Thank you for publishing Christopher Corbett’s recent guest column: (Governor’s budget fails disability workers, Jan. 29, 2017). As the brother of an individual who lives in a residence run by Schenectady ARC — an organization that provides a variety of supports and services for individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities — and as the executive director of that same organization, I have first-hand knowledge of the growing crisis within our workforce.
Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo has failed to act, action by the state Legislature is essential if we are going to preserve a critical network of services for our state’s most vulnerable citizens.
The failure to raise providers’ rates, together with the increases to the minimum wage, have created an unprecedented workforce crisis for service providers like Schenectady ARC. We need to be paid more for the services we provide so we can pay our direct support professionals (DSPs), our “front-line” workers, a living wage.
Although the minimum wage in New York state has increased, and will continue to increase for the next four years, our DSPs are not doing minimum-wage work. On a daily basis, they literally have individuals’ lives in their hands. They must go through background checks and extensive training, and they are expected to respond professionally to every imaginable aspect of human behavior.
New York state used to lead the nation in providing a comprehensive network of high-quality supports and services for people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The current fiscal situation threatens the core of that network — a dedicated, trained and compassionate workforce.
Our local legislators have been very supportive. But now it is time for the rest of the Legislature to join them. Support the #BFair2DirectCare coalition’s campaign for a living wage for our direct support professionals.
The author is the executive director of Schenectady ARC.