Pay isn’t everything about a job, but it should, at the very least, compensate for the skills needed to do it. Tragically, direct support professionals (DSPs) – the key staff who support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) like my 26-year-old daughter – are not afforded fair pay for the complex and challenging work they do.
DSPs in New Jersey are paid near poverty-level wages, causing many to rely on government assistance and work multiple jobs just to get by. It’s also contributing to a nearly 44 percent turnover rate in the field that’s jeopardizing the system that enables over 30,000 residents with I/DD to live as independently as possible in New Jersey communities.
It’s heart-wrenching seeing how the revolving door of DSPs is impacting my daughter. During her day program, she’s had to adjust to nine new DSPs in less than five years. Her last DSP left over a month ago and the position remains vacant, with different substitutes filling in each day. The lack of consistency brings her anxiety and hinders her progress. Paying DSPs a fair living wage would begin stabilizing this essential workforce and helping the thousands of individuals with I/DD who rely upon them lead more successful and enriching lives. It’s time for Gov. Phil Murphy and the New Jersey Legislature to make a living wage for DSPs a priority.
Published in the Courier Post March 2018: https://www.courierpostonline.com/story/opinion/readers/2018/03/12/direct-support-professionals-new-jersey-better-wages/416974002/