B.S. in Vocational Rehabilitation and an M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. As part of this webinar, Mimi spoke to challenges in serving rural areas due to CARF accreditation requirements, and new challenges introduced by WIOA.
headshot of Joe XavierJoe Xavier, California Department of Rehabilitation
Panelist Joe Xavier is the Director of the California Department of Rehabilitation (DOR), an agency that serves approximately 140,000 people with disabilities each year. Joe’s experience in business and public administration has spanned over 32 years and includes roles as a small business owner, administrator, and advocate. As a former DOR consumer, he has a profound understanding of the opportunities and barriers individuals with disabilities may face on their path to meaningful employment. Joe is a fellow of the Sierra Health Foundation leadership institute, graduate of the National Rehabilitation Leadership Institute, and alumnus of the California Health and Human Services Agency Leadership Academy. As part of this State of the Science webinar, Joe shared his perspectives on what makes a successful VR program in rural areas.
headshot of Jessica AdamsJessica Adams, Community Connections Inc., Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
Panelist Jessica Adams is a Program Manager for Community Connections, Inc., a Developmental Disabilities agency that offers employment, supported employment, and supported living services throughout Idaho. Her experience includes delivery of employment services, community outreach, and program development. In response to opportunities afforded through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, Jessica is currently developing a program to better assist transition aged youth with career exploration and gaining employment experiences. Jessica studied Psychology, Business, Marketing and Education at the University of Idaho. As part of this panel, Jessica shared insights from her experience participating in Idaho’s piloted (and then abandoned) performance-based VR contracted services system.
headshot of Susan FoleyDr. Susan Foley, Institute for Community Inclusion, University of Massachusetts, Boston
Panelist Dr. Susan Foley is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Community Inclusion in the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She leads multiple multi-year national research projects on Vocational Rehabilitation, public policy, and the employment of people with disabilities. These include a multi-state study of Vermont Progressive Employment; a rapid engagement coordinated team approach in Kentucky; and a randomized controlled study to assess which VR practices improve wage outcomes for persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Dr. Foley received her doctorate in Social Welfare Policy from the Florence Heller School of Advanced Social Welfare Policy at Brandeis University. As part of this State of the Science webinar, Dr. Foley shared perspectives based on her experiences directing multiple national centers focused on research, training, and technical assistance for VR agencies.

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