For people with disabilities, the needs often stay the same, but the way those needs are met can change. This has been very true in the last 14 months.

News came days ago from the Department of Human Services that announced the lifting of many restrictions on day services ordered by the governor. We are processing the information and will have further updates soon. The good news is that ProAct has greater flexibility to operate while still establishing safety protocols. They are allowing us to increase our capacity to pre-COVID levels.

ProAct has been expanding its in-person service from three to six-hour days, but we are struggling to find staff to cover this increase. We are advertising and respond when people apply, but competition from other fields is only growing, along with the hourly rates that are offered.

While this is difficult for our staffing, current job market conditions are much more positive for the people we serve. Our referrals are up, and job placements are growing rapidly.

Some of this may be prompted by the warmer weather, wider distribution of the vaccines and a greater comfort to be “out and about.” We can be thankful for this, as it increases the number of workers needed to serve the community. We can help.

There’s debate happening at the Legislature, and funding for virtual services is an important topic we are tracking. One of the legislative bodies wants to decrease it and the other wants to hold the line and continue payments that are equivalent to in-person services. There are no doubt greater costs for the technology and security for remote or virtual enrichment services, but we would argue that the benefits far outweigh the investment.

Knowing the negative impacts of isolation, virtual enrichment helps us serve as many people as we can. I was able to delve more deeply into this in a column published by the Red Wing Republican Eagle and related newspapers.

A well-coordinated schedule enhances stability for everyone. Having things to do and responsibilities provides purpose and fulfillment. In the broadest sense, when people have choices, they are happier and feel more self-sufficient.

ProAct is looking at the challenges that COVID has brought and is making improvements where we can in efficiencies in all our service areas. Our staff and management team have worked hard to come up with creative ideas and strategies to be proactive in our changes, and we see the light at the end of the tunnel! I want to thank the staff for being so adaptive throughout the pandemic. We appreciate their dedication. They are the core of who we are as an organization and I am so proud of them.

The Best Life Alliance and our state trade association, MOHR, are working with legislators on a proposal to allocate one-time federal dollars available through the American Rescue Act. If a portion of these dollars can be directly allocated for Home and Community-Based Waiver Services, this will allow us to be more competitive in hiring staff to serve our participants.

So, as the days are warmer, and our future brightens, we want to wish everyone a wonderful summer with family and friends. Thank you for your care and support for ProAct, and your commitment to our work to enhance the quality of life for people with disabilities.

Judie Foster-Lupkin
President and CEO