People who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the same shot at living and working in the communities they call home as their neighbors. But the only way that will happen is if state lawmakers honor their commitment to fund the programs that support them, and pay a living wage to the people who provide those services, advocates said as they rallied on the Capitol steps on Tuesday.
And with the state sitting on a multi-billion dollar budget surplus, and healthy reserves, now is the time to make that happen, they argued, as the Legislature returned to work this week after a primary season recess.
“If we’re not doing it now, then when? Now is the time,” state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, who has advocated for mental health issues in the lower chamber, said. ” … The Legislature should indeed support this work, so we don’t have to come back time and time again.”
The state has chronically underfunded health and human services for a decade, impacting not only those who live with disabilities but also those who seek treatment for substance abuse disorders and other needs, advocates said Tuesday. And an already bad workforce shortage was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, they said.
But because such services are funded by Medicaid, which is a joint effort of the state and federal government, provider agencies can’t raise prices to cover their costs or raise wages, as is the case with private businesses, they said. Most human services workers are paid less than $15 per hour, and the industry is seeing an unprecedented churn in its workforce, they added.
“The needs of people living with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities, and the workers who support them are not being met,” Sherri Landis, the executive director of the ARC of Pennsylvania, said.
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