Agencies supporting people with developmental disabilities predict professional support staff exodus without minimum wage increase Already stark turnover will worsen unless support agencies can compete with fast food industry; Medicaid funding needed to implement increase
CONTACT: Jayson R. White, NYSARC, Inc., Whitej@nysarc.org, (518) 439-8311 (office)
Delmar, NY (12/9/2015) — Care for people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other developmental disabilities will be jeopardized unless professional support workers who serve them can receive wages that keep pace with the fast food industry, leaders of those care agencies said today.
The warning was contained in a report highlighting the challenge of retaining the workforce needed to help more than 100,000 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities lead safe, happy, and fulfilling lives. The report, “Supporting People with Developmental Disabilities: The Impact of Low Wages and the Minimum Wage Debate on the Direct Support Professionals Workforce,” is available by clicking here.
“The stress these caregiving agencies already feel will only be made worse if they are faced with job vacancies because their employees left for a higher wage in a McDonalds or Burger King,” said Steve Kroll, Executive Director, NYSARC, Inc. “If New York wants to remain a leader in caring for people with developmental disabilities, the state needs to help ensure that we have caregivers who are properly compensated. They cannot be subjected to a revolving door of caregivers who are biding their time until a Wendy’s job opens up.”
According to a statewide survey cited in the report, providers currently have 5,300 vacant Direct Support Professional (DSP) positions and an 8 percent vacancy rate, leading to an inordinate dependence on overtime. More than 80 percent of agencies reported DSP staff turnover as a serious problem, with an average one-year turnover rate of approximately 20 percent.
The report urged Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature to include funding for the increased wages in the 2016-17 New York State budget. Almost all of the funding for programs serving people with developmental disabilities comes from the Medicaid program. Unlike for-profit businesses, not-for-profit agencies must count on the Governor and State Legislature to increase wages through provider rate increases in the State Budget.
Peter Pierri, Executive Director, Interagency Council, said: “The 2016‐2017 State Budget should include Medicaid funding to increase DSP and developmental disability support worker wages a commensurate amount to the first two steps of the Commissioner of Labor approved increase in the fast food minimum wage that will happen on December 31, 2015 and December 31, 2016.”
Susan Constantino, President/CEO, Cerebral Palsy Associations of NYS, said: “Leaving the workers who support people with developmental disabilities behind is a sure formula for providers to fail as their workers leave for jobs in the fast food industry, jeopardizing the supports for people with developmental disabilities.”
Michael Seereiter, President/CEO, New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA), said: “We applaud Governor Cuomo for making an increase in the minimum wage a priority, and the efforts to date on behalf of employees in the fast food industry and state workforce. However, Direct Support Professionals, who are responsible for supporting the lives of so many New Yorkers with special needs, must receive commensurate increases as well. As their titles suggest, these are indeed ‘professionals,’ and they must be appropriately compensated for their extraordinarily complex and challenging work.”
Rhonda Frederick, President, the Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY), said: “Direct Support Professionals are the life blood of our DDAWNY agencies, providing quality care to thousands of individuals with disabilities. The state must ensure these dedicated individuals are able to earn a decent wage.”
Ann M. Hardiman, Executive Director, New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA), said: “Direct Support Professionals are the backbone of every provider agency and the key to success of any agency is a well- trained, professionalized workforce. Direct Support Professionals deserve to be justly compensated for their skills, hard work, and dedication to the people and families they support.”
The report is a joint publication of Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA), Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, the Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York (DDAWNY), the Inter Agency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies (IAC), The New York State Association of Community Residential Agencies (NYSACRA), NYSARC, Inc., and New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA).
NYSARC, Inc. is the largest nonprofit in New York State dedicated to serving individuals with developmental and other disabilities and their families. The 48 operating Chapters comprising NYSARC support and serve people with developmental disabilities, including those with Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and neurological impairments, in every county in the state. With more than more than 100,000 members, the organization supports approximately 60,000 individuals and employs close to 30,000 people.