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State gathering feedback from caregivers of disabled clients

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VALPARAISO, Ind. — An Indiana panel is hearing from caregivers about the challenges they face when caring for disabled clients.

The Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Task Force recently heard from about three dozen speakers in Valparaiso, The Post-Tribune reported . Speakers included representatives from Opportunity Enterprises, a nonprofit that helps individuals with developmental disabilities.

“Listen to the moms,” said Marc Ruiz, a board member for the nonprofit. “The moms know what these kids need.”

Many speakers urged the group led by Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch to maintain and improve existing services. Speakers highlighted the challenges of low wages and safety concerns for caretakers, as well as challenges in finding employment and affordable housing for clients.

Opportunity Enterprises employees are often paid less than the typical retail employee, despite assistance from the state, said Kathy Jackson, the nonprofit’s Chief Human Resources Officer.

“I have watched (our staff) change the lives of our clients, but not be able to put food on their own table,” she said. “I have watched them put in long hours away from their families because we cannot hire enough staff to cover all shifts.”

Jackson said the nonprofit won’t be able to serve their clients if they lack the ability to recruit and retain staff.

The organization has more than 400 employees, said Ellen DeMartinis, president and CEO of Opportunity Enterprises.

The committee is gathering comments throughout the state and will present recommendations to lawmakers in November. The task force will also hold meetings in Indianapolis, New Albany and Columbia City.

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