The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

October 9, 2013

CRIS won contract on its merits

The Commercial-News

---- — I am writing to provide some clarity about CRIS Health Aging Center and its bid to deliver home-delivered and congregate meals throughout east central Illinois in conjunction with the Older Americans Act.

CRIS has delivered meals for 40 years in Vermilion County, in addition to providing a substantial menu of other services for seniors. On a personal level, I have had the opportunity as a senior executive at a local hospital to partner with CRIS on many occasions. I have found its leadership, staff and volunteers to be terrific in terms of their knowledge, compassion and delivery of quality to our elderly citizens.

In addition, I have closely reviewed the request for proposal (RFP) application submitted by both CRIS and the current provider of meals. The CRIS proposal addresses each item in detail with examples of its robust experience and game plan going forward. The current provider’s submission appears to be a warmed-over afterthought of its last application, with no specific requirements addressed.

Even more telling were the final competitive formal presentation materials created and reviewed in front of decision-makers personally in April. The CRIS presentation was a full-blown witness of excellence, including past performance, nutrition detail, efficiencies in delivery in a budget-challenged atmosphere, education component, marketing, partnerships with restaurants and meal sites, and experience in providing the high nutritional quality “frozen” meals required in the RFP.

The presentation was complete with client testimonials, videos of success, legislative support and, in short, a full-court press by an organization hitting on all cylinders. The current provider of services presented a one-page overview. The truth of the matter is, if either the overall proposal, or the grant presentation phase were a Little League game, the 10-run-rule would have been invoked. It wasn’t event close and CRIS was selected because its representatives acted like they wanted the job.

Subsequent after the fact hysteria, in terms of questionable claims about readiness to provide services in light of CRIS extraordinary track record, is most unfortunate. Even less credible was the debate that providing high nutritional quality “frozen” meals was somehow not going to meet the needs of seniors. Remember, the “frozen” component was a stated requirement in the request for proposal. It is interesting to note that since 2010, the CRIS meals-on-wheels site, using only frozen meals, has had a 25 percent increase in meals served. The now awarded agency has seen a 7 percent decrease in participation with its traditional approach.

The CRIS proposal was originally selected because it was superior. A wonderful combination of professionalism, creativity, fiscal responsibility and compassion toward our seniors is exactly what we need in the human service arena in an era when needs are broad and resources are narrow.

Change is never easy, and pioneers are rarely recognized in the early innings. CRIS Healthy Aging Center represents the future. Job well done.

Chad Hays is Illinois State Representative for the 104th District, which includes Danville.