Dear Search Team, Family Members, Guardians, and Stakeholders:
On Saturday, it will have been 70 days since our residents have had to shelter-in-place in their homes with their support staff. As the end of May nears, Illinois is preparing to begin the next phase of Governor Pritzker’s reopening plan. Restrictions on businesses and social activities will start to relax.
Here at Search, we have begun to envision life under a less restrictive or ended stay-at-home order. As we await guidance from the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS), here are a few thoughts on what “reopening” might look like for Search and other community providers in Illinois.
We’ve spent a lot of time focusing on our homes, but Search offers other services too, including Community Day Services (CDS) and Employment services. These service lines represent roughly 40% of our annual budget.
Though there is still a fair amount of uncertainty at this time, one thing seems clear: we will not immediately resume operations as they were prior to March 17th, the date that all CDS programs were closed by order of IDHS. It is most likely going to be a long road to the way things were several months back. That said, Search is committed to community integration in every way possible as soon as it’s safe and best for the people we proudly serve and our staff.
Things will be different.
Before the pandemic, Search served over 400 individuals daily across six CDS sites. Our largest program sites in Mt. Prospect and the Lincoln Square neighborhood served 186+ and 95+ individuals respectively. For comparison, our smallest CDS site in Evanston served 9+ individuals daily.
DHS will undoubtedly set health and safety requirements for CDS providers prior to reopening, including capacity limits on the number of participants allowed to attend a given site. We will most likely need to serve fewer individuals on a site by site basis to adhere to physical distancing protocols. Transportation will also prove to be a challenge we’ll need to grapple with.
An individualized approach and maximum flexibility is needed.
Not everyone who was participating in our day programs before the pandemic will necessarily want or be able to resume attending based on their age, health risk, exposure and their willingness or ability to comply with social distancing measures.
All of our site-based day programs serve individuals from multiple residential settings, from family homes to nursing homes. Even with strong mitigation procedures in place, some risk of exposure will remain for our participants and staff in these settings. Individuals for whom that risk is too high, should have flexibility in choosing alternatives such as in-home or remote CDS options. The state should loosen restrictions on our ability to bill for these alternatives.
Supplies and resources are needed.
Any resumption of CDS should be accompanied by increased availability of and access to on-site testing at a frequency that is consistent with CDC guidelines. The state should also take steps to ensure that CDS providers have an adequate supply of PPE available prior to reopening.
Finally, IDHS should act to continue financial support while it works with CDS providers to convert their programs to a post-pandemic service environment.
Weekly Update on Positive Cases
As of May 22, Search has had twenty-three staff members and eleven residents test positive for COVID-19 for a total of thirty-two cases affecting four CILA homes. These past two weeks have brought no new COVID-19 cases to Search and we are so very grateful.