Fighting for Our Direct Support Professionals | The InVisionary

The InVisionary

Fighting for Our Direct Support Professionals

Workforce shortages for the ID/A industry aren’t set to dramatically improve any time soon, according to a new report. Despite unprecedented advocacy efforts and promised investments, DSP wages remain low, turnover rates are rising, and providers are facing an increasingly dire staffing crisis.

The report—conducted by The Center for Healthcare Solutions on behalf of The Arc of Pennsylvania, the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA), and The Provider Alliance (TPA)—surveyed 9,000 employees (7,000 of whom were involved in direct care) across 52 Pennsylvania-based provider organizations, collecting critical data about wages and pay practices to understand how these factors are influencing the staffing shortage.

While shocking, the results weren’t surprising. InVision has criticized many times before the inadequate systems which determine wage structuring for DSPs and how a lack of care and investment in fixing these systems affects people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. According to this recent research, DSP wages averaged around $16 per hour with an average turnover rate of nearly 40%. Compared to four years ago, wages increased only slightly (without any adjustment for inflation), and turnover rates jumped significantly.

Since ID/A services are funded primarily through Medicaid, there’s little providers can do independently to raise DSP wages without government intervention. $100 million from the American Rescue Plan Act was intended to be a one-time investment in “mental health services” in Pennsylvania, $37 million of which would have been dedicated to workforce development to help providers address staff retention rates. This never materialized, however, when the General Assembly failed to act on the recommendation from the state Behavioral Health Commission for Mental Health before ending the 2022 session.

The realities exposed by this report further illustrate that our industry is long overdue for comprehensive, sustained funding. Addressing the staffing crisis is paramount to continue enrolling people with disabilities into programs where they will receive the support they need to thrive in their communities.

Despite the dour outlook generated from the results of this research, Ruth Siegfried, InVision’s founder & president, encouraged cautious optimism:

“[The report] is making headlines in Harrisburg. This is great news considering a new administration is preparing to take office and begin developing the next state budget.”

Indeed, the incoming Shapiro Administration has indicated an interest in tackling the issues facing the human services industry. InVision’s presence in Harrisburg and our ongoing advocacy efforts have never been more critical as we enter this new phase.

“Thanks to [everyone] who work[s] to keep [the DSP Workforce Crisis] in the public eye,” Ruth added.

Learn more about how InVision is effecting change in Harrisburg for the ID/A community and DSPs by visiting our Advocacy page.


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