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Moultrie County Beacon, Inc.

Lighting the way for people with disabilities

Susan Sullivan Rauch is Executive Director of the Moultrie County Beacon, Inc. in Sullivan, IL.  She has been witness to many changes in the service delivery system for providers of community services to the developmentally disabled and mentally ill. She is passionate about the needs of those who are served by the Moultrie County Beacon, Inc., and also the staff who provide services to these individuals. Susan is  a motivating force that can enlist action for service provision, agency management and community action. 

What is the “story” of the 

Moultrie County Beacon? 


What do they do, and why?

Even though we have been providing services to people with intellectual disabilities since 1968, we continue to get this question on a regular basis. It shouldn’t be a surprise, as for the first 30 years that we were in operation we really didn’t talk about what we did. To the families that we served, we were always a blessing, but for the majority of the population our work remained a mystery that had little impact on their lives.  Most children with special needs were bused out-of-town to special schools thereby inhibiting the social relationships that are fostered and grown during the 12 years attending public school. As a result, many adults with disabilities grew up without being fully integrated in to their communities.  

With time comes change, and progress. Today we are driven to push the boundaries that once hindered people with disabilities from meeting their full potential. Today most of our children grow up attending our local schools and forming relationships that enrich the public’s perception of people with disabilities. Laws and “Rules” have been passed to insure that people with intellectual disabilities are afforded the opportunities of all citizens. At the same time, we struggle with a funding structure that has failed to keep up with the demands of progress and the needs of our consumers.

Over the past 30 years the Beacon, which is a non-profit organization, has grown to be a major employer in Moultrie County.  Our annual budget is over 4 million dollars and we currently have 115 employees, most of whom are full-time. We own 9 houses in Sullivan that are called home by a total of 40 people with intellectual disabilities.  Those homes, called CILA’s, provide 24-hour supervision.   5 individuals live semi-independently in their own homes; an additional 25 live at home with their families; 5 are totally independent and 6 reside in nursing or group home facilities. All attend the Developmental Training Program at the Beacon during the day.  We also operate a Bright Start Outreach Program for children age birth to three, as well as a small Mental Health Program that takes our total number of persons served to 111.  

90 of our employees are Direct Service Professionals, or DSP’s.  These are the people who work on the front lines, providing direct hands on care to the 90+ people we serve.  The majority of them work in one of our 9 residential (CILA) homes, where 24 hour care is provided.  They are required to successfully complete 153 hours of classroom and on-the-job training; pass criminal background checks as well as pre-employment and ongoing drug testing. This training enables them to be added to the State registry as Qualified Direct Support Professionals.  They work daily to support the people they serve to meet their full potential; express their wants and needs and integrate them into our communities.  They serve as advocates to the most vulnerable people in our society; protecting their rights and often serving as their voice.  For this work, they receive a starting pay of $8.50 - $9.00 per hour.  The State of Illinois has failed to provide any cost of living increases for the past 9 years, locking wages at dismal poverty levels. 

One of the first questions I am often asked about the Beacon is, “How are you funded?” My knee jerk reaction is “Not very well”. Sarcasm aside, here is a snapshot of our funding.  

The majority of our funding is from Medicaid.  Medicaid cuts are a hot topic right now; and tend to b e a  very popular solution to the financial woes of the State of Illinois.  What we need the public to understand is Medicaid proves a wide range of services to many different segments of our population, across many different programs. When “across the board cuts” are proposed by our Governor and others, we get very nervous.  

The reality is that all programs are not created equal; some are more vital than others.  

The people who receive services from the Beacon are among the most vulnerable in our society.  They are entitled to the opportunity to be active members of their communities, and we are required to meet high standards that are established and monitored by our State and Federal governments.


The only positive note is that we are currently receiving payments that are owed to us, as ordered by the courts.  Were it not for the court order, we would have run out of money months ago, given the lack of a State budget.  

We are consistently required to provide a higher level of care, requiring ever increasing staff resources, with no cost of living increase for the past 9 years.  Hourly pay for direct care staff is so low that our staff turnover rate last year was 49%.  We always have staff positions available for Direct Care Workers, which in turn creates a lot of overtime wages in our programs.  Overtime expense causes us to be overspent in our programs, further adding to our budget woes that are already intolerably because of the lack of cost-of-living increases for the past 9 years.  As you can see, this is a vicious circle.

In a nutshell, we must now redouble our fundraising efforts in this appeal to our public to help us serve this segment of our population who depend on us for so much.  To say that they are vulnerable would be an understatement.    

In the last 12 years the Beacon has been blessed to receive the financial and moral backing of our friends from the Amish community.  We can never adequately express how thankful we are.  The monetary support has helped keep us afloat and fund services and activities that would otherwise be decreased or eliminated.  The hard work and sacrifices made to insure a successful Beacon Benefit has forged friendships that will last a lifetime.   We hope to work with all of you again this year!  

With Sincerity,

Susan Sullivan Rauch

Executive Director

Moultrie County Beacon, Inc.

Sullivan, Illinois

“People with developmental disabilities have special needs, but their basic needs are the same as everyone else’s.  The need to have a home, learn useful, relevant skills; work; and develop and sustain relationships with people they care about and who care about them.”  Author Unknown