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updated: 2/4/2014 5:00 PM

Care workers seek higher wages in Springfield

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By Marty Hobe
mhobe@dailyherald.com

A group of workers who care for the mentally disabled converged on Springfield Tuesday to push for higher wages, dropping off 15,000 signed postcards in support of a pay raise at Gov. Pat Quinn's office at the Capitol.

Kim Zoeller, president of the DuPage County-based Ray Graham Association, said the state doesn't provide enough money to pay the workers, leading to staff turnover as high as 50 percent per year.

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"Turnover means something very different in the lives of (a) person who has an intellectual developmental disability," Zoeller said. "Sometimes our staff is, by all practical purposes, that person's family. They have no biological family."

The Illinois Association of Rehabilitation Facilities said the average direct-support worker is paid $9.35 an hour. Proposed legislation, now in committee, would raise the pay for direct-support employees to $13 an hour by 2016.

But with the state facing continued financial troubles, getting the extra money will be difficult.

Representatives of The Care Campaign came to Springfield Tuesday to push for the change and present the postcards. The delegation included workers employed by community-based not-for-profit agencies, family members of people with developmental disabilities, provider agency representatives and other advocates.

Art Dykstra of Trinity Services, which cares for about 75 individuals in Des Plaines, said workers caring for the state's most vulnerable residents deserve a raise.

"One thing we do that is huge is we keep hope alive," Dykstra said. "When the staff who are doing the work every day aren't hopeful, that's not a good thing."

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