Interview with the Secretary
Here is a summary of my comments of this conversation and certainly subject to change and interpretation.
We were very pleased that Secretary Dimas agreed to join us for the Executive Forum on Wednesday, November 9th. I had asked the Secretary to share with us his comments on the National and State Elections and our members had submitted questions for his consideration. I also asked him to address the issues of Direct Support Professionals (DSP) turnover and closing state institutions because we had received so many comments on these two issues in particular.
On the national elections the Secretary hopes, as we all do, that President Trump and his administration will be thoughtful running the country. Regarding the Illinois election, the Secretary is hopeful that the modest changes in both the House and Senate elections will allow for a budget deal with everyone working together making reasonable accommodations.
The Secretary shared that he and Director Norwood were going to meet with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid about the new 1115 Waiver. He was concerned that a change in Administrations could stop that waiver from moving forward. I asked then about his thoughts of the future 1115 Waiver for developmental disability services and he responded that they had not yet crossed that bridge but their plans for a person-centered, data driven care environment is their objective for all citizens including individuals with disabilities.
Concerning DSP turnover, the Secretary knows this must be addressed but within the context of a balanced budget. That DSP wages could be part of a grand deal on the budget. He fully understands the importance of and the hard work of DSP’s but within the current budget, $15.00 per hour is a far reach. Let’s see what happens during the override session of the Illinois General Assembly and move forward from there.
Relating to rebalancing and closures of state institutions, the issues are complex but it is the moral and ethical thing to do. The Secretary shared that whenever a closure is considered there is always opposition from parent groups, the unions and the communities where the institutions are located. Selling institutional closures to legislators are a very tough sell in spite of the economics of the closures and it being the right thing to do. There are no closures planned for FY 2017.
I also asked the Secretary about the investigative report that the Chicago Tribune is doing on abuse, neglect and deaths in community settings. It turns out that the Secretary was interviewed by the reporter last Friday and his message from the reporter was that the story would be balanced and fair. The Secretary understands the need for transparency in caring for people in the community which is a theme in the story. Yet being a full member of the community which is what we value is hard work to monitor. Nevertheless, community living is what we want as a society for people with disabilities. The Secretary is already in discussions with the Office of Inspector General and the Division of Developmental Disabilities reviewing data to improve reporting of abuse and monitoring community settings.
We then moved to the bidding of the contracts for Individual Service Coordination (ISC) statewide. The Secretary fully believes that the key to do better services and innovation is the objective here. He stated that it has been 20 years since this system have been considered. The rebidding will enable us to do better and innovate for better results. The new process will hold people accountable and will be more performance based. I interjected this importance of free standing ISC’s and that these organizations were an outcome to the Bogard Consent Decree. We are concerned that these contracts might go to Managed Care Organizations (MCO) and stated once again our opposition of that possible move. I also stressed that ISC’s should have a similar role with state institutions and Intermediate Care Facilities for the Developmentally Disabled (ICFDD). The Secretary was interested in discussing this matter further.
All in all, this was an exceptional interview with Secretary Dimas. His sincerity and candor were appreciated. I look forward to my next conversation with the Secretary.
Tania Morawiec, Dept. of Human Services Employment First Manager, Office of the Secretary was our next speaker on Employment First. It is clear that Tania is very knowledgeable and passionate on employment for people with disabilities. You will certainly want to get on her email list for updates on Employment First: Tania.Morawiec@Illinois.gov
Here is a link to her presentation: What’s Happening Now on Employment First.
Phil gave us an update on the elections and issues in the upcoming override session and his report will be shared with you separately.
The next Executive Forum meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 7th and will feature our Washington D.C. Public Policy Team on the national elections and DRS Director Smith on WOIA.
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