It is with a heavy heart that I share with you that Allison Stark, who has served as Director of the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) since September of 2019, will be leaving to pursue a new opportunity in the State of Oregon. Her last day in the office will be June 17th at which time Sarah Myerscough-Mueller, the current DDD Chief of Staff, will step in as the Interim Division Director; Allison will assist her with the transition through July 15th.
Allison has been an extraordinary leader who has led an amazing transformation of the division - with reverberations throughout the agency and across the state. She has been elevated on the national level as a trail blazer; has been a respected member of the IDHS team; and valued by legislators, community members, parents, and consumers. She has a unique ability to connect and communicate with the broad range of stakeholders.
On a personal level, Allison has taught me so much. She has helped me stretch, grow, and understand how we can better serve people with I/DD and be stronger partners to our community providers.
She has been a relentless advocate, fierce voice, and consummate public servant. She leaves a stronger division than she inherited and has recruited a dynamic group of leaders who will continue to improve the system. I have every faith in the continued trajectory of the work.
We are grateful to Sarah for being willing to serve in an interim capacity; her deep knowledge and commitment will serve us well.
Please join me in wishing Allison all the best and do all that we can to support Sarah and the rest of the DDD team throughout this transition.
Secretary, Department of Human Services
Dear DDD Community,
While I am incredibly sad to be leaving the Division, I am also proud of the significant work that we have accomplished in the time I have served as Division Director, as well as the phenomenal team in place to lead the next chapter. Together, we have transformed the Division into one that respects, and is responsive to, the voices of the individuals we serve, their families, and provider organizations.
Since 2019, millions in new investments have been made in the I/DD service system. Key components of the Guidehouse Rate Study have, or will be implemented, including revising and funding new rate methodologies for day and residential services, increasing the annual billable day program hours and increasing rates.
When I started with the Division, our reimbursement wage for DSPs was a mere $11.96; I am proud to say that it will be going to $17.00/hour in FY 23 and $19.50/hour for our Chicagoland residential DSPs! These investments addressed known, long-standing structural and funding issues. The Division also supported our providers through the pandemic with policy adjustments, significant temporary rate increases, as well as retention payments and making alternative day funding available when Community Day Service programs were closed.
I am so proud of the Division's focus on employment for individuals with I/DD. We eliminated the collection of earned income from individuals with I/DD, significantly increased the rate for supported employment services, and finalized an MOU between DRS and DDD to clarify and strengthen the process to transition services from DRS to DDD. We have added a dedicated Division employment staff member who will continue to partner with DRS to expand competitive integrated employment for individuals with I/DD. I cannot wait to see the impact of our Competitive Integrated Employment Capacity grant on the provider system!
The Division spent considerable time and effort strengthening and increasing the quality of the service system. We implemented regular communications to keep stakeholder informed, held bimonthly trainings open to all stakeholders and established the DD Advisory Committee. We clarified that individuals can move between services in our waivers, cleaned up our PUNS list data and this coming year we'll have the first Children's PUNS pull in over 12 years. We also added remote supports to our waiver, doubled the number of our short-term stabilization homes, and expanded the support services team to reach more adults and children.
Starting in July, our Independent Service Coordination agencies will resume quarterly visits to allow for increased relationship development and monitoring with individuals and their families, will begin ADA/Olmstead Outreach and we'll have dedicated Housing Navigators at most of our ISCs. We are in the midst of revising our person-centered planning system and have invested needed time and energy into the HCBS settings work that had stalled for years.
We have accomplished so much and are looking forward to accomplishing so much more. The Division has an incredible team that will be able to continue to actualize the vision for a stronger system. Interim Division Director, Sarah Myerscough-Mueller, with assistance from Deputy Directors Jennifer Gentile, Tiffany Bailey, Joy Decker and Meg Cooch will seamlessly carry on the work of the Division. The dream team will continue to do wonders!
I would be remiss if I did not thank Secretary Hou for her encouragement and support. It has been an incredible privilege to work for someone who leads with passion, vision, and dedication each and every day.
I also will deeply miss IDHS Chief of Staff Ryan Croke, my fellow Division Directors and the entire IDHS team. I continue to admire this group's commitment to using State government to make the world better. They have and will continue to do so.
And, finally, thank you to all the individuals, families, providers, associations, and stakeholders that worked in partnership with the Division to make the system better. Without this partnership the work could not have been done. I will miss your messages of support and stories of positive change. I am grateful they were shared with me and have saved each one.
It has been an incredible honor to lead the Division during this time. At the end of the day, I leave the Division knowing that I've left the service system better than how I found it.
Director, Division of Developmental Disabilities