It’s that time of year once again for the annual State of the States Report. The data lags by several years, since it takes awhile to come in, but if you click on the pull down you can find Illinois. There’s a lot of complexity in the data, but the telling thing is the turnover rate for DSPs (direct care employees) both statewide and nationally. It’s at crisis levels pretty much everywhere. Specific to Streator Unlimited, we’re much more fortunate than most. That’s not really because it’s easy for us to hire new employees, but because the ones we have tend to stick around for a long time, and we’re very glad and grateful to have such a dedicated group of people.
The full report can be found under “Resources” as “2023 Key Findings.” It contains recommendations for improving the service system. Absent this year is the state rankings, which probably saves some embarrassment for Illinois, since we have always ranked near the bottom.
What about the current environment, since much of this data is pre-pandemic? The governor proposed funding for a $1.50/hour wage increase for DSPs effective January 2024. Now the Illinois House and Senate develop their own budget proposals, then all three have to come to agreement on a state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Anything can happen, and the truth is, we need more. We need to get decently ahead of the rising minimum wage with our funding. The work we do demands skill, intelligence, compassion, regulatory compliance, paper, people, and is so important and impactful. Our employees, and everyone doing this work, deserve to be compensated commensurate with that.
We’re hiring! Did you know that 26 of our 59 employees have been here over 10 years? That’s because we’re a great place to work and live the values of our mission to serve people with disabilities. You could be working here in Streator with a job you love around people who love their jobs. What could be better? Oh, $1/hour raise January 1, 2023 as well.
Streator Unlimited is now an Employment Network under the Social Security Administration for the Ticket to Work Program. This is a program for people who receive Social Security benefits and want to go to work at a high enough level that would result in them no longer receiving a monthly payment. The only service we provide is to support someone to be hired into either a DSP or Case Manager position right here at SU in Streator. Ticket to Work is a national program, so we’d just like anyone who comes here to check us out know that our services are very local and very specific in nature.
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.
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.