Imagine! Hiring Crisis

Imagine! is facing a staffing crisis like we have never before seen in our close to 60-year history. We would need to hire up to 50 employees in order to be fully staffed and provide services at a pre-pandemic level, and we aren’t anywhere close to that number right now.

Below we will explain why this is happening, what we are doing to alleviate the crisis, and how you can help.

Why is this happening?

Imagine! is not unique in facing difficulties hiring staff right now. An unexpected outcome of the pandemic has been a reduction in people returning to the workforce throughout our nation.
However, unlike most businesses, when Imagine! is seriously understaffed, the people that we serve face immediate potential health and safety risks.
Furthermore, this challenge existed for us well before the pandemic, and without the support of our elected officials, it will not be solved even as other businesses begin to return to normal hiring patterns. 

The wages Imagine! pays to our vital workforce are determined by Medicaid rates, set by the State of Colorado. These rates are completely inadequate and don’t reflect the actual cost of our work. Furthermore, we don’t have the flexibility to raise our wages in order to attract new team members. This puts us at a significant disadvantage when compared to for profit companies who can offer higher wages when recruiting from the same labor pool. 

The low wages are only a part of the problem. The work Imagine! employees undertake is physically and emotionally demanding, and the work shortage we’re facing forces our employees to take on increasingly heavy workloads. This leads to exhaustion, burnout, and compassion fatigue.

The result of this perfect storm of issues is a community service delivery system challenged by high employee vacancy rates and an average turnover rate of 43%

Below are some more startling statistics revealing how this crisis in staffing is affecting providers of IDD services just like Imagine! across the nation:

In 2020, 66% of providers were turning away new clients
In 2021, the number jumped to 77%.

In 2020, 34% of providers said they are discontinuing programs or services
In 2021, the number jumped to 58%.

In 2020, 69% of providers were struggling to achieve quality standards
In 2021, that number jumped to 81%.


Not only does this worker shortage create risk for people currently receiving services, it compounds the problem faced by those who don’t currently receive any services by creating an “invisible waitlist” of individuals who are eligible for services, who have funding for services, but have no providers available to provide the services to them.

The pandemic has amplified a crisis our workforce has long faced, and immediate increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates are necessary to prevent the shattering of an already cracked system. If the system fully cracks, the result will not only mean fewer options and resources for people with I/DD to live and work in our community, but a less healthy and inclusive community overall.
To learn more, 
check out this opinion piece written by Imagine! Board of Directors President Heidi Storz for the Daily Camera.


What Is Imagine! Doing To Fix The Problem?

In the short term, we are being forced to scale back our direct and residential services. We are aware that this will negatively impact some of the families and individuals we serve. We are doing everything we can to limit those negative impacts. We will keep the health and safety of everyone we serve at the forefront of our minds as we make any decision regarding the reduction of services. And of course, as we work toward getting our staffing level up to where it needs to be, we will simultaneously work toward returning to typical pre-pandemic levels of service. 

We are also reviewing and revamping every aspect of our recruitment and hiring process, and taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to getting the word out about the career opportunities at Imagine!. We are offering retention bonuses, hiring bonuses, and employee referral bonuses to keep our current amazing employees on board and to attract new talent. We are working closely with universities across Colorado, and even in neighboring states, to attract new talent from their populations of students and recent graduates. 

Behind the scenes, we are working with our colleagues in this industry, all of whom are facing similar staffing issues, to put pressure on our state leadership to provide immediate relief and to develop long-term solutions.


How Can You Help?

Help us recruit great employees!

Do you know someone who is looking for a career where they can change their community for the better? Tell them to check out the many job opportunities at Imagine!. 

Not sure what to say or how to share Imagine! career opportunities? Imagine! has created a “Hiring Toolkit” for anyone who wants to assist in our search for great talent.

Reach out to our elected officials!

The Hiring Toolkit mentioned above also includes contact information for our local elected leaders (scroll down about half way down the page to see them). It also includes an email template you can use to encourage them to immediately attend to the crisis facing providers of Medicaid-funded disability services like Imagine! by working to increase Medicaid rates paid to providers.

The Imagine! Foundation is trying to raise $200,000 above and beyond their annual goal to provide hiring bonuses to help fill our 50 open positions. 
Click here to donate!

Support our employees!

We fully understand that this situation is frustrating, and possibly scary, to families and people in services. Many of you have spent the past year and a half in isolation, taking on extra caregiving duties, often with little to no assistance. We understand. Those of us at Imagine! are frustrated as well. Our staff members continue to act heroically to support you and your loved ones despite this incredibly difficult situation. We ask that you show patience, kindness, and understanding with them. If you have questions they aren’t able to answer, or aren’t answered here, feel free to reach out to any member of the Imagine! Executive team.