Excellent story on the DSP Crisis from the Rockford Register Star below..
By Lindsey Holden
Posted Mar. 4, 2016
ROCKTON — Like any mom, Michelle Daniel wants only the best for her daughter.
Daniel, who lives in Mount Carmel, a small town in southern Illinois, struggled for years to help Megan, her severely autistic daughter. In 2008, when Megan was a young teenager, Daniel finally made the decision to place her daughter in a group home run by the Goldie B. Floberg Center, a Rockton nonprofit that serves children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Megan doesn’t have functional communication, and she’d become increasingly violent and aggressive, especially after she was no longer able to work with a speech and language pathologist at school.
“It was the hardest thing we ever had to do,” Daniel said.
Megan’s behavior greatly improved after she moved into a Goldie Floberg home in Rockford, Daniel said. She now lives with three other girls and has a room of her own. Megan’s bonded with staff members and no longer exhibits destructive behaviors.
Her days are now marked by structure and routine. Megan enjoys tying together colorful pieces of fabric to make a blanket for her room and helping staff prepare dinner for the other girls. Purple headphones used to protect her super-sensitive ears from loud noises frame her smiling face.
But Megan will turn 22 next January, which means she’ll age out of her children’s group home, which is one of 11 that serves clients ages 5 to 22. The organization also has 11 adult group homes that serve individuals 18 and older, but they’re already full and can’t take on any new clients.
Goldie Floberg would like to expand its services to help young adults like Megan, but, as is the case for many other nonprofits, the state budget impasse is causing problems. The nonprofit, which serves 82 people in its group homes and 25 in its adult learning programs, functions on a budget of about $7 million per year.
Illinois has paid Goldie Floberg through fiscal year 2015, but the organization is expecting cuts of 20 percent, or about $1.2 million next year. It hasn’t gotten a funding raise since 2008, which makes it hard to staff group homes. Budget uncertainty and underfunding is forcing the nonprofit to hold off on expanding its services, which is forcing Megan’s family to look elsewhere for care.
“Just knowing that she’s made such an amazing turnaround in her life, just to think about having to search and find the right place is going to be really tough,” Daniel said.
John Pingo, Goldie Floberg president and CEO, said the group now has 16 openings for full-time direct support professionals, who staff group homes and assist residents.
“We’re struggling with a situation where our direct support professionals don’t make a whole lot more than you would if you’re going to, just like, a fast-food establishment,” Pingo said. “So we’re competing with all these local organizations.”
Josh Evans, vice president of government relations at the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, said the fact that state funding has remained stagnant for so long has caused a staffing crisis for many care providers.
“The cost of providing care has gone up, wages in different industries have gone up, training requirements in some instances have changed,” Evans said. “There’s been nothing to adjust or inflate the rates to provide the revenue that an organization like (Goldie Floberg) has to pay the wages to hire staff.”
Evans said the starting average wage at facilities like Goldie Floberg is $9.35 per hour — just 90 cents more than minimum wage. Low pay and tough work have led to 25 to 30 percent turnover rates in many places.
“Unless something is done very soon, we’re concerned about the health and safety of individuals in some settings,” Evans said. “If we have some workers that are working excessive overtime, if there are administrative staff that are picking up additional duties on the weekend. You always get worried about burnout, you always worry about losing more people. Service settings are getting larger, not smaller, which is not the direction the state wants to go.”
Nancy Lofgren, who works in a Goldie Floberg group home, said she receives SNAP benefits, even though she consistently works overtime, including 12-hour days during the weekend. She makes $10.50 per hour during a daytime shift.
“The work is hard,” Lofgren said. “It’s emotionally draining, it’s physically demanding. It’s challenging. It’s not for everybody, that’s for sure. I love it; I wouldn’t do anything else. I would really like to make enough to feed the kids without having to qualify for Link while doing it, that’s all.”
Lofgren said the low pay and hard work causes “ridiculous” turnover, which forces the remaining staff to work extra hard.
“This is probably the most helpless segment of our society, our populous,” she said. “You can make more being an assistant manager at Taco Bell. And that’s insane to me.”
Lindsey Holden: 815-987-1339; email@example.com; @lindseyholden27
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