Springfield health care workers ask state for funding accountability, higher wages – The State Journal-Register

Springfield health care workers ask state for funding accountability, higher wages – The State Journal-Register

Joshua Haywood works for Sevita in Springfield to provide direct support to patients with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He was inspired by members of his family who have developmental disabilities. 
On Wednesday, Haywood and other direct service personnel went to the state Capitol to advocate for lawmakers to pass new regulations for community-based health care providers to raise wages and provide accountability tools to the state. 
“It’s not just a job for me. It’s a passion. It’s a life for me,” said Haywood, of Springfield. “My loved ones deserve the best care they can get and if we have good workers who are leaving to go work at a warehouse because of wages, we’re letting those good DSPs slip through our fingers.” 
Haywood and other DSPs connected to AFSCME Council 31 and SEIU Healthcare, two unions representing DSPs, came to the Statehouse to advocate for two proposals.
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The first proposal would fund a $3.50 per hour minimum wage increase and include explicit language instructing organizations to pass through these funds to wages — not use the funding on administration or other fees. 
This increase would raise the wages for DSPs to 150% of the state’s minimum wage, which is based on a recommendation from a consulting group hired by the Illinois Department of Human Services to study what the proper wages for DSPs should be. 
The state budgeting process is critical for these community-based health care providers. Joshua Evans is the president of the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, a trade group for these types of organizations. 
Evans estimates that between 80% and 100% of facilities’ funding comes from the state, depending on the specific facility and whether they choose to raise money philanthropically. 
“Although the agency reimbursement rate is about $16 an hour for DSP services, we know that many agencies barely pay above the minimum wage,” said state Sen. Celina Villanueva, D-Chicago. 
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Evans said that these groups actually support an increase in funding directed to personnel, though the language of the proposals misrepresents the intention of the recommendation from IDHS’ study. 
“That wage rate is intended to cover not just wages, but benefits, transportation, capital costs,” said Evans.  
But these low wages are becoming a problem for some DSPs. Haywood said that he often has to use his personal car for work and that the low wages, high gas prices and other personal expenditures expected at work are causing problems. 
“It’s a precarious balance of whether or not I can afford to live and how much I can afford to give,” said Haywood. “If they pass this bill, I can give a little more.” 
Haywood makes $15.69 an hour and said that the starting wage at his organization is $14.25. DSPs are trained in an 80-hour course and are required to have or undergo some medical training in order to dispense medication to patients. 
The other proposal is a new requirement for state-funded providers to provide new types of data to IDHS in their annual reports. These data include turnover rates, wages for frontline workers and the race, gender and ethnicity of employees. 
Nationally, the DSP workforce is made up of 86% women, 59% people of color and 26% immigrants, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a nonprofit industry group. 
“This bill will enhance transparency and accountability,” said Rep. Lamont Robinson, D-Chicago.  
Robinson’s proposal passed in the House unanimously last week and is now moving through the Senate. 
Evans said that the organizations he represents, which would have to implement these new data reporting rules, support data reporting but are in negotiations about how these rules would be “operationalized.” 
“There are providers that do report, every year, in a national survey of 26 states that provides more robust data on wages and demographics and benefits,” said Evans. 
Some Republicans have come out in support of both of these proposals. 
“I thinks the support for DSPs across Illinois is something that affects both Republican and Democratic districts,” said Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon. “You will find bipartisan support for some increases.” 
Demmer, one of the House’s top Republicans, also said he supports Robinson’s bill because it gives the state a tool to understand if “the intent of the legislature” is carried out in funding these kinds of programs. 
Contact Andrew Adams: aadams1@gannett.com; (312)-291-1417; twitter.com/drewjayadams.

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