AccessCNY Highlights Wage Struggle for Direct Care Staff
Last week, AccessCNY and Arc of Onondaga partnered to draw attention to a key issue in our community. Wages for direct support professionals (DSPs) for persons with disabilities have not gone up significantly in eight years. This has resulted in 10% of those positions statewide going unfilled and a 25% turnover rate. This not only hurts direct care workers, but the people they serve.
DSPs perform difficult and intimate tasks. They help people feed themselves, get dressed and bathe. They dispense medication. They go through intense training and are under tremendous scrutiny. Most of all, DSPs are deeply committed to the people they serve.
Over 150 people turned out to hear our message and raise awareness of this issue. AccessCNY got the attention of local legislators and the media.
“Our low wages hurt the people we work with because of the high rate of turnover,” said Gardner. “A lot of time, new staff learns how to work with somebody, and the person starts getting comfortable with us, and then we leave. So a new person comes in, and it starts all over again.”
“It’s easily the participants who suffer the most,” Port said. “Can you imagine what it must be like to open up to someone, to trust them with your life,your livelihood, your privacy, your money only to have them gone in three months and have some new person to try and get used to. That is not right.”
Self-advocate Emily Sherman is involved in several programs through Access CNY. “The services like job coaching helped me get a job at Wegmans, which has helped me be more confident in myself.”
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“It’s not enough. Sometimes I do have to do overtime and work in the houses for extra hours,” said Wright.
Some in the state legislature say that’s unacceptable.
“It is so ironic that you get paid better by flipping hamburgers than taking care of people who have the greatest needs of all,” Sen. John DeFrancisco said.