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Today’s heroes: The 120 union workers literally living at their jobs while caring for developmentally disabled people

Friday, May 15, 2020

* Mark Brown

Roosevelt Journigans hasn’t left his workplace in 30 days, and he just signed up to extend that streak to 45 days before he finally goes home again.

Journigans is among 120 employees of Trinity Services Inc. who during the COVID-19 pandemic have moved into residential facilities for developmentally disabled individuals in Illinois to reduce the risk of transmitting the disease.

Instead of eight or nine different staff members a day coming and going across three eight-hour shifts at the Joliet care home where he works, Journigans and two other women left their own homes behind to live 24/7 at the facility for a month.

“At first I wasn’t interested,” said Journigans, 63, who normally lives with his sister in Lockport. “It worked out pretty good.”

It’s quite a personal sacrifice, albeit one that comes with additional compensation of overtime pay and bonuses.

The sacrifice also is made easier by the special relationships that often exist between residents and workers.

“You develop bonds with them. I always worry about them. Basically, we are their family,” he said.

The so-called “stay in place” approach requires workers to cut themselves off physically from the community, almost as if they were working on an oil well at sea.

And it appears to have worked. According to Brown, just six cases and one death have occurred at Trinity’s 100 facilities.

These workers, by the way, are AFSCME Local 2690 members. Journigans is the local president.

…Adding… Kathy Carmody, the CEO of the Institute on Public Policy for People with Disabilities…

Hi Rich –

Below is an excerpt from The Institute’s testimony on Wednesday before the Senate Healthcare and Human Services Workgroup. Agencies that have moved to this staffing model are literally saving the lives of some of our most vulnerable Illinoisans. Roosevelt Journigans and others like him across the state are truly deserving of our praise and appreciation.

    Community organizations supporting people in residential settings, like other sectors of the health care industry, have been forced to adapt to the current landscape and make significant changes to their business and service models. In an effort to reduce exposure among CILA residents (nearly 30% of whom are age 60+ and many of whom have co-morbid conditions), agencies have changed their staffing model where possible from a shift-staff to a live-in model. This model greatly reduces exposure and risk however it is a costly proposition which cannot continue indefinitely. In addition to paying overtime and premium wages to staff working under the live-in model, organization are also paying staff who are not working regular wages to retain them. While this approach has indisputably saved lives, it is not a long-term sustainable staffing model. You may have read the article in today’s Chicago Sun Times about Trinity Services, an Institute member and their heroic team member Mr. Roosevelt Journigans who has been living in a Trinity facility for over a month with 2 more weeks still to go. In addition to the live-in model, organizations have widely implemented enhanced wages to staff working during this period in recognition of the risks they are exposed to on a daily basis. While our direct support workforce is as heroic and essential as other members of the healthcare sector, they unfortunately, are not as identifiable as many of their peers in that space.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

25 Comments
  1. - Heroes don't wear capes - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    And Mr. Journigans is another Shining example of it.


  2. - Chicagonk - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:29 am:

    These people are truly heroes and a great reminder that wearing a mask and staying at home as much as possible is the least we can do to respect those in our community that are especially vulnerable.


  3. - Give Me A Break - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:31 am:

    God Bless every one of these folks. Having a daughter with a DD, I can tell you the ability to work with this population is true gift and should be valued by every single person.


  4. - Back to the Future - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:35 am:

    Wow.
    Nice to hear a success story from someone working on the front lines of dealing with Covid 19.


  5. - Homebody - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:38 am:

    This compared to the massive clusters at so many other congregate care facilities should be Exhibit A in any discussion about whether social distancing and stay at home orders work.


  6. - Ken_in_Aurora - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:39 am:

    True heroes. I have to wonder if this policy would have saved my partner’s mother - she just died yesterday after COVID tore through her nursing home.


  7. - Proud Papa Bear - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:41 am:

    Beautiful to hear patriotic Americans rolling up their sleeves to protect the most vulnerable among us.
    I worked for a similar, but private, facility for 11 years. There are a lot of very dedicated, selfless people in this field. The pay they get for the work they do is a dark, dark black eye on our society.


  8. - Oswego Willy - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:41 am:

    Bless these heroes.

    They are keeping the residents safe, keeping their families safe, keeping the community safe too… while doing some incredible work with incredible residents too.

    Real heroes.


  9. - Bruce (no not him) - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:47 am:

    Absolutely super heroes. Way better people than I can ever dream to be.


  10. - Sayitaintso - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:50 am:

    “Journigans is Local President Of AFSCME 2690”. Leading by example - gosh, if only… Bless these and all who do God’s work for the simple reason it must be done.


  11. - Lester Holt’s Mustache - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:52 am:

    “That’s great and all, but the state should still cut their pay and take away their pensions because something something poor credit ratings….” - Greg Bishop, WMAY (probably)


  12. - Someone you Should Know - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:54 am:

    It doesn’t; get much better than this :)


  13. - efudd - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 9:59 am:

    Lester Holt’s Mustache-

    Bishop was too busy this a.m. pushing the “ISP intimidate local bar owner” farce.


  14. - Leslie K - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:00 am:

    Well done, quiet heroes.


  15. - reelpro - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:05 am:

    God bless these caregivers. Much love and respect.


  16. - SR - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:07 am:

    This is a perfect example of how well stay at home orders work. People in the homes are not getting exposed to germs from people who are out and about in the community, unlike in a typical nursing home, where the staff go home and are exposed to lots of other people, bringing the germs back in with them the next day.


  17. - Grandson of Man - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:12 am:

    Excellent strategy to reduce sickness and death. Kudos and thank you to these heroic, caring and vital frontline workers.

    “These workers, by the way, are AFSCME Local 2690 members. Journigans is the local president.”

    How many mailers did they get from the “free stuff” hating IPI, telling them to opt out of the union and get all the benefits for free?


  18. - tea_and_honey - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:13 am:

    These are the people I think of most when watching and reading all the demands to reopen everything immediately. Such a selfless sacrifice to make while others refuse to even wear a mask.


  19. - Jibba - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:14 am:

    And this is how you do it. Treat them with respect, ask them to do a heroic act that comports with their natural instincts to do their job well, and compensate them like they and their jobs matter. Betting that the additional costs were minor relative to the adverse outcome if they did not do this.


  20. - illinifan - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 10:55 am:

    Awesome dedication. Appreciate. A number of nursing homes in the country did this as well and it resulted in those homes not having any issues as well.


  21. - LakeCo - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 11:08 am:

    If any Raunerites want to jump in now about “AFSC-ammy” and how overpaid union members waste “taxpayer” money, go right ahead, don’t be shy…


  22. - 44th - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 11:21 am:

    outstanding, so inspirational. I will read this story to the kids.


  23. - Mugs - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 11:27 am:

    Further proof of the unselfish dedication of these men and women is that scores of their colleagues have understandably left to work for Amazon, Will County’s largest employer. Despite Sen. Steans’ annual effort to raise DSP wages to $15 an hour, Amazon still pays more for filling orders than providers can pay for bathing, dressing and feeding individuals with disabilities.


  24. - Wensicia - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 12:13 pm:

    This is what “family” is all about. The rewards outweigh any sacrifice.


  25. - Ashland Adam - Friday, May 15, 20 @ 1:25 pm:

    Bravo Afscme Local 2690 members. You are public servants, truly.

    IFT Local 6436 members do similar work, in Esperanza Community Services Group Homes throughout Chicago.

    6 caregivers have been in three homes since early April. They serve cognitively disabled adults.

    These caregivers chose to remain quarantined with their clients, recognizing that to have a staff cycling in and out was dangerous, upping the risk factor for Covid-19 exposure.

    The end of May will be two months.


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