BOSTON (SHNS) – The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission has been working towards empowerment and independence for people with disabilities since 1956, but the agency is due for a rebrand after 67 years.
Commissioner Toni Wolf on Tuesday walked the Joint Committee on Ways and Means through the things that the $88.9 million MRC budget proposed by Gov. Maura Healey would allow the commission to do: ramp up support for independent and assisted living, hire and retain workers who focus on helping job-seekers with disabilities, and continue to build out a program that pairs young adults with a team of mentors, counselors, benefit advisors and employment specialists to help them navigate their career path.
The governor’s plan represents an increase of $10.35 million or 13 percent budget increase, including a boost for vocational rehabilitation. Wolf said that the agency “continues to push boundaries, going beyond service delivery to create innovative partnerships to meet the evolving needs, interests, and aspirations of individuals with disabilities and their families.” “So as you are hearing, MRC is changing. And not that our vision necessarily or core is changing, but the way we talk about ourselves is changing. And with that, we also want to be able to, at this point in time, change the name of our organization,” she said.
But while MRC has talked to some people it serves and has “conducted a number of research activities” to figure out how to make the agency’s new name “current to the next individual that wants to walk in our door,” Wolf said Tuesday that she was “not yet ready to be able to share that name.”
During the question portion of Wolf’s testimony, Rep. Sally Kerans mentioned a constituent living independently who “couldn’t get job help” and asked Wolf about the gap between the need and what MRC is able to provide.
“It’s a great question, which is why we’re really excited about the $3.8 [million] increase in our services, particularly with employment and training. Our caseload is too high and so we don’t have the availability to really spend the time to truly engage people. And that’s part of the work that has to happen, is engage with individuals,” Wolf said. “This will be the first time that we’ve asked at MRC for state dollars to really look at caseload size. And so I really am eager to have you support the governor’s budget.”