I am finding there is quite a bit of substance to the new Dept. of Human Services (DHS) Secretary James Dimas. His values regarding the dignity of the people we support is certainly in line with the mission of The Arc. The Secretary asked us to trade on the values that unite us, an important message within his speech at The Arc’s Leadership Conference last Friday.
The Secretary rejoins DHS with an urgency of completing the consolidation of DHS that began many years ago because he played a major role in the creation of DHS.
In his speech the Secretary acknowledged the struggles providers are faced with including DSP workforce issues, the reduction of the personal needs allowance and the new Dept. of Labor rules on overtime and others.
He talked about transforming DHS and that the various Directors within DHS were working on this transformation right now.
He stated that many times organizations fail to make “reform” the center of everything they do, rather most organizations make the mistake of looking at reform as a separate work function.
The transformation of DHS will encompass the following five tenets of the DHS reform:
- Prevention and Public Health
- Building Community Capacity
- Paying for Value, Quality & Outcomes
- Education & Self Sufficiency
- Data Analytics
The Secretary will be heading up the building of community capacity. I suspect that the Secretary will also be heavily involved as the state begins once again, as stated by Governor Rauner in his State of the State Address, “moving individuals from institutions to community care, to keep them more closely connected with their families and communities.”
In this regard, the Secretary also strongly stated his commitment to community reinvestment of savings from reducing our dependence on the deep-end services (institutional).
Regarding workforce issues, the Secretary is concerned about the wage disparity between DSP’s and Personal Care Attendants (PA’s). I would also add similar positions within the state institutions as well face that wage disparity.
His plan is to build a career path where DSP’s would also receive training so that they could move into health care positions like medical technologists, etc., in the growing health care field. He is concerned that this upward mobility does not currently exist. He is working with the ITT Design Institute on how this transition could become a reality. Many in the audience were concerned by this and worried that the Secretary did not understand the critical issues and decisions DSP’s make on a daily basis regarding medication administration, navigating the community, promoting self-determination and other health and safety issues.
It was quite a presentation and I am sure many in the audience are still talking about it. They certainly were pleased that the Secretary was a part of the Leadership Conference.
In my opinion, I believe there are two key areas which will require more communication between the Secretary and The Arc. (1) The changes necessary within the Developmental Disability System to truly transform to a person centered one are structural at all levels. Major structural change is necessary within the DD System. (2) The vitally important role of Direct Support Professionals and the dynamic role they play for individuals with intellectual disabilities is paramount to success in the community. We need a well-trained, stable and compassionate workforce.
I appreciated the Secretary’s comments and taking his time to meet with us. I truly believe that we can trade on the values that unite us.
The Secretary, Tony, Arc President Terri Devine & Director Romano
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423