Office of the Governor
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
RE: Workforce Crisis in Community-Based System of Care for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities
Dear Governor Rauner:
I am writing to call your attention to the unfolding crisis in the delivery of services and supports to children and adults with developmental disabilities in the community. Simply put, there are not enough staff available to support people in their homes safely.
Across Illinois, children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities are facing a crisis unlike any we have experienced before. The critical shortage of direct service professionals is threatening the ability of non-profit community providers to meet the basic health and safety requirements outlined in federal and state laws and regulations for tens of thousands Illinois residents. Organizations that contract with the state to provide community services simply cannot compete with other employers to attract qualified candidates, given the low rates the state pays for services – rates which have not increased in nearly a decade.
The direct support position demands extensive training, maturity, patience, and judgment – the very qualities any of us would want to a person that we or a loved one depended upon to keep us healthy and safe. Due to nearly a decade of stagnant rates and lack of investment in the system, the average starting wage rate for direct service personnel paid by the state is barely above the minimum wage, despite the responsibilities and requirements of the position vastly exceeding those of other minimum wage opportunities.
Please consider some of the worsening consequences of this wage crisis:
- Providers are experiencing double-digit vacancy and turnover rates within already limited staffing plans;
- Providers are forced to compete with – and are losing to – the fast food and other industries that are now paying higher starting wages for less intensive work and training;
- Providers are closing and/or consolidating group homes and increasing the number of individuals residing to the maximum allowed under law (8 beds) – which is the opposite of what they believe is best for supporting people;
- Providers are increasingly not meeting basic individual/staffing ratios – raising their anxiety about the safety of individuals and staff;
- Providers by and large are not able to serve more people because they can’t recruit and retain direct service personnel; and
- The system is ill-prepared to comply with recently finalized home and community-based services federal regulations.
Community agencies are desperately aware of the impact the direct support workforce shortage is having on the lives of people supported by the community service system, if not the very future of the system itself. Without the community system to rely upon, the people being supported through it today would require costly institutional care provided directly by the state.
Governor Rauner, we are urging your leadership and partnership in resolving the workforce crisis we face. We cannot wait another day to bring this matter to the attention of you and other leaders.