16 Mar Increase pay for agency workers who help Hoosiers with disabilities
Recently, New Hope CEO Allison Wharry along with two other area CEOs wrote a Letter to the Editor in the Indianapolis Star to highlight efforts to increase wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSP), who are the backbone of our agencies. Below is the letter that was printed in the March 12th issue.
We represent three agencies that provide services to hundreds of individuals with disabilities throughout Central Indiana. Agencies like ours provide services to help Hoosiers with disabilities become more independent, reducing the ultimate cost of those supports and advancing people’s opportunities to contribute positively to our community.
Central to our missions of service are our workers who provide much of that direct support that helps people achieve increased independence. These Direct Support Workers earn, on average, approximately $10 per hour, a wage that classifies them as the working poor. This causes hardship for them and their families as they work to reduce hardships for the people they support. The services our agencies provide are almost exclusively funded by Medicaid which establishes rules and payments for services to people with disabilities. Payments are based on funding approved by the legislature. In Indiana, we have effectively had no increase in rates for these services since 2008. Even so, as a result of operational efficiencies, we have raised wages considerably in the last nine years knowing that our good names as quality service providers in the greater Indianapolis area require a dependable work force.
We owe thanks to the Indiana House of Representatives, which has included an additional $10 million in the budget (freeing up $20 million in federal match money) to increase service rates. We have offered an auditable guarantee that the lion’s share of the increase will flow directly to these direct support workers in the form of increased wages. The budget bill is now in the hands of the Senate, which we hope will support this increase for the thousands of Hoosiers who will benefit from it.
As part of our request, we commissioned a study by the Indiana Public Policy Institute on the impact to these workers of current wages that agencies like ours are able to pay. It verified for us things that we knew to be true: these wages are among the lowest of any job category in Indiana and they lead to hard choices when it comes to these workers caring for the needs of their own families.
This small increase by Indiana will strengthen the system of supports in place for our most vulnerable Hoosiers and will help ensure that people who care for them can better care for their loved ones.
CEO, New Hope of Indiana, Inc.
CEO, Noble, Inc.
Patrick G. Cockrum
CEO, Sycamore Services, Inc.