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The heroes among us

3/30/2020, 10:08 p.m.
From healthcare workers on the front lines to those operating trains and buses to those at grocery stores ensuring shelves ...

From healthcare workers on the front lines to those operating trains and buses to those at grocery stores ensuring shelves remained stocked, there are many everyday heroes among us providing a vital public service in this trying time.

We would like to shine a light on the dedicated professionals caring for those who can't care for themselves. Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are the trained staff who provide care and support to people who have intellectual and developmental disabilities. They work in group homes so people with these disabilities can live a fuller life — learning skills, building friendships and engaging in their communities. They also provide services during weekdays at day programs, offering crucial training and supports in life skills, employment, exercise, communication, recreation, the arts and more.

DSPs are a lifeline — helping to feed, dress, bathe, provide medication and take people where they need to go. As the new social distancing alters all our lives in new ways each day, we have deepest gratitude for our DSP colleagues who continue coming to work to help those with disabilities stay safe, healthy and loved. This isn't a "work-from-home" proposition.

Even as we hunker down and watch the Dow fall with alarming speed, DSPs are among those low-income workers who will be hit hardest by the pandemic's economic and societal fallout. While the state of Illinois has taken some steps to augment their pay, DSPs yet remain in low-paying jobs due to insufficient state reimbursements. We know many who take every shift they can just to put food on the table for their own families. With schools having closed across the state, many are now tasked with even more responsibility, providing around-the-clock care for not only people with disabilities, but also their children, elderly parents or other family members. Yet they come to work, every day, to help others live a better life.

Many of our country's inequities have been laid bare by this pandemic but let's not forget the unsung heroes who are still coming in every day to care for people who need them. We are all enormously grateful for the first responders, the doctors, the nurses and other health care workers. Let's not forget some of the others — quietly toiling in our state to help people with disabilities live a life they deserve. When we emerge from this crisis, we will owe them all a great debt.

Thank You,

Thane Dykstra, Trinity Services; Kim Zoeller, Ray Graham Association; Ben Stortz, Cornerstone; John Voit, UCP Seguin; Mark McHugh, Envision Unlimited; and Tony DiVittorio, Clearbrook.