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Letter: We can do better for people with disabilities

"Stable," "solid," "secure:" These are words for anything that's important. Unfortunately, the words do not apply to the support staff situation for people with disabilities in Minnesota.

There are more than 8,000 vacancies for the direct support professionals (DSPs) who serve these individuals. It's called a workforce crisis. Locally, day training programs are very aware of this situation.

With low starting wages stemming from a lack of funding, hiring is a sad magic trick of interview-hire-disappear. The dedicated staff who have a heart for this work remain, and continue to give their all, with many finding second jobs to make ends meet.

Training is often "speed training" to cover the basics. Some new hires are gone before they can make a first impression. How can trust and good working relationships be developed?

A court-imposed plan that emphasizes "person-centered" service and "community inclusion" is highly admired by thought leaders and will be practically impossible to accomplish without a stable DSP workforce.

How can service providers give people choices and offer inclusion when there are no staff to drive the van or give months of careful coaching to teach job skills? This is a crisis because human beings should not be treated this way, not those with disabilities or those who provide heartfelt, quality care for them.

Legislative leaders are reviewing budgets now. We need people to call and email them to urge support for the "Competitive Workforce Factor," which will help. Increased wages for DSPs will be a change for the better.

John Wayne Barker

Board member, Minnesota Organization for Habilitation and Rehabilitation

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