(originally shared on Facebook)
We saw the house that Willie will be moving to today. We also got to visit the vocational center where Willie will spend his days if and when Covid is ever behind us. The house and the voc center were both perfectly fine, even nice. The people were engaged, friendly, and seemed eager to care for Willie.
And. Things are always more than one thing.
While the house and staff are a good fit, and we are eager for Willie to transition to High Point, there are a few realities staring us in the face.
There is still work to be done to make this happen. There are some physical improvements that have to happen for this move to occur. The house needs to put TVs behind plexiglass, make sure doors and gates are reinforced, and make some changes to what will be Willie's room.
And the biggest challenge of all: the home desperately needs new staff. They won't be able to move Willie in until they have the home fully staffed. And they are a few positions short.
No biggie, I hear you saying. Restrictions are lessening, people are returning to work, you can hire some people. Only, here's the thing. There are no people.
Caring for people like Willie is a challenging job. It takes a lot out of you, mentally and physically. Every special needs parent I know looks (most of the time) like they just came off a weekend bender in Myrtle Beach because they are tired, confused, and overwhelmed most of the time. And it is that way for staff and teachers and therapists. And because we (the big WE), do not value people like Willie who contribute nothing to the economic engine of capitalism, we also don't value the people that care for people like Willie.
The starting pay for a staff worker in a home like Willie's is less than $10 an hour. An experienced, capable, expert staff member might make $12 or even $13. Not much. And at $11 an hour, working 40 hours a week they make (gross) about $1700 per month. About $20k a year. Near poverty levels. To do hard work. Surprisingly, there aren't a lot of takers. And even fewer that stick with it.
Okay okay, you say. Maybe it isn't easy to recruit when you pay so low, so just raise the rate of pay. And I would if it were that easy. But see, the money that makes up the bulk of the company's budget comes from Medicaid. And medicaid has strict rules about what it will pay and won't pay. And it's pay rates are often very low. Because again, we as a society do not value people like Willie and therefore don't value the people who care for them. Companies that run homes like Willie's depend on reimbursement to make ends meet, and pay staff. And they are a private company and therefore exist to make money. So pay goes down, turnover goes up.
And Willie sits in crisis, unable to transition to his new home.
I have no idea why we all willingly just handed over control of something as basic as our health to a private company that exists for its own interest and asked them to then care for the people who most need our support, but we did do that. And now we deal with a mental health crisis that will only get worse after.... all this. What it means is that most times the most vulnerable get the least care.
I am sad and frustrated.
And. Nothing is just one thing.
I am also hopeful. I hope he can move soon. I hope they will have what they need to help Willie become who he is. Because whether or not he ever contributes a single thin dime to the economy of the world, Willie has value. He is important. He is precious.
In the end, as in the photo. The sun shines. We will continue to try and turn toward it.