Jo Beth Collier

Jo Beth Collier is the director of intellectual and developmental disabilities for Lifepath Systems. 

For the 16 people working at LifePath System’s group homes, working hundreds of hours of overtime is a new reality.

LifePath Systems, a Collin County nonprofit, provides services to people with mental illnesses, intellectual disabilities and developmental delays. A portion of the organization's funding comes from Texas Health and Human Services (HHSC.)

The story for government-funded group homes across the state is similar. According to Jo Beth Collier, director of intellectual and developmental disabilities at LifePath, direct service providers (DSP) are reimbursed for $8.76 an hour by the state.

When mid-March restrictions set in, the nonprofit looked for a way to give its DSPs a living wage. Right now, the employees are receiving two temporary grants.

“Most DSPs have more than one job, if not three, in order for them to pay their bills,” Collier said.

Right now there are 16 employees and 16 residents in the group homes. One of the residents is a 19-year-old high school student. Collier said the DSPs jumped into helping the student finish coursework. “Since there were five vacant positions prior to COVID-19, we had to pull from other departments to help cover this shift.”

Residents at the group homes range in age from 19 to 72. But they are almost all facing major health threats during the pandemic.

“A majority of the people supported are considered high risk due to underlying conditions – diabetes, asthma, immune deficiency disorder,” Collier said.

DSPs are tasked with extra restrictions to decrease the risk of COVID-19 transmission during their regular operation.

“Everyone needs assistance with cooking, cleaning, transportation, making purchases, paying bills, taking their medications,” Collier said.

But staff members are limited when it comes to medical supplies. Collier said the lack of equipment is a product of the organization’s category under HHSC.

“Since the group homes are not considered a hospital or medical facility, having access to these supplies have been very difficult,” Collier said.

She said the nonprofit is looking for personal protection equipment, grocery cards, and other donations.

“These staff are front line, unable to practice social distancing in order to provide the assistance to the people they serve whom most do not have the skills to protect themselves. And the staff does this every day, for very little”

“They are truly heroes.”

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