They are the men and women who carry out incredibly varied and important responsibilities to support New Yorkers with developmental disabilities and help them live safe, fulfilling lives.
DSPs exemplify diversity. Nearly three-quarters are women, many of whom are single mothers, and half are either black or Latino. They are professionals who are highly trained in a wide variety of critical areas that include administering medications, giving first aid and CPR, de-escalating dangerous situations, behavioral intervention, and providing for the safety of those they support.
DSPs must comply with OSHA regulations, fire drills/emergency evacuation procedures, on-the-job Core Competency requirements, and a Code of Ethics developed by National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP).
DSPs must know the laws, regulations and procedures designed to protect individuals.
You would think that a job with all these requirements would pay $20-$25 an hour.
But no. Despite the high demands of the job, DSPs currently earn on average between $10 and $13 per hour. That’s less than people make at fast-food restaurants and big-box stores.
Dealing with an enormous burden of paperwork essential to regulatory compliance and service delivery documentation used for billing Medicaid.
The critical work of DSPs include:
For nearly eight years, non-profit agencies which serve New Yorkers with developmental disabilities went without a funding increase, leaving Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) at astonishingly low wages despite their critical work. To address this issue, #bFair2DirectCare formed and waged a statewide educational campaign to win funding for a living wage, phased in over six years.
Last year, #bFair2DirectCare asked the New York State Governor, Senate, and Assembly to include $45 million in the 2017-18 NYS Budget to go towards the wages of DSPs. After a year of diligent advocacy and education, Governor Cuomo raised his right hand for hundreds gathered at the NYS Capitol as he stated, “this hand will not sign a budget unless there is $55M in it!”
The final 2017-18 NYS budget included a $55 million appropriation to take effect December 31, 2017 (so the current state fiscal year) and another one of $55 million to take effect in April 1, 2018 (ie, not until the following fiscal year). This amounts to a two-year commitment to help bring DSPs towards a living wage.
That was the start. Our work is not done. The Governor and the Legislature need to continue to support DSPs.
First, the $55 million commitment scheduled to kick in on April 1, 2018 must be included in the new state budget that’s going to be decided next March.
Then Albany needs to keep moving forward with the funds needed to keep the commitment so these workers can receive a living wage.