NEW LENOX, IL — Trinity Services, Inc. and other Illinois community disability service providers have been contending with a workforce crisis for nearly 10 years. On Friday, Aug. 26, Governor Bruce Rauner disappointed advocates, families and people with disabilities by vetoing House Bill 5931, the Community Disability Living Wage Act.
These organizations are unable to fill necessary staff positions that provide care for the 27,000 Illinoisans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The average wage direct support professionals (DSPs) make in the state is $9.35 an hour, as the reimbursement rates for agencies contracted by the State to provide these services have not been increased in eight years.
These workers provide invaluable support every day, ensuring the people they serve have all of their needs — such as toileting, bathing, dressing and eating — met. They teach life skills, like money management, ensure the people they serve are active participants in their communities and help increase each person’s independence to the greatest extent possible. Their work can be taxing, as they often face challenging and problematic behavior while assisting people who struggle with anger management or communication problems.
The low wage directly hurts people with disabilities by impacting the quality of the care they are able to receive. High staff vacancy rates result in DSPs working excessive overtime, which not only takes a toll on their health, but their personal lives as well.
“It is certainly true that it would cost more money to pay staff a living wage, but in terms of health, safety, and quality of life, we can’t afford not to pay more. If the system collapses it will cost a great deal more to fix it,” Trinity Services Executive Director Art Dykstra said.
Raising the wage for Illinois DSPs would increase their quality of life, as well as the quality of life for the people who rely on their services each day.
The veto of HB 5931 continues the workforce crisis with which Trinity Services has been contending. It also came just two days after Rauner personally acknowledged the workforce crisis in a proclamation designating Sept. 11-17 Direct Support Professional Week in Illinois.
The bill received 107 “yes” votes in the General Assembly, and more than 7,000 people took action to show they were in favor of the measure. With such support, it is hoped that the wage issue will be on the table when a full budget deal is reached.
Trinity Services intends to work with Rauner, his administration, and the General Assembly to find a solution to the ongoing workforce crisis to meet the needs of the people we serve, to help them flourish and live full and abundant lives.
Trinity Services, Inc. is a 66-year-old, nonsectarian, nonprofit organization that serves 3,500 children and adults with developmental/intellectual disabilities and mental illness in 30 communities in Will, Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Peoria, Jackson and St. Clair counties, and Reno, Nevada. To learn more, visit www.trinity-services.org.