7/20/20 - A Message from Secretary Hou: Employee Bright Spot

Good Afternoon, IDHS Staff:

As we continue to make significant progress across Illinois and our facilities in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and recommit personally and professionally to not take steps backward, we know that none of this would have been possible without the commitment of employees all across IDHS. So many of you have played a role in protecting the health of our patients and residents and our fellow colleagues, especially our housekeepers across IDHS facilities, who have been instrumental in leading the charge.

In today's Bright Spot, I am excited to highlight the staff and support service workers located at Choate. These employees include Ben Isaacson, Brandy Barger, Jill Benefield, Andria Nichols, Katie Chamness, Jennifer Barbee, and Cindy Turner.

Today's Bright Spot: Choate Mental Health and Developmental Center

With more than 200 residents and 600 employees, it was imperative for stringent cleaning practices to be implemented at Choate. With knowledgeable housekeepers at Choate, we knew we were equipped with the right tools.

In addition to their regular cleaning duties, Ben, Brandy, and Jill have been called upon numerous times to clean the four cottages that were set up as isolation units. They started by cleaning the cottages to prepare them for the first residents, and then provided more cleaning after a negative air flow system was installed. There have also been many instances when one patient was preparing to leave the isolation unit, and another was preparing to take their place. In these hectic situations, Ben, Brandy, and Jill stopped whatever they were doing to get the isolation unit ready.

Two of the housekeepers, Katie and Jennifer, are Mental Health Technicians who volunteered to be fill-in housekeepers. After a fellow staff person tested positive for COVID-19, Katie and Jennifer showed up the next day with sanitizing mixture and cleaned every vertical surface in the unit where staff worked. Their leadership inspired Business Administrator, Cindy Turner, to also contribute to these efforts. Like the others, Cindy used her own resources to purchase sanitizer that could be used to clean the doors and walls.

Today, we are proud to report that there have only been two positive cases of COVID-19 reported at Choate. We know that the success in limiting the spread of COVID-19 has been a result of these thoughtful employees and Choate's collective team who have implemented best practices inside and outside of the facility.

Thank you to all of our support service workers who continue to show up and to protect the safety of our communities. Your contributions are greatly appreciated, and do not go unnoticed.

Thank you,


Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS