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Below is an introductory letter to the report from Illinois Partners’ Executive Director, Lauren Wright

Dear Reader,

If you are diving into this report, it is likely that you are already familiar with the workforce challenges facing the human services sector in Illinois. It is an issue that Illinois Partners is addressing every day-in conversations with our partners and leaders across the state and in our own team meetings. From Chicago to Moline, Cairo to Waukegan, time and time again we hear that it is the number one issue for our community-based health and human service providers. Although at times I worry that I sound like a broken record, as long as it is the highest priority for our partners, I will not stop talking about it.

This report builds on our previous research highlighting how systemic disinvestment in the health and human services sector by the state has contributed to structural workforce challenges. However, in this report, we go further to show the real-time impact this disinvestment is having on providers, and how it undermines com- munity well-being. We present stories our partners have shared about how increased demand for services, coupled with staffing shortages, has impacted their ability to meet the needs of their clients and consumers.

This report makes clear that when we talk about human service workforce struggles, we are talking about community struggles. Underinvestment in our workforce is underinvestment in our communities.

The preamble to Illinois’ state constitution reminds us that our state government exists, in part, to provide for the health, safety and welfare of the people. Without the dedication and commitment of community-based health and human service providers, this obligation would surely go unmet. These providers have kept their doors open through so many challenges – a state budget impasse, a global pandemic. Frontline human service professionals, who have persisted through it all, should be recognized and compensated for the inherent value they continue to bring to their communities. They should not have to sacrifice their own well-being because state contracts fail to cover the true costs of delivering essential services.

In this moment, we have an opportunity to enact new policy and more equitable funding decisions that truly center community well-being and prioritize well-supported, fully staffed human service providers as key in achieving it. We hope you’ll join us in reimagining a sector that not only meets the needs of our communities, but enables and ensures that its workforce will thrive.

In Partnership,

Lauren Wright

Executive Director, Illinois Partners for Human Service