The state of Illinois is increasing funding for agencies that serve those with intellectual and developmental disabilities in its new budget, but the head of Marcfirst in Normal said it remains to be seen how much impact that will have.
CEO Laura Furlong said she's encouraged to see a 3.5% funding increase for Medicaid reimbursements for its adult services, but it won't help the agency catch up after years of underfunding.
“It certainly has been a struggle for funding,” Furlong said. “We have to make up for 12 years of not having any rate increases, and that is a very difficult barrier and hurdle and for the supports for people to remain close to their families in our community.”
The state is also kicking in an additional $7 million statewide to cover reimbursements for early intervention for new clients, but Furlong said Marcfirst doesn't have enough therapists to expand its caseload.
Furlong said Marcfirst already has a waiting list. Marcfirst serves about 800 children and adults each year.
By the time the new state budget takes effect July 1, Furlong will be off enjoying retirement.
Her last day at Marfirst will be June 28, ending a 26-year career with the agency, the last six at as CEO.
After a career as a caregiver in the social services realm, Furlong said she plans to care for her aging parents.
Furlong said while Marcfirst has faced constant financial challenges, in part because of a growing client base and greater demand for its serves, it has succeeded in keeping families together.
“When I think about starting 26 years ago, many people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in our community actually lived in institutions far away from their families, losing that connection to their community. And a movement that began shortly after I started was bringing people from institutions back to their families and back to their communities.
“That movement continues to grow even today,” Furlong said, adding that community-based services cost one-fifth as much as care in an institutional setting.
Furlong said Marcfirst hopes to have a successor named by the end of summer.
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