A Conversation with Lori Kress

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Oct 24
Tony Baisley, Communications Manager
Dungarvin National Central Office

More than 40 years ago, Dungarvin CEO Lori Kress began her career as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) supporting individuals in a Dungarvin home in Illinois. Over time, Kress assumed more responsibilities establishing her leadership in the industry. Recently, we sat down with Kress to get her thoughts on topics ranging from “the Dungarvin way” to what it takes to succeed in this ever-changing person-centered business. A nationally respected leader in her field, Kress is the Vice President of Board of Directors and Co-Chair of Government Relations Committee for ANCOR, helping to shape policy and share solutions to strengthen the ability of community-based providers to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Here are some excerpts from the interview.


Q: Since your initial years as a DSP, how have you seen the industry change – perhaps for the better, or for the worse?

A: Our industry has become much more regulated. Federal oversight has increased which has trickled down to states which has contributed to increased administrative burden. We are a highly regulated industry and that may be necessary, but unfortunately, the funding to implement increasing regulations has not kept pace. Significant and prolonged underfunding in services have made it incredibly difficult to ensure access to support for people who need it, to keep pace with regulatory requirements, and to maintain a stable and robust workforce.

Additionally, as more and more people are served in community (vs. institutional) settings, and as people are living longer given advances in medicine, we have seen increased complexity in the individualized services our industry needs to provide. Our DSPs perform very complex tasks that have direct impacts upon the health and safety of the people we support. Medication administration, tube feedings, wound care – these are just a few examples highlighting the critical healthcare-related tasks that we ask our DSPs to perform every day. And they do an extraordinary job despite these challenges.

Q: What is your definition of “the Dungarvin way” – and how would you interpret that to people who don’t necessarily know us?

A: Over time, as we have grown, it has become important that we standardize many of our policies/processes/systems so that we have the ability to monitor performance across 15 states from a national level. We take quality and financial stability very seriously and our executive team and National Support Departments are a big part of helping support quality efforts at individual state levels. Over time, we have developed consistent expectations for quality and financial performance, and we have our way of assessing each of those areas. It’s important that we all speak the “same language” as we work towards these outcomes which ultimately allows us to better serve individuals across the country. 

That said, at the end of the day, Dungarvin is about relationships. Whether that is the relationship between a DSP and a person receiving supports; the relationship with a family member or neighbor; the relationship with a funder; or the relationship between co-workers, these deep connections serve as the foundation for everything that follows. 

Lori Tie dye

Q: What message would you like our newest employees to know about Dungarvin?

A: As a new employee you signed up for more than just a paycheck. It will be a very challenging job at times, and you may question if you have what it takes to do the job day in and day out. On those tough days, please stop and really look at the person you are supporting and know that you are the difference between them just existing and their having the ability to live a full life that also includes the experience of joy. You can do that for them by offering them the individualized support that they need to thrive. Really understanding this incredible opportunity is what will keep you coming back day after day. It may be hard at times, but those moments when you see someone’s eyes light up because of something YOU made possible for them will be worth it!

Q: What do you think it takes to succeed at Dungarvin – or in this industry?

A: Determination and resilience, and a belief that no matter the obstacle, you can make a difference in someone’s life. Through Dungarvin, you have the opportunity to leave the world better than you found it.

lori and team

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  1. Aniso,

    Can’t wait to join the team