From: Suzanne R. Horstman, executive director, HCO

 

It is with a sad heart that we share with you that the Home and Community Options (HCO) Board of Directors has made the difficult decision to close the doors of two of our homes in the community. This is solely due to the lack of available workforce now and even more so in the coming months. By downsizing, our hopes are that we are able to maintain a level of safety for those that continue to be in our care. 

Although agencies like ours have been addressing the workforce issue for many years, it continues to be a statewide issue that has only been heightened by the pandemic. During the past two years, we have used many strategies to try to secure an adequate workforce. We have increased wages (beyond what the government reimburses), worked with elected officials, and allocated significant resources towards marketing, recruitment and retention, and we are still unable to secure enough qualified direct support professionals to meet the needs of the individuals currently receiving care.

More than ever, HCO needs the Winona community to support individuals with developmental disabilities and our services. HCO provides essential services for many vulnerable individuals. A staffing shortage puts the care of those individuals at risk. Shortages of this proportion mean that the safety of individuals who receive services can no longer be assured. Closing these programs was essential for HCO to maintain integrity as a service provider.

The workforce shortage is critical. We see it all around us as we wait in lengthy drive-through lines, find businesses keeping shorter hours, or notice the “now hiring” signs all over town. We have all been, at the very least, inconvenienced by it.

For Home and Community Options, the workforce shortage requires that some doors be closed — and it is heartbreaking. This may not be the final closure, as the workforce demographics indicate that the current pattern will continue. Caretakers are simply not available, and the strain on those who are available to work to fill in the gaps is too great.

As we close one set of doors, we are hopeful that new doors will open. We are grateful for the many ways the Winona community has supported HCO as we strive to fulfill our mission. If you or someone you know would like to become an HCO employee or volunteer, visit www.hco.org/get-involved/.