Capitol rally March 12 highlights disability service 'workforce crisis'

Nearly 1,000 attend Rotunda event followed by individual visits with lawmakers

As disability service providers in Minnesota continue to address significant challenges in staff recruitment and retention, they joined with individuals they support for a rally at the Capitol Rotunda in St. Paul March 12.

Their top concern is the push for a “competitive workforce factor” to address the shortage of direct support professionals (DSPs) serving people with disabilities. 

This adds a new component to the system that generates the payments that providers receive for their services, so they are able to increase wages paid to direct support staff.

“We’re making significant progress with our efforts to address this workforce crisis, both legislatively and with the competitive workforce factor’s inclusion in the governor’s budget,” said Julie Johnson, president of the Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation (MOHR).

“But the fact remains that DSPs earn, on average, 17 percent less than people employed in comparable professions.”

Johnson cites a June 2018 study by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the “Comparative wage analysis of home and community-based services direct care staff.”

The report compared care staff wages with 76 other occupations that require a similar level of education, training and job preparation.

“What is at stake is the quality of life of tens of thousands of Minnesotans with disabilities,” Johnson said.

“With assistance from service providers, these individuals have a far greater chance to reach their goals for employment, independence and full engagement with their communities,” she said.

“Direct support professionals are at the front line of support for people with disabilities, and without them, many of these individuals will lack the assistance needed to live the lives they want to live.”

MOHR has organized this Disability Services Day at the Capitol in partnership with the Association of Residential Resources of Minnesota

Both are members of the Best Life Alliance, a statewide coalition of people with disabilities, their families and providers of home and community-based services. Attendance is expected to reach 1,000 participants.

Another element being considered by legislators is to evaluate these wages every two years to make sure they remain competitive and keep pace with the cost of living.

“Minnesota has always been a leader in providing services for people with disabilities, and we still believe that to be the case,” said Johnson, referring to a recent national disability study where the state was ranked lower than in previous years.

“There’s a significant push to share data nationally and compare us with other states, but sometimes important context is lost and the data can’t be validated, are dated, or make assumptions that place us in a negative light because we provide services differently.”

Representing more than 100 providers in the state, MOHR members provide skills training, employment services, community involvement, behavioral supports and life enrichment activities to more than 26,000 individuals with disabilities in Minnesota.


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