Letter to the Editor by Arc of PA’s Sherri Landis on DSP...

Letter to the Editor by Arc of PA’s Sherri Landis on DSP Workforce Crisis

By The Times-Tribune

Editor: Providers who care for individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism are pummeled by a workforce shortage driven by low wages and high vacancy and turnover rates.

The Arc of Pennsylvania recently partnered with other social service associations to get a better picture of the state’s workforce in the field.

The survey evaluated critical data on pay practices, hourly wages, scheduled positions, filled positions and separations for more than 9,000 employees representing 40 different positions in 52 organizations, including many in Northeast Pennsylvania.

The findings are stark.

Wages for direct support professionals who help children and adults with their basic daily living needs average $16.61 per hour — less than wages at some fast-food restaurants. The turnover rate for direct support workers 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 direct support professionals’ hours are paid at an overtime rate, and 41% of providers now engage in a more costly practice of contracting for staffing services to manage the workforce shortage.

Because human services for those with intellectual disabilities and autism 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.

Service providers simply do not have the staff they need to serve 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.