5/28/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: The New Normal

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dear Colleagues,

I want to thank you again - our IDHS team - for your compassion and care under one of the most challenging time periods of this generation. We have all been coping and adjusting to life and work under COVID 19; we had to swiftly transform our organization and workplaces to ensure maximum safety for all. The road to restoration and "return to the workplace" expectations will continue to prioritize the safety of our staff and those we serve. This road will be thoughtful and guided by IDPH and CDC guidance.

We will not be making any abrupt changes. If your workplace is closed, it will remain closed until safety measures can be assured. We will continue to clarify and provide background as the COVID pandemic response continues to evolve. We must also remember that our staff at our state operated facilities have remained on site during these turbulent times; they are heroes and sheroes.

To reiterate, office closures remain unchanged until further notice. If you have been working remotely, please continue to do so.

Through a thoughtful and measured process, in the coming weeks, our leadership team will share changes and announcements about the future. I want to dispel any belief or concern that, suddenly, next Monday, on June 1, everything and everyone will be back to "normal."

As we continue through this unprecedented time together, we must reimagine and reinvent what the phased-in "new normal" will look like all across the Illinois Department of Human Services. While our planning will draw from and reflect elements of the Governor's Restore Illinois Plan, IDHS has to develop its own set of agency and program-specific strategies.

While the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating for some and difficult for all, as the State begins to slowly and responsibly re-open, we have an opportunity to not only restore IDHS, but to reimagine our agency.

At IDHS, one size does not fit all, so this process will be fluid and ongoing. Our restoring and reinvention will look different across divisions and potentially across geographic regions. The key practices of social distancing and increased hygiene will guide decision making when return to the workplace is planned. The practice of using appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) will be required. We will continue to use guidance from our Infection Control team, IDPH, and the CDC to drive decisions and openings.

Our goals are to successfully restore all divisions and programs at IDHS in a way that is responsive to the changed environment, ensures optimal safety of employees and customers, and leverages the opportunity to reinvent program models to reflect client and agency need.

We will be working closely with CMS, the Governor's Office, and our colleagues in organized labor to accomplish this. IDHS will also use this opportunity to integrate program model changes that have been long identified as needed, to examine program delivery, and to ensure that what is "rebuilt" serves IDHS clients even better than they had been before.

In the coming days and weeks, I will share more information about IDHS' plans; I will continue to be transparent about what is to come.

We are working every day to create the best, restored, and reimagined IDHS possible.

Thank you, as always, for your continued resilience, creativity, and hard work on behalf of IDHS and of the people we serve, during these challenging times.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS