Impact Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development

Why is Recruitment and Retention of DSPs a Growing Crisis?

Wages for DSPs working in the community are derived almost entirely from a combination of Medicaid and state funds. Reimbursement rates – that include the cost of labor – are set by each individual state or county within the state. Historically, these governmental funding streams have not kept pace with general market demands, nor have they kept pace with state employees who are performing the same job functions in state-operated programs and institutions. On an annual basis DSPs earn an average of $17,950 in comparison with the $24,273 earned by their peers in state-operated programs. Due to Medicaid under-funding and soaring general liability, workers compensation, and health care costs, many DSPs receive limited benefits such as paid health insurance or paid time-off. The challenges faced by DSPs have led to high turnover and ongoing vacancies at the same time that demand for community supports and services is increasing.

In its Olmstead decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of individuals with disabilities to receive community-based services as an alternative to institutional care. The Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act would help states meet their obligations under the Olmstead decision. The legislation would make a much needed national investment and create an incentive – all through a joint federal-state-private partnership – to address one of our most pressing challenges in the 21st century.

Excerpted and adapted with permission from the Who Will Care