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Podcast – Joseph Mengoni: UCP Seguin Helps Families in Need

Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Podcast – Joseph Mengoni: UCP Seguin Helps Families in Need
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This week at The One Thing Podcast by The Horton Group, our host, Jason Helfert, talks to our guest, Joseph Mengoni, President and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy Seguin of Greater Chicago (UCP Seguin). This organization’s mission is to help all people, regardless of ability, achieve their full potential, advance their independence and act as full members of the community. They accomplish this by providing life skills training, assistive technology, meaningful employment in the community and housing for those with disabilities.

The nonprofit industry has faced its share of challenges within these past few years – particularly when it comes to the Direct Support Professional (DSP) staffing crisis, the high demand for Illinois’s “Prioritization for Urgency of Need for Services” (PUNS) list and the general setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  These obstacles caused UCP Seguin to take a pause and improve their services, finding new ways to work smarter instead of harder. They listened to the needs of their employees and shifted their services to address some of the loss in their employee workforce. Behavioral health services shifted from in-person to remote. The staff won grants to provide families in need with computers so they could work with them remotely. And social engagements moved to a virtual platform until it was safe enough to meet outdoors six feet apart.

Listen to our podcase above for the full interview with Joseph Mengoni to learn more about how UCP Seguin has overcome the challenges above and expand their services throughout Illinois.


 

Transcription

Well, hello, and welcome to the one thing podcast brought to you by the Horton Group. We’re at the Horton, Group is specialized in Insurance employee benefits and risk advisory, and I’m your host, Jason Helfert. Today, on the podcast will be discussing the DSP crisis in Illinois, the puns list. And what one agency is doing to address the needs of individuals on it, expansion of services and strategic planning. So some meaty stuff here today for the discussion but we’re excited to help navigate us through. It guest client and friend of the Horton Group president and CEO of UCP sanguine Chicago. Joe, mango me. How you doing Joe? I’m doing good. How are you? I’m doing good. Well, thanks for jumping on with us today. We certainly appreciate Absolutely. Thank you. So Joe, Tony Robbins once said, every problem is a gift without problems, we don’t grow. And so if you take that quote in the spirit and I’m going to ask you a question, I might get some weird, looks by people that watch this, but in light of some of the problems we have going on, it might be tough to see the dsb crisis or challenges with the puns list as it yet have there been Any positives to come out of those? And so let’s take the dsb crisis as an example. I use CP segment. Certainly feels that crisis but why don’t you give us a little background on that and how you’re feeling the crisis and had there been any positives to come out of that? Yeah, well, I mean lets, you know, we can start back to to even while covid and even prior to covid, you know, covid taught us many things and it really allowed us as an agency to To stop what we were doing. Traditionally and what we were used to doing and really looking at the way we’re providing services and and changing those services and updating those services or shifting things around to one address, some of the needs 

 
address some of the the loss in employee Workforce. 
 
And just to kind of the way I look at it is We’re not working smarter you know we always say work, smarter not harder work, you know, work smarter not harder and this allowed us to do that. So we take that as the problem that crisis and combine that with the DSP crisis that we had started to see and it allowed us as an organization to take a stop. Take a pause. Look at things and say, how can we make things better? While also maintaining safety adequate numbers and provide the services that were there to provide to some of the state’s most vulnerable people serve now. And that’s what I want thing. I admire about the Health and Human Services industry and Illinois and all the states for that matter. And you know because when you talk about the DSP crisis and let’s throw wages as part of that, you know, other for-profit entities are feeling wage inflation as well but unlike some of the for-profit, you know, Appears that you have, you don’t have an ability to just raise your rates, right. You know, we’re going to just charge more for services like a manufacturer might be able to do hard to pass through but they still have the opportunity to do that. Joey you mentioned dog stand. Can you know? Get you know they’re purchasing their hot dogs for 50 cents. A hotdog selling them for a buck fifty. Yep. Yeah. There’s, there’s their their profit right there and they’re what they’re able to turn around into wages. We don’t have that opportunity to do things like that. No, you don’t and So when you mention, I always applaud the, the nonprofit landscape and agencies and execs for Ingenuity, right. Thinking outside the box in large part, it’s a necessity. And so, when you say working smarter, that means a lot of different things to different people, different agencies, different leaders. And so, you know what for UCP say? When what does that mean? What does that mean? Giving private example to the audience on what that meant. So you know again we were able to take a pause and look at how we were doing things. We To our employees. 
 
You know, it allowed take, for example, virtual working remotely, you know, many of us had desktop computers. We didn’t have access to be able to work remotely. It gave us that that jumpstart that we had to start looking at things like, instead of desktops, we’re doing laptops so that people can work remotely and they can work from home and get their jobs done. I mean, you know, technology, you know, Zoom teams allowed us to, to all communicate on a regular basis with one another without having to be in a room or standing outside in the freezing cold six feet apart from one another. Hmm. Just just simple things like that, it allowed us that. No, it’s a good point. We’re hearing that from your peers to and, you know, I was always curious or some of the services Joe and I know a lot of the dsps that they were The homes residential, if you provide Residential Services, which we know you do, right? There wasn’t a choice, whether or not they wanted to do that remotely. I know you’re in the homes, provide a services to the people that need the care. So I was always curious and hear some stories, but were you able to Pivot it all on some of the services that were traditionally done in person to more virtual setting? And I both thank, you know, therapeutic services, right? So not physical clearly, or maybe physical, maybe, I don’t know, but have you experienced any success with some some of those types of opportunities? Offerings. Oh absolutely. Our Behavioral Health Services were all pretty much done remotely. We were able to have visits with our behavioral health staff into the homes or even meeting with with parents remotely. Again, when covid hit? We were able to provide through a number of different, grants were able to provide families and individuals who lived at home. That may not have been in one of our Residential homes, a computer, or device or a laptop or an iPad to work with us remotely and just, you know, regular social interaction, social engagements, you know, our social club was meeting once a month. They were able to then join in and meet virtually with one another until it was safe enough for everybody to meet Outdoors, six-year heart kind of a thing sure which you know It’s routine and I like that option. Yeah. I think that was. So it’s a, you know, Tony Robbins is when, you know, I’m probably gifts, you know, without problems we don’t grow and I think you were looking at our organization, we’re a 400 employer organization, and you have a big agency and you’re not all in one location. And so, I think the ability for people to communicate have a sense of community, a sense of belonging using virtual not 100%, because I think people still like, the physical interaction, but it’s I feel in a way like, oh, would, you know, pushed everybody apart? I think this is helping him. And people a little back together. Correct. I think so. It’s absolutely. 
 
And so what are we you know? Joe if you can’t pivot a little bit. So using that same question about the puns list and so the puns just, you know, State, you know, waiting list for people to receive Services, you know, and have you had any success in, you know, I guess what’s your role in it? And it will have you changed. Are you sleepy? How is UCP changed her? How they address the puns list or the waiting list? Sure. So when individuals are chosen off of that list there they’re given In a case, coordination agency to work with to help them find Services, you know, with the with the DSP crisis throughout the state and many providers are not able to accept people at this time, you know, we’re because of some of the shifts that we were able to make in our homes. As we’ve had openings in our homes, we were able to be there in offer some assistance. Obviously, we are feeling the DSP. Prices as well. We 
 
have you know, day Services is a underfunded area and are, you know, we have not yet been able to address that one on a, very creative level other than trying to combine some of the, the staff to provide additional wages above and beyond what the state’s reimbursement is. But, 
 
you know, we’re able to be There to offer some guidance and assistance and some virtual stuff, be able to provide some case coordination stuff. So if you know, individuals need outside physical interventions from doctors or things like that, our staff can be available to Fan individuals and their families. Great, that’s great. And talk about, you know, change in a Dap ting to change Jack Welch. The, the former CEO and chairman of General Electric. He once said and I’m Other people have said it too, but he said change before you have to. And So, based on our conversations, I know in with other execs and leaders in the space is that you know Cole would force us to change. So that was unforeseen and that was one of how to respond better but what I think the nonprofit world does pretty well too. It’s my experience with the really proactive leaders is that they change proactively, you know. So based on our conversation it certainly sounds like they’re Exciting new changes happening at UCP sanguine from day programming or residential. And so what can you share with the listening audience about some of the new programming opportunities available to your clients or your consumers? So we continue to do some residential expansion on a much scaled-back level. You know, we do it strategically like we have a home that’s going to be opening in October. The end of October in Elmhurst and that’s going to be a new home for four individuals needing 24-hour services, and supports were always working. And currently, we’re working with two families who want to purchase their own homes. That was the plan that they had going into Adult Services for their child, and it looks like the organization will Be supporting those two homes and looking at an additional two to three individuals per home to move into those homes. So you know we’re helping ease some of the pain. Sure we wish we could be there to do more of it. But unfortunately again the DSP crisis and and getting individuals to fill, those slots is taking a little bit longer. Yeah. Everywhere in the world I’m sure is Seeing what we’re facing here in every industry and the Staffing shortage and now we’re hearing that too. And you know, obviously that the populations not getting any younger either as. Yeah, Guardians and parents aging out. They need their own care. And so, are you seeing Joe a trend where, if it’s not an agency owned Silla? It’s maybe a family-owned Scylla and we’re Staffing at now as a provider or we are you seeing more of a trend of that? And you’ve I mean, if you are, do you think that’s going to Keep progressing, as maybe the Boomer population ages out, they need their own care. And maybe they even don’t, they donate their own home to, you know, an agency and they’re so their son or daughter could stay there. Yeah. We are seeing a lot more of that. We are we are seeing a lot more that we had been prior to the pandemic. We started seeing a lot more of that as a model preferred bottle to go you know, move forward. 
 
Yeah, that’s definitely I think one that families are pushing and talking amongst themselves term had 11 group of families for families that came together and approached us at one point and said, look at this is what our plan is. We want a home, we want our for kids to be in that home and we want your organization to provide the supports and services, we want to own the home and you know, in the future Help and the the passing of the last person that home reverts back to the organization. Okay. Okay. What else? So, what are you seeing? Any other Trends in the residential Scylla setting? I mean, maybe you can talk about rates if you want but I’ll just maybe different services or, you know, before bed, six, buddy, but I know what the some of the trends there are two. But what else are you seeing out there? I think it’s hard to say about Trends because you know each organizations different and I know what I what I’ve heard there are some are having to close certain homes and increase capacity and other homes. We have not had to do that. At this point, we have had to, because of the number of vacancies that we were faced with, we did have to close one home, but we, it was, it was perfect timing because we’re able to run a bait, and make all the cleanup and modification and updates at that home. Now, we’re getting ready to actually open it up. Under a new contract with DCFS to provide Children’s Group living, okay? Okay. We’re looking at, you know, using some of our resources in those respects, okay? And so you have a new contract with DCFS provide residential services to Children, correct? Okay. So what the details of that contract, it will be children with autism, okay? Okay, it’ll be for children in a total of two homes. All eight individuals will be persons with autism or the Spectrum there and will provide Residential Group living for those individuals. Great, are these are these currently individuals being served by. You are these are, these are, these are these individuals getting day services from someone on a nothing, these are children and school, okay? And it’s children who need an extensive level of supports and I believe typically the state of Illinois would probably look at children like this to move out of state into residential and school placements out of state and there’s the big push to bring all of Illinois. Residents back to Illinois. Out-of-state placements, 
 
but they needed the time to work with providers to put those It’s in place. So we’re kind of been lying to to work with them and I’m making this this model a reality here in Illinois. Wow. That’s that. That’s exciting. Yeah, that is exciting. And so, yeah, and I mean I don’t it’s hard to forecast because the program’s pretty new but if it works I mean is there a you know, have you talked about providing some of the school services to some of these individuals at some point or just you know, maybe let the school’s do with the school’s do really well and we’ll do what we Really well. Whoa. Well what the school’s do it. The school’s do. That’s a whole nother animal. I mean I don’t know you know we’re in the process of going through our strategic plan right now hoping to have it done by the end of September now. So hoping to have it by the end of this month and approved at this month’s board meeting, okay? But there’s I’m hoping I have not seen it yet but yeah, that’s a whole nother Beast to get it. Is it is I don’t know 
 
what sounds like a little stick to her or doing really well right now, and you mentioned strategic planning. I know that’s leaders of businesses for and non for profit, you know, have an obligation and responsibility to plan for their agencies for profit, municipalities or maybe, you know. So you mentioned strategic planning and so I thought maybe give you an opportunity to if there’s something is this plan, look a lot different than it had in years past, or things are really excited about is part of being part of this plan or what? Do you want people to know about your plan and you see peace? Eggman’s nearer, midterm future. I think our plan. I’m excited about it because it’s going to be a much, much smaller plan. It’s not going to be a book that sits on a shelf and collects dust kind of a thing. It’s going to be very simple of a strategic plan, but it includes everybody, it includes our board and includes all of our stakeholders, our community providers, our staff from every level, Of the organization 
 
and it’s going to be built from from us for us. So I’m really excited to see how that’s going to turn out. And the reaction that we get from that plan. I know that some of the things that are going to be in, there are going to be the continuation of expanding services and being there to provide more mission to the the you know, folks in Illinois. And you know, just keep moving forward and also technology, you know, embracing enhancing and increasing our Reliance on technology, okay? And when you say Joe expansion of services, I think that can be taken in a couple ways and one would be additional services to your same person serve or is it is it the same services to more people? Serve not a right or wrong answer in Miss curious? It could be, it’s going to be an expansion of existing Services. Like, we’re going to continue to to open up Silla homes and and Garner of the resources that we need to to do that, and make that happen. Continue to look at under underserved areas. And if it’s a, it’s within our current geographic area. Maybe we’ll look at a small another satellite Day program elsewhere throughout the communities and then start building. Homes around that, what I mean building out. I mean, building from the ground up, but you know, looking at building a network of homes that are centrally located around any new day program Center, okay? And you have any new day, get day programming, centers that you’re operating now or you’re looking to do in the near future. So we open one and we about a year and a half ago and just right before the pandemic and so that one’s slowly getting Started. But also during the pandemic we opened another one in Addison, okay. And so we’re looking at folks who are in the Addison area who are in need of services. 
 
We also do a lot of work with school Transitions. 
 
And through our transitional program, we were able to see that there’s a big gap of service services in that area. Okay so that’s why we targeted Addison Okay dress. That that kind of deserted area. So our transitional person is working with those families to start bringing folks into our data center over there. And then also our community programs are day centers are not where people just sit around all day and mingle or you know, work on crossword puzzles earning its their soul. Their we’re trying to go with more of a social Center where people then, from there, Are go out into the community and access Employment Services access volunteer work and meaning providing a meaningful day. Great because I was going to ask you that because I had a lot of our audience certainly is in the nonprofit, you know, space, you know, Deedee providers but also you have people that are related. So you have Bankers accountants, Professional Service people that listen to it to gain more knowledge of the industry is I’m glad you shared what the day programme actually looks like and feels like and what its intended to be intended not to be. Yes, exactly. Actually people need to see it and I always say, people need to come and take a visit and see what we do, meet some of our folks, meet some of our staff and you’ll get a better sense of what happens at those individual sites. I could not agree more, I’m fortunate and grateful enough to be on to nonprofit boards, and until I spend a lot of time within either a solo or a day program, you know, you definitely don’t get the complete feeling and passion. Annette dsps half for serving the individuals and wonderful place. These, you know, these places can be and so I completely agree. And so if you’re out there you want to learn more about the nonprofit Community. More about UCP segment. Please volunteer, you know, please reach out to them and get to know. Yep, absolutely. So anything else Joe before we adjourn that you want the listening audience to know about. Now again I invite people to come on out, visit our programs visit with our staff. You know, give us a call, get involved any way you can, 
 
you know, it takes a community, it really well. Joe, I appreciate everything. Appreciate that conversation, is that a wrap it up for today? And so, until next time on behalf of the Horton Group, Jason Alfred saying thank you for listening to the one thing podcast.

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