Dear Search Team, Family Members, Guardians, and Stakeholders:

Today marks the 55th day of shelter-at-home for our residents at Search and their support staff. This week, our team has once more demonstrated remarkable devotion to the people we serve by helping convert two more of our residences to live-in staffing models. Twenty-eight of our 29 homes have made this conversion. This is a testament to the care that our DSPs and frontline staff hold for the people that we serve. We extend deep gratitude for their efforts to keep everyone safe and cared for during these challenging times.

Weekly Update on Positive Cases

As of May 8, Search has had twenty-two staff members and ten residents test positive for COVID-19 for a total of thirty-two cases affecting four CILA homes. This week, we had two additional staff test positive for COVID-19 with both cases being connected to an adult learning site where other positive cases have been attributed. As of today, we have no hospitalizations related to COVID-19 and have had no residents test positive since April 20. In very good news, we had one resident discharged from the hospital this week and she is now in short-term rehabilitation in preparation of returning home. 

This week we were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of a dear member of our Search family. He was 91 years old. He had lived with Search nearly 24 years and participated in Search’s adult learning programs for 35 years. He had been recovering at a local rehabilitation facility since early March after undergoing a medical procedure. On Sunday, May 3rd his condition worsened and he was transferred to Saint Francis Hospital where he passed away early the next morning. He touched the lives of so many of us here at Search over the years and will be greatly missed, especially by his friends and support team at his home.
Advocacy Alert

Before COVID-19, organizations serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were already facing a crisis. For years, Search and other agencies throughout the state of Illinois have been coping with a critical workforce shortage of direct care staff. Direct Support Professionals or DSPs are the backbone of our organization. Now more than ever, they provide vital, life-saving support for people with disabilities. 

After years of insufficient public investment in this workforce, service providers like Search have had to cope with growing turnover and vacancy rates. The current public health emergency didn’t cause this problem, but it certainly has exacerbated the workforce shortage and has made decades of inaction by the State even more burdensome. In other words, we are facing a crisis within a crisis without adequate resources. As writer André Floyd puts it in his illuminating article for Stories from ANCOR :

“[The DSP shortage has] been the dragon in the cave that has proved unslayable, primarily due to the inadequacy of the tools given to defeat it. It sits perched, roaring and unavoidable as a constant reminder that for decades now — perhaps even longer — society at large has been okay with excluding resources from this essential, health-sustaining, inclusion-creating workforce.”

That is why Search has joined They Deserve More IL – a statewide coalition of families and friends of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, nonprofit community providers, and advocacy organizations. They Deserve More fights for a living wage for our DSPs and other frontline staff. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, DSPs are among our frontline heroes , going to work every day to keep people with disabilities safe and healthy, and to provide care and a sense of normalcy. But, ironically and completely unfairly, DSPs are also among the low-income workers who are being hit hardest by the pandemic’s economic and societal fallout. We need to do better.

The General Assembly will take up a state budget this spring facing a deficit of billions of dollars due to COVID-19. Now more than ever, it is imperative that legislators include a permanent increase above minimum wage for DSP wages and provider operations . Two bills introduced in the General Assembly – SB 3269 and HB 5074 – provide a comprehensive solution by raising DSP wage reimbursements to a sustainable level and funding providers’ crucial operations. It’s time to solve this crisis. People with disabilities deserve more.

Legislators have formed Working Groups to prioritize pending legislation while also dealing with a pandemic-sized hole in the state budget. I am urging you to tell Working Group members to keep people with disabilities, the caregivers who support them and the providers who employ them in mind as they get back to work on a very tight state budget. You can take action and send them an email by clicking the button below:
Search Trailblazers: The Virtual Event

Search Trailblazers 2020: The Virtual Experience is next Thursday! Log on to our Facebook page here Search Inc. and join our Facebook Live on May 14th at 6:00pm. Don’t have a Facebook account? No problem! Anyone can watch Facebook live even if they do not have an account with Facebook. Tune in Thursday at 6:00 PM and you’ll be able to support our organization during these challenging times all while in the comfort of your own home. Not to mention, we have some fun events in store.

Registration is now open for our online silent auction, raffle and wine pull! To register, simply text VirtualExp20 to 76278 or go to our event site at VirtualExp20.givesmart.com and click the “register now” button. Once you register, you’ll be ready to bid on our exciting auction packages, purchase raffle tickets to win a brand new iPhone XR, or to purchase a ticket for our wine pull. Bidding begins next Monday, May 11th, so bid early and bid often.

And as mentioned in our previous update, Search is excited to be the recipient of a matching grant of up to $25,000 from the Coleman Foundation. This grant matches all contributions to Search dollar-for-dollar until June 1st. If you are interested in financially supporting Search, now is the time! To make a contribution to Trailblazers now, click the button below:
Thank you to everyone who continues to stay connected with Search. We truly appreciate the support. Stay healthy, be well and keep in touch!

All the best!
 
Cory Gumm
CEO
Search Inc.


We hope that these weekly newsletters will help the Search community stay connected and informed as we navigate this crisis together. To keep up to date about Search’s response, and to view or download PDFs of our latest notifications please visit our website here for the latest information and notifications .