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Another Voice: Nonprofit sector is vital to a strong New York

By William Gettman

It is impossible to put a price tag on how much it is worth to provide support, training and lifesaving skills to New York’s most vulnerable citizens. Yet that is what individuals who work in the human services sector do seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

We are fortunate in New York to have an extraordinary network of human services agencies that reach every corner of the state and provide services to hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers with social, emotional, addiction and social services needs.

New York’s human services nonprofit sector employs 200,000 workers who build and maintain the well-being of New Yorkers every day.

These skilled professionals provide the services and leadership required for communities to benefit from programs and services like universal pre-kindergarten, mental health care, employment training and intergenerational community centers. The network serves from very young children to our state’s oldest adults.

At the same time, nonprofit organizations are a critical and important economic engine and a vital part of our economy. These nonprofits deliver the lion’s share of health care, mental health, child welfare, counseling and other services that immeasurably contribute to overall quality of life and civic involvement.

In fact one in six employees across New York State works for a nonprofit organization.

Despite the human and economic impact of the service delivery sector, our workforce and providers are facing an unprecedented workforce crisis. The crisis wreaks havoc within human services and impacts the quality of life for every New Yorker – regardless of economic status or location.

For providers, the average turnover rate for direct care staff, clinicians and support personnel exceed 30 percent. Nationally, the rate is as high as 50 percent in some sectors.

High turnover results in increased overtime costs, increased stress and burnout, safety risks, increased training costs and, sadly, poor quality of service.

Imagine you, or a loved one, with a significant support need having a different staff every six months or, worse yet, every month. Underscoring this grim reality, as many as 25 percent of the human services workforce is forced to work a second job, take on added overtime or turn to government benefits for medical, food and nutrition programs. This has to change.

We ask that the state provide salary adjustments for those not covered by the prior year state budget for direct care workers. Nonprofits cannot continue to subsidize the state. The time to act is now – it cannot wait.

William Gettman is the CEO of Northern Rivers Family of Services in Albany.

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