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Workforce crisis events draw hundreds

Posted on August 6, 2021

On Wednesday, members of New York Disability Advocates (NYDA), The Alliance of Long Island Agencies (ALIA), and The Long Island Advocacy Network for the Developmentally Disabled  (LIANDD) were joined by more than 300 Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), New York State legislators, self-advocates, parents and other stakeholders to address the state’s workforce crisis of Direct Service Professionals (DSPs) who provide critical life support and services to more than 140,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

The event was attended by Senator Mario Mattera, Assemblymember Melissa Miller, Assemblymember Michael Montesano, Robert McGuire, Executive Director, Cerebral Palsy Assoc. of Nassau County, Walter W. Stockton, CEO, Independent Group Home Living Program, who raised awareness regarding the workforce crisis the I/DD sector is facing to identify solutions. Video of the event can be found at https://bit.ly/LI_workforce_crisis.

“I believe strongly in providing quality care for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and gladly lend my support to Alliance of Long Island Agencies and its effort to solve this workforce crisis,” said Assembly member Charles D. Lavine.

“My son and I rely on the Direct Service Professionals at Cerebral Palsy of Nassau County for all of his daily needs, including feeding, bathing, and toileting. They provide essential, life-changing services for people with disabilities. New York State needs to fund a competitive wage for DSPs,” said Bob Masterson, a parent and former Direct Support Professional.

NYDA, ALIA, and LIANDD are calling on the state to address this crisis by establishing a living wage for DSPs, creating credit and career ladders for those going into the direct support field, and professionalizing the DSP role by creating a unique labor code and advanced training opportunities.

“Eleven years ago, New York State changed the name of the Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities to the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Why? To erase the word ‘retardation’ out of the agency’s name, out of respect for those it serves.” said parent Terri Manzione. Yet in the 11 years since that name change, there has been a deterioration in the access to, the quality of, and the funding for the very humans that New York State claimed to be honoring with that name change. You cannot erase the history of this past dark decade and erase the mess we’re in today by simply ignoring it!”

The results of a recent survey conducted by New York Disability Advocates found that nearly 74% of DSP provider agencies experienced a higher vacancy rate than before the pandemic. Nearly half of surveyed agencies reported that they had to close programs or reduce operations due to staffing shortages. Unfortunately, without adequate funding provider agencies cannot provide wages competitive with sectors such as food service and retail to entice new workers.

The DSP workforce emergency affects continuity and consistency in the lives of the people being served. DSP workforce instability also affects provider agencies, as they struggle to maintain an adequate workforce and living wage for the 97,000 DSPs and ensure positive outcomes for the I/DD individuals to whom they provide critical supports and services.