By Michelle A. Brown LMSW, Coordinator of Integration and Advocacy
Wildwood's 5th Annual Legislative Day took place on March 1, 2018. Over 20 self advocates, staff, parents, and board members visited local Senators and Assemblypersons to continue bFair2DirectCare Advocacy. As constituents, we had the opportunity to thank our delegates for ensuring our Direct Support Professionals received a wage increase in the 2017-2018 budget.
While this was a positive step, we explained to legislators that the workforce crisis has actually worsened in the last year. It is challenging to attract and keep quality staff. Why? Staff continue to leave because they can make more money, with less responsibility, in other industries, such as fast food and retail. Even with last year’s wage increase, salaries are not rising fast enough to compete. Currently, Wildwood is experiencing a 24% vacancy rate and a 45% turnover rate in the first 3 years of employment. This problem is not unique to Wildwood, but is a statewide workforce crisis.
Our request this year was to ask our Legislators to invest an additional $18 million in wage increases for our DSP’s beyond what the governor has proposed in the 2018-2019 budget.
Vivian McIntosh receives support from Wildwood. Her impact statement told her personal story, illustrating the importance of having dedicated, quality staff in her life. She shared that she had not had a DSP for over a year. She thanked her staff leader, Corey Marshall, and social workers Maggie Pascucci and Donna Dorsey for doing two jobs, their own and the DSP job, so she had the support she needed to get to doctor appointments and receive life-saving chemotherapy. “It was life or death”, she stated.
First time attendee Lisa Liopiris, Director of Recreation/Respite, said she was glad a variety of perspectives were shared with legislators over the course of the day, ranging from parents to staff to people receiving services. She said, “It was empowering to be able to stand up for something I’m passionate about. My voice mattered.”
Keep up the advocacy! Visits, phone calls, and letters continue to let legislators know how important it is to create a livable wage for our DSP’s. We need to rebuild our workforce and show we value them by continuing to advocate for increased wages.
Share your story. Legislators are listening!
Resources to find your Legislators: