On a regular basis, I hear that thousands of people are waiting for services. There simply is not enough money to provide them. The number is staggering. In Pennsylvania alone, 16,000 people with intellectual or development disabilities are waiting for services. If you take the average cost to serve one person and multiply it by the number of people, we would need to raise $1 billion in taxes to cover services for all those waiting. That is a 25% increase over current spending. We all know that the direct support workforce is underpaid so even that number would not fully cover costs.
How do you tell someone who has a personal emergency that they have moved on to a waiting list? How do you tell a direct support staff member that they need to wait to get a decent hourly rate of pay?
We need to think differently about services. We need to take some big steps:
- We need to drop the average cost to serve one person.
- We need to raise the direct support wages to the right livable wage.
- We need more support for families.
So who takes the first step? Isn’t that always the question? This is not the time for anyone to wait to see who will go first. We have to take steps now.
There are strategies for all three of those big steps. For the next month, this blog will focus on those steps. I must tell you, there will be something each of you can do. I must also say that the people who are waiting need each of you to act.