Disability advocates want government to address direct support staff shortage

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Disability advocates say there’s a serious workforce shortage of direct support staff. And, they say that’s having an impact on service and level of care for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

According to New York Disability Advocates, direct support staff, or DSPs, provide care to about 140,000 New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

But, the industry is experiencing a workforce shortage. 

“Our goal today is to bring awareness to the need for our direct support workforce heroes to be able to earn a living wage with yearly cost of living adjustments commensurate with inflation,” said CEO of Wraparound Services of Hudson Valley Gerald Dohrenwend.

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle joined a virtual rally today calling for immediate action.

Republican Senator Mike Martucci and Democrat Senator John Mannion have called for the state to allocate $550 million in the state budget to address the issue. 

“I know that this is not a partisan issue. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a human issue, and this is about what’s doing right,” NYS Senator Mike Martucci.

Democrat Senator James Skoufis notes that the current job market is an “employees’ market” not an “employers’ market” and that COVID has cause some to reconsider their line of work. 

In some cases, DSPs can make as low as the minimum wage.

“It is emotionally tolling, it is physically tolling, it is mentally tolling, and it’s about darn time that the compensation reflected just how difficult this work is for DSPs,” NYS Senator James Skoufis.

Senate hearing on the DSP workforce issue was held last month. 

Wednesday, the Assembly will hold a hearing to examine the availability of employment opportunities for people with disabilities. 

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