Friday, March 25, 2016

Crisis in Care: Direct Support Workers earn poverty wages; solutions needed to stabilize support services

"The Cost of Compassion" from the Oregon Rehabilitation Association

In Michigan, a 2015 survey by the Partnership for Fair Caregiver Wages shows that employers can't attract Direct Service Providers with the current reimbursement rates:

"In the spring of 2014, the Michigan Legislature passed a law to increase the standard minimum hourly wage, via annual increases, from $7.40 to $9.25 by January 1, 2018. The Legislature did not provide any additional funding for the wages of direct-support workers, the employees of state-funded programs that care for and support some of the most vulnerable people in our state. 

"An estimated 44,000 direct-support jobs are funded through Medicaid appropriations to support and serve people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, and substance use disorders. Employers of these workers depend on Medicaid funding provided through the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, and unlike other businesses, have little or no ability to increase revenues to meet increased staff costs. 

"Even before the increases in the minimum wage, staffing shortages tied to low wage rates were creating soon-to-be-crisis-level consequences."
  [Emphasis added]

High Turnover Rate: "Among those surveyed, a 37 percent turnover rate = loss of 6,308 employees in a single year. "

Direct-Support Workers Earn Poverty Wages 

2,600 direct-support workers are needed now.

The Partnership for Fair Caregiver Wages is a coalition of state-wide organizations advocating for persons with disabilities, direct support staff, and employers as well as regional community mental health boards and individual employers. This coalition is seeking sufficient public dollars to raise the wages of direct support staff in Medicaid-funded programs supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

For more information, please contact Hollis Turnham at or Robert Stein at

What is a "Living Wage" in your state? Find out here.  


Anonymous said...

It is frustrating to hear state & local CMH leadership rally families to support the maintenance of their PIHP under the guise of quality of care for my daughter, but their efforts on the part of ensuring stable & caring staff is just 'a great concern' and "we're trying'. I've lost count how many staff have come & gone through her home in the last year.

The last time I felt I was 'rallied around' by CMH was last summer so the county vocational staff could keep their $15/hr jobs. How did this help my daughters home staff? It didn't, as a matter of fact, the Commissioners decided to nix giving Providers a promised cost of living increase because it was too expensive....and then gave the county vocational program another 2.2 million to stay open.

Jill Barker said...

Excellent comment.

I think funding of services has to be tied to the needs of individuals served by the system. The accumulated needs as described in Individual plans of service should be the basis for determining how much money the agencies and service providers receive to provide those services plus a reasonable amount for administration and other operating expenses. A refusal to acknowledge needs in service plans or a refusal to adequately fund services should be penalized and at a minimum result in less money to spend on things not directly related to providing services.

It could be done, but there would be resistance to it because it is likely to expose how inadequate the current system is and where the current system is underfunded.