A wide range of stakeholders — including organizations representing those who provide long-term care, mental healthcare and services for those with disabilities — made their case Tuesday to lawmakers for additional funding in the state’s next budget, which the Legislature plans to take up next month.
Josh Evans, CEO of the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, asked members of the House’s Appropriations-Health & Human Services Committee to support a plan that would provide a $4-an-hour increase for direct support professional wage rates for those working with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“Our goal for this year was recognizing the fiscal pressures that exist on this committee and the body as a whole,” he said. The rate increase is the priority of a state-funded rate study that laid out a plan to support community-based services for people with disabilities.
Jeanne Cameron, director of political engagement with AFSCME Council 31, which represents more than 3,000 direct support professionals, seconded the call for wage increases. She said the increase should be included in both the budget implementation bill and in the Department of Human Services’ guidance.
“Without a real investment and strong accountability provisions to ensure funds are passed on to front-line workers, positions will continue to remain unfilled,” Cameron said. “Dedicated caregivers will be forced out and waiting lists for services will continue to grow.”
Kathy Weiman, president of the Illinois Council of Care Coordination Units, told lawmakers that Illinois has not increased its rates of reimbursements for care coordination units for nearly 20 years, and no increase is included in Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed budget.
She said the funding is especially critical as Medicaid redeterminations resume, and providers help work with seniors to ensure they do not fall off the rolls.
“The (critical care units) are now at a breaking point,” Weiman said.
Jason Speaks, executive director of the Illinois Adult Day Services Association and director of government relations for LeadingAge Illinois, asked lawmakers for an additional $1.7 million to support adult day services.
He said giving seniors the ability to remain independent and at home in the community is a goal that stakeholders share, but the current funding model is forcing existing facilities to close or make cuts.
“The ask is just $1.7 million for a successful existing program that’s absolutely vital … to keeping seniors in their own homes, in their own communities and not going to a facility too early,” Speaks said.
Jud DeLoss, CEO of the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health, said they are focused on two proposals in the coming weeks. One would continue existing flexibilities for telehealth services provided to behavioral health centers during the public health emergency.
“(Centers will) continue what has become the status quo with respect to being able to provide critical services during the opioid epidemic, during the COVID pandemic and now post-pandemic with respect to suicides and other mental health and addiction issues that Illinois residents face,” DeLoss said.
Additionally, they are seeking rate increases of 100 percent for substance use disorder residential and detox services. While DeLoss acknowledged it could be seen as a “startling” ask, he said it comes on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on behavioral health.