Stephanie and John were featured on the NCI Works podcast, episode 44 on this page. They give an overview of SU’s services to people with disabilities, to businesses to hire them, to the great jobs providing these services.
This and State of the States are the two national reports that give us a snapshot of the nation as a whole as relates to IDD services. We cringe a little when we see Illinois lagging other states once again, though this time around the whole nation is in the same boat: our field cannot hire and keep enough DSPs to support the people we serve to lead full lives. Some agencies have reduced services, closed group homes due to lack of staff and had to limit other opportunities. It’s rough out there, and was so even before the pandemic came along.
If there’s anything we’ve learned during this pandemic, it’s that our DSPs are true heroes, giving wonderful care in the most challenging of times. They work hard, maintain compliance with complex regulations, complete documentation to show they do so, and keep up on a variety of annual training requirements. They’re caregivers. They’re also skilled professionals. The report simply underlines all of that, and notes that it takes funding to support increased wages and career opportunities. Some of this was included in the Build Back Better Act before it all fell by the wayside. Governor Pritzker included funds for a $1/hour raise in his draft budget for the coming fiscal year. We really appreciate it, but we need help to do more than just stay even the rise in the minimum wage. DSPs everywhere deserve a good wage for the important work they do.
As for SU? We’re so lucky to have so many dedicated, long-term staff. Still, we have some positions that turn over and it’s hard to fill them and keep them filled. Other staff can get worn down working extra to cover open positions. We make it through because we’re a dedicated bunch, but we want better for our staff and for the people we serve. And we’re not the only ones, as the Case for Inclusion so clearly demonstrates. If you happen to be speaking to your state or national senator or representative, please let them know we’re out here and we need them.
We received the official copy of the State of Illinois House of Representatives resolution recognizing our collaboration with ISU in creating the Epilepsy Video Game (link on our Epilepsy page). We are very proud of our efforts and invite you to share with anyone you know who has epilepsy.
Click on “Full Text” and you’ll see the resolution recognizing SU for its work with ISU on developing our epilepsy video game. We are grateful to the House and our own Representative Yednock for highlighting our efforts and dedication to our mission.
One of the not so known services that we have been providing the last year or so, is our Agency Homebased PSW work. We have 3 current consumers that come to our Day Services, that we also do Personal Support Work with in the community and in their homes. This ranges anywhere from grocery shopping, going to the movies, out to eat, helping support them getting to their Epilepsy Support Group meetings, to making homemade pizza in their home. Looks delicious Theresa and Ginger!
Andy’s been consistently at work since June 1, following some time off due to the pandemic. He has adjusted to guidelines to prevent infection–masking, distancing, sanitizing, etc. It’s a priority for him to keep himself healthy as well as his coworkers and customers in the Bill Walsh parts department.
If you are a person with an intellectual or developmental disability, the first thing you want to do is get on the PUNS (Prioritization of Unmet Need for Services) waiting list to get funding. This is whether you are interested in supports to keep living in your own home or with your family, to move into a group home, or have supports during the day or to get and keep a job. The state has information to help you sign up here.
Recently the state updated the categories for how they list people waiting for services. They are also trying to commit to no one waiting longer than five years to get funding. (We’ve seen people wait for as long as 7 years. That’s a long time!) Go here to read the information bulletin.
The Illinois Parents of Adults with Developmental Disabilities United group (IPADD) have issued this year’s legislative scorecard. They have been a very active group of parents for decades now, beginning all the way back when they had Yahoo Groups. Now you can find them on Facebook.
SU is strictly nonpartisan when it comes to politics. Our goal is to educate elected official and candidates of all parties on the needs of the people we serve. The most important thing to us is funding to be able to pay our DSPs wages commensurate with the incredibly level of compassion, skill and responsibility their jobs require.
Governor Pritzker presented his Budget Address yesterday, laying out his plans for state spending for Fiscal Year 2021, which begins July 1. The DHS Briefing Page can be found here. In terms of good news, he proposes funding to increase wages for our direct care staff. This is important because they don’t fund us well enough for them to make a decent wage. Sometimes they end up leaving a job they love in order to make more money. The proposal is to increase DSP wages by $1.00/hour July 1 and another $.50/hour January 1, 2021. This would help us keep up with the rising minimum wage and begin to get a little ahead of the increases, which is critical. We appreciate the Governor’s recognition of the importance of the work we do. We also appreciate everyone who brought the Ligas lawsuit against the state, which puts pressure on them to fund the service system as well.
Here is the relevant page from the budget powerpoint presentation:
Our DSPs are the heart and soul of our agency, and the care they give to the people we serve is why we do everything we do. However, we deal with an incredible amount of regulatory requirements and state surveys, pay for financial audits and accreditation, maintain a fleet of vehicles and maintain our homes and main building. These costs go up as well and the employees who perform this work deserve the state’s recognition in terms of funding as well.
What’s next? Advocacy! Just because the Governor proposes a budget, it rarely turns out the same once the Illinois House and Senate do their own work to come to agreement on what the spending priorities of the state should be. We fought last year to tie DSP wages to the increasing minimum wage and failed. That won’t stop us from fighting once again–what we do is too important not to fight.
The They Deserve More Coalition has put together a legislative agenda, asking for a 20% increase in funding, mostly for those important DSP wages but also some for other staff and other expenses that keep going up. Here are links to the bills that have been filed in the Illinois House and Senate. It would be great if you could ask your state representative and senator to become co-sponsors of these bills. That way they will know what’s important to us as they make the difficult decisions of what the state should fund when there’s not enough money to do everything they want to.