Workers Who Serve People With Disabilities Must Earn More: Letter to the...

Workers Who Serve People With Disabilities Must Earn More: Letter to the Editor by RCPA President/CEO Richard Edley

Workers Who Serve People With Disabilities Must Earn More
By Richard Edley, RCPA President/CEO
Read the print version in the Harrisburg Patriot-News, January 19, 2023

Providers who care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A) are being pummeled by a workforce shortage driven by low wages and high vacancy and turnover rates.

RCPA partnered with The Arc of Pennsylvania and The Provider Alliance to have the Center for Healthcare Solutions examine the state’s ID/A workforce. The survey evaluated critical data on pay practices, hourly wages, scheduled positions, filled positions and separations for more than 9,000 employees representing 40 positions in 52 organizations.

The findings are stark.

Wages for direct support professionals who help ID/A children and adults with their basic daily living needs average $16.61 per hour, less than some fast-food restaurants. The turnover rate for DSPs is 38%, with providers reporting a vacancy rate of 28%. The numbers are similar for other residential and program supervisors.

The study also found that 14% of all DSP hours are paid at an overtime rate, and 41% of providers are now engaged in a more costly practice of contracting for staffing services to manage the workforce shortage.

Because human services like ID/A are funded primarily by Medicaid, providers cannot raise prices like private businesses to pay higher wages. So chronic underfunding by the state only
exacerbates these operational challenges.

ID/A providers simply do not have the staff they need to serve the thousands of Pennsylvanians receiving or waiting for critical services.

This is a system that is strained past its breaking point, and it needs our support now.