Learn more about our Homes with Heart capital campaign at HCSHeart.org

The Caring Industry Needs Government Support

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By Marisa Geitner

I had the chance to speak with local and national leaders, as well as someone who works as a Consumer Directed Personal Attendant, to discuss the state of care professionals on WXXI’s Connections. Through the experience of the care professional, we heard again the dedication required for the occupation, and the burden of wage shortfalls, job burnout and lack of career development.

It bears repeating how beneficial our wage increase and career development efforts will be to increasing the sustainability of our agency, as we have seen an increase in job applicants for direct support positions over the past two months. That said, no agency can continue to increase wages without an increase in government funding.  At Heritage Christian, we are driving forward to show our government leaders the result that a more competitive wage and a career path forward can have on stabilizing the caring industry. We know this can and will result in their support now and into the future.

Within the last year alone, here is some of the unprecedented support we have seen. Speaker of the NYS Assembly Carl Heastie and Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford visited our home on Jackson Road in Penfield, we had discussions about stopping cuts, raising the wage and investing in the future.

Earlier this year, with the support of New York state leaders, Heritage Christian Services raised its minimum wage for most all direct support positions and provided a 5.4% cost of living adjustment (COLA) to all workers. While this increase didn’t fund nearly the resources necessary for such increases, the COLA was larger than we had seen in our history. As a result, the majority of our staff benefited from the COLA and 1,739 frontline workers saw an additional boost to their minimum wage.

Additionally, Governor Hochul announced a $10-million partnership with the National Association of Direct Support Professionals to expand opportunities for professional credentialing for direct support professionals (DSP’s). This may have a positive effect on retention, as it allows for future growth and advancement for DSPs.

Senator Robert Ortt has previously introduced legislation that pushes for better, competitive living wages for direct support professionals, and even visited two of our locations over the summer to speak directly with our workforce.

Senator John Mannion, who serves as chair of the Senate Committee on Disability, has similarly highlighted our direct support workforce and pushed for a higher cost of living adjustment.

The challenges of our caring industry are not going away, but we have started on the right trajectory with government support. We cannot sustain one of the fastest growing workforces and meet the needs of our communities without working together.

You can listen to the full Connections interview here: https://www.wxxinews.org/show/connections/2022-10-11/discussing-the-state-of-the-direct-support-industry