New York & Indiana
Honorees: Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara (NY), Senator Robert G. Ortt (NY), Tim Brown (IN), and Senator Luke Kenley (IN)
Each day direct support professionals (DSPs) play a vital role in the lives of people with I/DD and their families, providing the most critical and personal of care. These highly skilled workers allow many individuals with I/DD to live, work, and learn in the community and lead self-directed lives. But increasingly, our community is losing these vital workers to higher-paying, less demanding jobs. As a result, alarming DSP turnover rates prevail and ongoing shortages of candidates brings stress and anxiety for clients and their families.
Nationally, the shortage of DSPs is a priority initiative of many chapters of The Arc. In 2016, The Arc of Indiana and the New York State Chapter of The Arc collaborated with their state legislatures and advocated for increased salaries for direct support professionals.
In New York, the #bFair2DirectCare Coalition mobilized one of the most successful grassroots strategic initiatives in the state. The majority and minority leaders of both chambers of the legislature, as well as the governor, agreed to budget $55 million to provide better wages to DSPs, totaling an increase of 6.5 percent over two years. Leading the campaign for these salary increases to be included in the Executive Budget were Senator Robert G. Ortt, Chairman of the Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee and Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Chair of the Subcommittee on Autism Spectrum Disorders, and father of a son who was diagnosed with autism at age 3.
In Indiana, the charge for competitive DSP compensation was led by Dr. Tim Brown, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senator Luke Kenley, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Both Chairman Brown and Chairman Kenley have been long-time champions of issues important to people with I/DD. Together they spearheaded the effort to budget $20 million of state funds, which would draw down another $40 million of federal dollars, ultimately increasing the hourly wage of DSPs. With the passage of this budget bill, the state of Indiana hopes to reduce its 45 percent turnover rate of their direct service professional workforce.
Victories like these wouldn’t be possible without the support of elected officials being honored with this award. Our hope is that other states will take note of these victories and strive to replicate what they have done. We commend both New York and Indiana for their tireless work to support DSPs and the people they serve.