What eventually became the Department of Rehabilitation and Health Services was first established in 1967 as the Center for Rehabilitation Studies (CRS). At this time, the primary purpose of the center was to provide continuing education to rehabilitation facility personnel under a federally funded grant from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA). While the department has grown and transformed over the years, UNT continues to be a leader in providing furthered education to rehabilitation professionals since its inception.
With funding from the Texas Developmental Disabilities Council (TDDC), Texas WorkNet was developed in 1988, providing supported employment training to providers all over Texas. In 1990, UNT received a grant from RSA to provide supported employment training to providers within the five-state region. In 1995, UNT collaborated with the University of Arkansas to develop the first regional continuing education program for community providers.
In 2008, the department launched University of North Texas Workplace Inclusion & Sustainable Employment (UNTWISE), a continuing education program for rehabilitation practitioners in a variety of settings. In 2010, the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) contracted with UNTWISE to develop online training that is required for all Employment Service Providers (ESP) in Texas. In addition, UNTWISE offers approximately 40 contact hours annually of continuing education through webinars and online courses on current topics in the field.
Developing Competent Professionals
In 1972, RSA funded an undergraduate rehabilitation program at UNT. The original 18-hour semester program was initially listed as a psychology degree with a rehabilitation minor. In 1977, the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in rehabilitation and the first student graduated with this degree in August, 1978. More than 35 years later, this is a vibrant degree with over 175 majors. In 1998, we began offering a minor in addiction studies. This remains a strong emphasis in our academic program.
In 1978, the coordinating board approved a master’s in rehabilitation services administration with major concentrations in vocational evaluation, work adjustment and rehabilitation administration. A concentration in rehabilitation counseling was approved in 1980. In 1999, we entered into a Consortium for Distance Education in Rehabilitation (CDER) with San Diego State University and Georgie State and began offering one of the first fully online master’s programs in rehabilitation counseling in the U.S. To date, we have graduated over 500 master’s level students. We continue to have a strong on-campus program as well as a challenging online program.
Promoting Best Practices in Service
In 1975, CRS received funding from the Texas Rehabilitation Commission (TRC, now the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, DARS) to renovate Oak Street Hall to provide a hands-on laboratory for students involved in the rehabilitation academic programs. The state-of-the-art Vocational Evaluation Center was developed, as well as a work adjustment program. In 1989, TRC provided start-up money to develop the first supported employment program for individuals with psychiatric disabilities in the state. In 1990, CRS received funding for a project with industry grant that was designed to provide employment assistance to individuals 55 and over who had some type of disability. The grant continued until 1995 when funding was limited to large metropolitan areas. We began offering biofeedback training and in 1992, the Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse provided start-up money for neurofeedback research and training for those with substance abuse and other disabilities. Subsequently, the department’s neurotherapy lab became nationally known for its educational and clinical programs in Neurofeedback. In 2009, Meadows Foundation provided seed money for Job Fit, an employment program to assist persons with psychiatric disabilities.
Research and Knowledge Translation
Throughout its history, the department has been involved in cutting edge research that enhances services for people with disabilities. However, the focus has always been on including the end user while ensuring a holistic approach. Research has been conducted on the impact of biofeedback/neurofeedback, wellness, supported employment, multiculturalism, professionalism, transition and psychiatric rehabilitation, just to name a few topics.