Challenges and Triumphs
Well, it’s been an interesting few years at Laura Baker Services Association (LBSA) – and the challenges and triumphs continue into 2022. It’s messy. The pathway that once seemed relatively clear is now subject to unexpected twists and turns, or to disappearing in the forest with little notice. And there’s little time these days for stopping to determine where we’re at, and if that bend ahead is really the best way forward.
We’re happy to report that over 90% of our staff members are vaccinated. The rest have applied for and, in most cases, received exemptions. We lost some folks when the mandate was announced, and the majority of our staff members did what we needed them to do.
Despite our best efforts, challenges continue to present themselves. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been very fortunate to have few COVID-19 cases among our clients. Staff member cases have ebbed and flowed. We have been fortunate and grateful that staff have stepped up when there’s been a need, and we’ve been able to maintain services for the most part. As we’ve shared before, in fall 2020, we did have to reduce the number of people we were serving. While we have maintained those numbers since then, we haven’t been able to return to pre-pandemic service numbers.
Going Above And Beyond
Recently, we had several staff members from one of our households who were asymptomatic and tested positive for COVID-19. In fact, it was ALL the staff members of that household. With all the staff members testing positive, the residents had all been potentially exposed as well. In general, we’re able to adequately staff our households on any given day, if everyone is healthy. We can flex to accommodate a staff member who needs a day off. But a whole household, for a minimum of five days? We don’t have those kinds of reserves. Lots of potential solutions were problematic: risk of exposure to other households if we shared staff, depleting other households, the need for clients to have familiar staff to minimize other risks. The impacted staff came up with their own solution: they would quarantine with the residents in the household for five days. It was a brilliant and sacrificial solution, which we accepted. We’re so grateful to the Baker House staff members who stepped up in extraordinary ways to solve this crisis and kept people safe in their own homes.
Elii, Esme, Sammi, Cindy and Arturo went way above and beyond. In a nonCOVID-19 related situation, at one of our community homes, a staff member left employment abruptly, and the household director and two of the support staff stepped in to fill the hours left behind. In this situation Vicky, Joanne and Alisha went above and beyond, too.
Those are the kinds of heroic acts that our staff members engage in every day. They are committed to doing what it takes to ensure that our clients get the support they need.
Embracing The Mess
These are the kinds of messes we’re embracing, in a very messy time. While we have aggressive prospective plans for sustaining this organization for the long run, we’re challenged every day with navigating through these messes to get to that future.
Our single biggest limiting factor is having enough staff members to do the work. If we don’t have enough committed and passionate people to carry out the work, we won’t continue to exist as an organization. Disability service organizations around the state and the nation are facing similar challenges. They are reducing programs and service capacities to match the number of people they have to do the work. The crisis we have been predicting has arrived.
You’ve listened to us talk about reimbursement and being able to pay our staff a livable wage for years. You’ve advocated on our behalf, and you’ve been generous with your time, talent and treasures. Those gifts have sustained us and helped us move forward with our long-term plans for sustainability. They’ve made a difference.
Help Us Navigate The Future
COVID-19 and all that has come along in its wake have created existential crises for us as an organization. We can’t find and keep enough staff members to serve the people who are waiting. And that limits us long term.
- Please encourage anyone you know who might be interested in doing our work to apply.
- Now more than ever before, we need your advocacy at the state legislature – make sure that people with disabilities are prioritized for significant reimbursement so we can pay our staff members a living wage. We need a 30% increase in our rates to provide competitive wages.
- Continue to give as you are able.
Thank you for helping us work through these messy times and for your continued partnership as we navigate the future!