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Sen. John Mannion: Bonuses, Incentives For DSPs Is A Start, Not A Solution For Staffing Issue

Those who care for people with developmental disabilities in Central New York and across the state will be getting bonuses and incentives in an effort to support recruitment and improve retention. The $1.5 billion allocation of federal pandemic relief funds is aimed at alleviating the staffing crisis in the field.

The problem isn’t new, and the one-time disbursement is only a temporary fix.

State Senator John Mannion chairs the committee on disabilities. He says the money for Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, might begin to address the loss of services, the switching of facilities, and staff turnover which can be highly disruptive to those they serve.

“We have an immediate crisis. What’s really very scary and discouraging is that we do not have the people to provide the services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And if you work in that area or you have family members that need these services, they know it,” said Mannion.

Mannion says DSPs have gone without a cost of living wage adjustment for the last 10 years, forcing many to leave the profession for better paying, less demanding, but also less fulfilling jobs. This has created the gaps in services and staff shortages. Mannion says these workers deserve decent wages and support.

“Something that is causing the crisis to snowball, is that the folks that are so dedicated that they’re still there, many times, they’re working doubles and then working another double. Or they cannot leave the residence, let’s say, that they might be working in because there is no one there to replace them. So there is a level of burn out,” said Mannion.

Mannion continued, “They shouldn’t have to make these hard choices. They should be valued with a decent wage. They should not have to worry about paying their own bills. We hope the state has a long term commitment to valuing these people.”

Mannion wants New York State to commit about a half billion dollars every year to direct support professionals once the federal funding runs out. He says an effort also has to be made at the high school and community college levels to put young people on this career path.