As a parent of an individual with developmental disabilities, I am heart sick over the news that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget for 2017 does not include the requested $45 million needed each year for the next six years in order to increase the wages of direct support professionals.
My daughter, Kristin, receives services through Liberty ARC in Amsterdam. She has resided in a Liberty home for about seven years and has benefited from her Day Habilitation Program for many years. She is autistic, non-verbal and sometimes exhibits self-abusive behaviors.
I have experienced firsthand the impact of shifting staff to cover the demands of the people at Kristin’s home and know that this is happening agency-wide. It is an issue for similar organizations throughout the state. The responsibilities that DSPs have to shoulder at every shift are immense and, I dare say, I would be hard pressed to do their job.
I believe if Cuomo were to experience the worry that parents feel regarding the problems of recruiting and retaining good staff to care for their family member, I trust he would take another look at helping us.
Qualified people, those who really care, are extremely difficult to find. Comparing the training, responsibility, and dedication of DSPs to employees of fast food restaurants and big box stores is ludicrous.
DSPs deserve to earn a living wage, especially given the level of responsibility, training and care required to do this job.
It is my fervent hope that Cuomo will reconsider his decision for the sake of people with developmental and physical disabilities.
For the past year, the #bFair2DirectCare coalition — people with developmental disabilities, their family members, direct care workers and the agencies that employ them — has been asking Cuomo and legislators for the funds so our direct care workers can receive a living wage.
I urge community members to join in this effort and convey this important message to Cuomo and to our state representatives.
The DSPs who care for my daughter, and others like her, truly need your support and that of our elected officials.