SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AIEXPRESS) — The Department of Human Services in Springfield, Ill. is currently in the process of reducing the number of hours it covers for the care of individuals with developmental disabilities. This decision will have a significant impact on the services provided to those in need.
Service providers throughout the state are preparing themselves for a significant decrease of 8.7 percent in the number of hours that will be covered by the state. The funds allocated by the state for these hours are used to pay employee salaries. As a result, providers will now have to explore alternative methods to manage these costs or potentially reduce the number of care hours provided.
An IDHS presentation from October outlined the effects of the reductions, revealing that 90 percent of residents in these homes would experience a decrease in care, while the remaining 10 percent would witness an increase.
Service Providers became aware of the cuts to reimbursed hours at the start of 2023. However, the cut has been repeatedly delayed by DHS since then.
Now, the state will implement a nearly nine percent reduction in the number of hours it will reimburse, starting on April 1st, 2024. Agencies are bracing themselves for the significant impact these cuts will have on their operations.
Sparc, a service provider for the developmentally disabled in Springfield, is one of the organizations that will be affected. According to Sparc’s CEO, Doug McDonald, covering such a substantial cut will pose a challenge for many providers throughout Illinois.
According to McDonald, the proposed budget cuts would have a detrimental impact on both individuals and agencies. He expressed concern that such significant reductions in funding would leave people at a severe disadvantage and result in a loss of essential services.
Paul Blobaum has a concern about the impact on his brother Norman’s care as he currently resides in a group home in Clinton for individuals with developmental disabilities. Norman receives care from direct support professionals (DSP) at the facility.
Blobaum expressed concern about the potential consequences of cutting the support that he and his housemates currently receive. He wondered what the implications of such a decision would be, as it remains uncertain at this point.
Paul Blobaum is even more anxious about the potential impact of these cuts because his brother does not require the full wrap-around services provided in group homes. The care provided in these homes can range from day-to-day chores to complete 24-hour care in extreme cases.
According to McDonald, the impact of cutting funding would be far-reaching. It would affect various aspects of people’s lives, including residential services, vocational training, mental health counseling, behavioral counseling, and community support. These services are crucial for individuals who are in dire need of assistance.
The decision to reduce the hours was not made in isolation, according to IDHS. The agency emphasized that these reductions were a result of implementing recommendations from a comprehensive 2020 study.
The study aimed to enhance the overall system of care for individuals with developmental disabilities in Illinois, in compliance with the Ligas Consent Decree, a federal court ruling that sets specific standards for the state.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an independent company called Guidehouse conducted a study that involved collaborating with stakeholders and reviewing existing rates and rate methodologies for individuals served. The study was a result of years-long collaboration and aimed to provide valuable insights.
The Guidehouse study presented a financial plan for the state to follow, outlining a gradual increase in investments of hundreds of millions of dollars into the system.
Industry experts were pleased with the proposed investments, but it is important to note that they did not interpret the implementation of the study’s findings as a means to reduce the level of care provided for the developmentally disabled in Illinois.
“I must admit that they are not given the priority they deserve,” McDonald expressed. “There are certain aspects that undoubtedly raise concerns about racial equality.
As a healthcare provider, I question whether the state is truly giving us the attention we deserve and ensuring that the needs of the people we serve are met.”
When questioned about the impending cuts, the Governor’s office pointed out the previous years’ budgets, highlighting the surge in investments.
According to a statement from Governor Pritzker’s spokesperson, the administration has made significant investments, amounting to nearly half a billion dollars, in line with the recommendations presented in the court-ordered Guidehouse Developmental Disability Services Rate Study.
Furthermore, there is still $270 million in funding yet to be implemented. These investments have been made with the goal of promoting equity and adequacy within the I/DD service system, as well as fulfilling the mandatory changes outlined in the Ligas consent decree.
According to industry experts, the investments made by the Governor’s office do not meet the benchmarks set by the Guidehouse study.
Senate Republican Chapin Rose penned a letter to Governor Pritzker, urging his office to reconsider their proposed plan for the cuts. The letter garnered the support of the entire Senate Republican caucus.
Rose expressed her strong disapproval, stating, “This is simply unacceptable. It’s completely unjustifiable to reduce direct care hours for individuals with developmental disabilities. It’s wrong, plain and simple. There’s no other way to put it. In certain cases, this could have life-threatening implications.”
Rose was also frustrated by the timing of the cut. She recalled how last Spring, the legislature had approved the first substantial pay increase for DSP’s in more than ten years. Although the raise of $2.50 per hour fell short of the $4 per hour raise that advocates had been pushing for, it was still seen as a positive step forward.
According to Rose, reducing the hours would result in the state saving more money than what was spent on the compromise raise by the legislature.
Representative Rose from Mahomet criticized Governor Pritzker’s actions, calling them cynical. He pointed out that while the Governor announced a pay raise, he simultaneously reduced the total number of hours employees are allowed to work. Representative Rose argued that this move actually negates the value of the wage increase, as it hampers workers’ ability to earn more.
Senate Democrat Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) expressed her shock upon discovering the imminent reduction in hours.
According to Morrison, the recent changes in pay and eligibility for hours came as a surprise to both the workforce and those who depend on it. While there was an increase in hourly pay, there was a decrease in the number of hours that individuals would be eligible for.
In regards to the plan, she stated that she believes it was not proposed with any malicious intentions. However, she plans to engage in discussions with both the legislature and the Governor’s office to gain a comprehensive understanding of the potential consequences of such a decision.
According to Morrison, it is not the intention of the administration to harm or endanger individuals with disabilities. However, he believes it is important to have an honest discussion about budget priorities and how the allocation of funds may impact people’s lives.
Specifically, Morrison emphasizes the need to consider the potential effects on individuals in their homes, including the potential risks to their safety and independence.
Governor Pritzker is set to deliver his budget address next month, where he will present his proposal for the state’s investment in these services.
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