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OPINION: Direct-Support Professionals Need More Resources in NYS

By Will Barclay


Too often, fiscal and social policies developed by the state’s one-party leadership are misaligned with the needs of those living here. The overwhelming shortage of direct-support professionals caring for the disability community is a prime example of this. While fast-food and retail employees continue to see their paychecks grow as a result of unprecedented hikes to the state’s minimum wage, direct-support professionals grossly lack necessary financial and workforce-development resources from the state. 

Without immediate action to ensure this important segment of the health-care sector does not suffer any more attrition, the community they serve will continue to face insufficient, inadequate care across the board.

A survey recently conducted by New York Disability Advocates revealed more than $100 million each year is needed in order to overcome direct-support staffing shortages. Tom McAlvanah, president of the New York Disability Advocates and executive director of the Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities, pleaded for more resources, stating in a new report: “We don’t often talk about the actual cost of our staffing crisis. Provider agencies are spending millions of dollars to combat turnover of direct-support staff. Investing those resources into competitive wages and workforce initiatives that promote retention of essential staff would help stabilize our system of supports and ensure continuity of care.”

 Further frustrating the matter is the fact that our Assembly Minority Conference, along with advocates and those working in the field, had identified this problem years ago. Yet, little has been done to prevent a bad situation from getting worse, for some the difference between life and death. Federal aid has not moved the bar, and employee-retention issues have gone uncorrected. New York State must do more to address this dangerous and growing problem. 

 On Sept. 17, Direct Support Professional Recognition Week 2022 came to a close. The week — running from Sept. 11-17 — was designed to recognize the incredible contributions of direct-support professionals and celebrate their hard work and dedication. I think it provided a great opportunity, yet again, to call attention to their needs in New York state. If we do not take care of these incredible individuals, we do a disservice not only to them, but also to those they are charged with helping.       

William (Will) A. Barclay, 53, Republican, is the New York Assembly minority leader and represents the 120th New York Assembly District, which currently encompasses most of Oswego County, including the cities of Oswego and Fulton, as well as the town of Lysander in Onondaga County and town of Ellisburg in Jefferson County.