CHICAGO –The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) today announced its contract with Chicago Lighthouse to handle more than 160,000 expected calls every year to its offices across the state. Approximately 25% of the staff is totally blind with the remaining staff being visually impaired. The call center, located at Chicago Lighthouse's headquarters on Roosevelt Road, is currently employing 20 people trained to route callers to the agency's licensing or enforcement offices. IDFPR licenses and regulates more than one million professionals and businesses in Illinois.
“This contract, which started on March 1, has already improved our ability to assist professionals who need to be licensed to work in Illinois,” said Manuel Flores, Acting Secretary of Financial and Professional Regulation. “I am very excited about our partnership with the Lighthouse for the Blind; the department will now have a permanent, professional team that will enhance customer service to better serve the public.”
The two-year, $1.35 million contract with the Chicago-based not-for-profit organization will provide assistance to licensed businesses and individuals customers calling1-800-560-6420 with questions about obtaining a new professional license, finding authorized providers of continuing education, renewing a current license, handling a disciplinary action and other questions that have in the past been managed by temporary employees.
"We extend our deepest appreciation to the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation for this amazing opportunity to provide employment for many talented individuals who are blind or visually impaired," said Dr. Janet Szlyk, Chicago Lighthouse president and executive director.
IDFPR, created by merging several independent agencies, has experienced a massive growth in call volume over the past few years. The need for a dedicated call center has been a priority of the department for several years. After researching its alternatives, IDFPR decided to contract with Chicago Lighthouse, through Illinois’ State Use Program, which is designed to provide long-term employment opportunities for people working in not-for-profit community rehabilitation facilities.
“I am delighted that DFPR has chosen to work with the Chicago Lighthouse, a renowned social service organization which we proudly approved for our State Use Program last year,” said CMS Director Malcolm Weems. “This partnership underscores our commitment to empowering persons with disabilities and veterans, while also helping to reduce costs and expedite services to Illinois residents.”
“We are very excited about this partnership with IDFPR and the Lighthouse. It will help further our mission of assisting individuals with disabilities in finding quality employment,” said Illinois Department of Human Services Division of Rehabilitation Services Director David Hanson. “The unemployment rate for people with disabilities is estimated at over 70 percent, so jobs are critically important to this population.”
The State Use Program was created by the 1983 enactment of the State Use Law. The program provides long-term employment opportunities for people working in not-for-profit Community Rehabilitation Facilities (CRF) by encouraging all state agencies to purchase products and services produced and provided by severely disabled people. CRFs pay wages that permit employees to reduce their need for state benefits, enabling them to become taxpayers rather than tax recipients. CRF employees also gain vocational training, long-term work experience and marketable job skills. These are significant aids in reducing high unemployment for the disabled community. At the same time, State of Illinois agencies that participate in this program are assured of high quality products and services at fair market prices, reduced administrative costs, on-time delivery and a central point of contact for assistance. All contracts are independently reviewed, evaluated and approved by the State Use Committee to ensure the finest quality and pricing available.
The Chicago Lighthouse, founded in 1906, is one of the nation’s most comprehensive social service organizations. Housed under its roof are the oldest and most prominent vision care and rehabilitation programs in the U.S., a nationally acclaimed school for children with multi-disabilities, a world class employment services program, one of the few remaining clock manufacturing facilities in America, a veterans assistance program serving veterans in all 50 states and a radio station.
The Division of Rehabilitation has placed nearly 30 blind and visually impaired people into employment at Call In Centers through the Chicago Lighthouse since the start of this year. Persons who are blind or who have disabilities can discuss opportunities for employment by calling 1-800-843-6154. Many more positions will be available for fast and capable computer users. The Call In Centers serve the IDFPR, the Advocate Employee Wellness Program and the Illinois Tollway Authority.