This letter to the editor appeared in the Joliet Herald.
Nice job Ben!
State should strengthen commitment to community-based services
To the Editor:
There is a workforce crisis in the social service field and it requires cooperation in Springfield to solve it. Years of funding neglect for community-based services for citizens with developmental disabilities have led to this ever-deepening crisis.
Reimbursement rates for services have not increased since July 2007, leaving providers in an economic quandary as they attempt to keep up with rising costs year after year. Simply keeping the lights on consumes a growing share of revenue.
This has created a major staffing problem. As the job market recovers, agencies are faced with increasing staff turnover and burnout, obviously affecting the quality of services. And fewer staff means escalating overtime expenses, as agencies need to fill shifts with available staff. This just makes it more difficult to meet expenses.
Highly skilled Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work tirelessly to assist some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents, but starting pay for a DSP in Illinois is only $9.35 per hour. With such low entry-level pay, it is extremely difficult to attract staff – especially when there is no guarantee of an occasional raise. While a DSP’s work is extremely rewarding, it is not easy. Faced with the challenge of supporting a very difficult population with complex needs on stagnant wages, it is no wonder current or potential employees seek better-paying jobs in fast food, warehousing or retail.
In these challenging times, the state needs to strengthen its commitment to quality community-based services. It is time to finally invest in direct care workers and commit to providing them with a competitive wage. The General Assembly recently passed HB 5931 – a DSP Living Wage Bill, which will begin to address this crisis, and we urge Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign the bill. It is the right thing to do.
President/CEO of Cornerstone Services
Board chairman of the Cornerstone Services
The Arc of Illinois
20901 S. LaGrange Rd. Suite 209
Frankfort, IL 60423