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.