Urgent need for direct support professionals to care for people with disabilities

Local News

PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Staffing shortages continue in the profession of helping people with disabilities.

Ashley Schreck, director of marketing at EP!C, a Peoria organization that provides employment, education, and housing for people with disabilities, said there is a staffing shortage of direct support professionals. Direct support professionals are caregivers for people with disabilities and make up more than 60% of EP!C’s staff.

During the pandemic, Schreck said they had to switch to a live-in model at EP!C’s 15 group homes in order to care for their residents safely.

“Instead of working a 12 or 24-hour shift, our staff are living in the homes. They’re working a week or two weeks at a time consistently without having a break or seeing their family,” Schreck said. “They are physically living in their job location to keep the people that we support, safe.”

Director of Residential Programs Tammy Bart has been with EP!C for 27 years. She said their direct support professionals have had to make personal sacrifices, like not seeing their families for days or weeks at time, to fill the estimated 2,000 hours per week. Even managers have stepped in to cover shifts, and they really need more staff.

“The staff that we still have with us are God-sends, they really are. They’re working ridiculous hours, some of them are doing live-ins… Some of them are getting very little sleep,” Bart said.

Illinois ranks 47th in the nation for spending on people with disabilities, according to the Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities. Schreck said this lack of investment directly impacts how they can support their own staff.

“When they’re overworked, underpaid, and burnt out, it makes it really difficult for them to provide the best support possible to the people we serve,” Schreck said.

EP!C serves 14 counties across the region. They are hosting a job fair Wednesday, Oct. 20, and Bart said they raised wages by $2 per hour to entice applicants.

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