This group of women with developmental disabilities can live in the comfort of their own home thanks to Naperville-based group Little Friends, an organization that serves children and adults with special needs.
“We believe people belong in the community of their choice, in their own homes, schools, places of worship, recreation,” said Kristi Landorf, President and Chief Executive Officer of Little Friends Incorporated.
But because Little Friends is a private community-based group, they face significant setbacks when it comes to funding compared to their public counterparts.
“There’s a bit of disparity in how state-run facilities versus privately-run facilities are compensated. Right now, state-run facilities are paid almost four times what a local privately-run not-for-profit organization is doing basically the same work for,” said Grant Wehrli, State Representative for District 41.
That’s led to problems staffing their programs.
“When you get into the discussion of minimum wage and liveable wage, many of the area retailers and other employers are able to pay much more than we are, so we are now at a point where it’s becoming challenging to find that direct care staff,” said Landorf.
A similar group, the Ray Graham Association, is experiencing the same problems.
“Providers like Ray Graham around the state are wondering ‘who’s going to be working in our services’ because the people that we support cannot be left alone, they need our support everyday,” said Kim Zoeller, President and CEO of the Ray Graham Association.
In an effort to better the outlooks of these groups and the people they serve, Representative Wehrli has been meeting with local organizations and leaders to discuss the need for change.
“To me this is an example for the need for serious reforms and how we do things. When the private sector has proven track methods of things that work and the state has been doing it at the same way for years at a higher cost it is certainly a poster child of how we need to reform state government,” said Wehrli.
Wehrli has consistently brought these concerns to Springfield in order to further the conversation.
He also plans to visit the state-run facilities to better understand how they operate and fit into the larger picture.
Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.
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