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Pilot Program Partners AccessCNY, OCC To Bolster Workforce That Cares For Those With Disabilities

Matt Hassan

State Senator John Mannion announced a new jobs program Friday aimed at bolstering the professional workforce that cares for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The state funding will provide tuition credits, higher salaries, mentoring, and paid internships targeted at attracting and retaining more direct service professionals, or DSPs at AccessCNY.  Mannion says these workers  provide vital and often intimate support.

"It is hard work.  But working with intellectually and developmentally disabled individuals is as rewarding as it is challenging.  There is a critical need for DSPs right now.  This pilot program, which I’m proud to fund, is a big part of the strategy to draw more caring and compassionate Central New Yorkers to a career working with the disabled.”

Mannion secured $100,000 from the state budget to fund the program that partners Access CNY and Onondaga Community College.  Access CNY Executive Director Paul Joslyn says this is a much needed breath of fresh air for the organization.  About 1,400 employees support 330 residents.

Credit Matt Hassan / WAER News

Without staff, we can’t support more people with disabilities in the community.  They’re the lifeblood of the agency.  We have several group homes, and we’re doing well in those homes to maintain staff.  But the need for services is growing day by day, especially when it comes to mental health diagnosis coming out of the pandemic. There is huge spike in need, and without staff, we can’t help meet that need.

The pilot program also includes what Mannion says is a long-overdue cost of living pay increase.  

This COLA is 10 years overdue.  It prohibits organizations like this from providing pay raises to the workers who administer these critical services.  They deserve these raises, and the raises should serve as a foundation for additional raises in budgets.  This will ensure proper care for those who require it.”

Joslyn with AccessCNY says the cost of living increases are critical because the state funding for DSPs have not kept pace with the minimum wage. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at