"Do We Need A Tragedy to Occur Before You Will Fund a Living Wage for Direct Support Professionals?”
Testimony on the 2019-20 State Budget Reveals the True Impact of the Workforce Crisis on New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities and calls on state leaders to #bFair2DirectCare
The Arc New York Executive Director Mark van Voorst told legislative budget makers today that services and support for persons with developmental disabilities are “slipping backwards” because non-profit agencies, due to lack of state funding, cannot pay direct care workers a living wage.
In testimony before the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees joint budget hearing, van Voorst said non-profits that support people with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are in the midst of a staffing crisis that risks turning back the clock to a dreadful time in New York State’s history.
“After the revelation of abuse and neglect at Willowbrook State School, politicians, parents, providers and advocates stood together and swore we would never let that happen again,” said Van Voorst, who’s Arc New York is a leader in the #bFair2DirectCare movement. “For decades, we have consistently made forward strides for people with I/DD. Now, for the first time, I believe we are beginning to slip backwards.”
Van Voorst says he is done discussing a “looming crisis” in the I/DD field, and is prepared to present lawmakers with the true impact of an ongoing workforce crisis in a field where overworked, underpaid staff often provide life-sustaining care. He cites troubling examples, including:
Van Voorst anticipates policy makers will blame violations of quality standards and degradation of services for people with I/DD on poor management. However, he says the root of this pervasive, system-wide problem is inadequate funding, and the solution is in the hands of state leaders.
Van Voorst’s testimony (see below) outlined outline a pattern in which tragedy and death have historically been the catalyst for change in the I/DD field, and call on New York to address the problem before another tragedy occurs.
“The leader of New York’s largest I/DD provider is sitting here before you telling you that without adequate workforce funding, our field is not sustainable. Today dozens of providers, families and self-advocates will submit testimony to this body pleading for you to take action and fund a living wage for DSPs, as we have done year after year. I caution you to listen,” he said.
“In the aftermath of Willowbrook, New York state and its tremendous network of voluntary providers rose as a beacon of hope for families with loved ones with I/DD. No other state served these individuals as well as New York. Unfortunately, after nearly a decade of static funding, this beacon of hope is fading. We risk sliding again into the darkness. Do not let that happen. Do the right thing and #bFair2DirectCare.”
About The Arc New York
The Arc New York is a family-led organization that advocates and provides supports and services to people with intellectual, developmental, and other disabilities, emphasizing choice and community engagement. The largest non-profit provider of services to New Yorkers with I/DD, The Arc New York has 49 Chapters across New York state, supports more than 60,000 individuals and families and employs more than 30,000 people statewide. This year, the organization celebrates its seventieth anniversary as an advocate and service provider.
**The contents of this blog post were published in an Arc NY press release that you can find here.
Jessica Blondell, our Development Coordinator, writes all of our blog posts to keep everyone who supports The Arc Wayne up-to-date with what the agency is doing in the community. Enjoy!