Thank you, Bonnie Brien, for sharing how the DSP workforce crisis is impacting your daughter and family.  #NJ must #PayFair4DirectCare for Bonnie’s daughter and 30,000 NJ residents like her who rely on DSPs to live in NJ communities #TheyDeserveBetter

My Daughter and Others Like Her in NJ Deserve Quality Care

Poverty-level wages are driving people away from direct support work, causing a severe shortage of qualified DSPs in New Jersey.

All the arrangements are set for our 32-year-old daughter to move back to our hometown, except for the most critical. We cannot find qualified direct support professionals (DSPs) to provide the 24/7 care she needs to live in her new apartment. Why? Poverty-level wages are causing DSPs to abandon this important work, leaving our daughter and others without the care they need to survive in community-settings.

Our daughter has intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is non-verbal. DSPs are her lifeline. They must meet all of her complex needs, serving as her caregiver, interpreter, nurse, behaviorist, and friend. The demand for qualified DSPs far exceeds availability, and the situation is getting worse.

It takes a great deal of time for DSPs to understand not only her physical care, but also how to “read” her limited communication skills, gestures, expressions and an app on her iPad. At a 44% turnover rate, too few DSPs stay in the job long enough for this to happen, disrupting the continuity of care my daughter needs to be healthy and safe.

Since moving to a residence one hour from our home two years ago, the revolving door of DSPs has led to missed physical signs that resulted in new health issues for our daughter, some quite serious. Moving her closer to our home will enable us to reach her within minutes should there be a concern, which could be a minor issue or a true medical emergency. The fact that she’s unable to make this move because the agency cannot find candidates to fill DSP positions, highlights the workforce crisis and the negative impact on those with I/DD.

New Jersey lawmakers must begin stabilizing the DSP workforce by making a commitment to enacting a living wage for DSPs. Appropriating funds in FY2019 to raise DSPs wages by $1.25/hour is a critical first step. My daughter and others like her in New Jersey deserve quality care. And we need our daughter closer to our home.

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