4/7/21 - A Message from Secretary Hou: DRS Bright Spot

Dear colleagues,

As students return to IDHS schools this week, I am writing to share some of the outstanding work completed by staff (security, engineers, nurses, and administration) at the IDHS residential programs and training centers. These staff have been managing through uncharted times, going above and beyond to continue in their missions.

The Illinois Center for Rehabilitation and Education-Roosevelt (ICRE-Roosevelt) would like to spotlight its Director of Nursing, Cheryl Hamilton. Cheryl and her staff ran a vaccine clinic at ICRE-Roosevelt for both ICRE-Roosevelt and ICRE-Wood staff. I appreciate all the great work, time, and planning Cheryl put forward in making the vaccine clinic a success.

Bringing students, customers, and employees back to in-person learning requires sound policies and written guidance. Kaytlin Risley, RN, BSN, Director of Health Services at the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired (ISVI), was instrumental in researching best practices and putting pen to paper so that everyone was clear on what was necessary for the vaccinations and maximum student learning during the global pandemic. Her diligence, follow-through, and team spirit are outstanding.

The Illinois School for the Deaf (ISD) leadership team asked me to spotlight our Health Services Director, Kari Waters. Since last March, when all the students returned home, Kari was one of the first to step up to go above and beyond with her time and expertise.

Kari worked alongside staff from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Morgan County Health Department to make sure that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Illinois State Board of Education guidelines were followed. She participated in many weekly meetings to ensure that ISD was ready for our students to return.

Kari made sure all the necessary paperwork was completed so that ISD could offer weekly COVID rapid testing to staff and students as a precautionary measure.

She also managed the Personal Protective Equipment inventory, so that the campus had everything in stock for anyone, staff, or student, who needed it.

She collaborated with the Morgan County Health Department to provide staff with the vaccine as soon as it was available.

I am thrilled to share that, thanks in part to these efforts, over 70% of ISD staff have been fully vaccinated through the vaccination clinic conducted in conjunction with the Health Department and elsewhere. Kari Waters has proven time and again to be an asset to both ISD and IDHS.

Thank you, Cheryl, Kaytlin, and Kari!

I want to thank all the staff and leadership teams at IDHS-DRS' schools. This year especially, with so many new obstacles created by the global pandemic, I am grateful for your work to help young people with disabilities reach their goals and achieve their potential.



Grace B. Hou

Secretary, IDHS