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Letter: Direct care workers deserve a living wage

Direct care workers deserve a living wage

As the parent of a young man with Down syndrome, I am deeply concerned about the viability of our system of care. Each year, our legislators and the governor determine how much money will be allotted to cover the cost of services for those with developmental disabilities. Unfortunately, services have been consistently underfunded for the past 10 years.

Our system of care is now on the verge of collapse because our direct care providers – the professionals who deal on a day-to-day basis with our family member – are leaving the field, not because they want to, but because they can’t earn a living wage on the pay allocated in the state budget. Their work is difficult, demanding and challenging. It requires a great deal of skill, patience and commitment. Yet their pay is not commensurate with the level of skill or the level of responsibility that their work requires.

Self-advocates, families, caregivers and the agencies that employee them are raising their voices and demanding a living wage for direct care providers who are the lifeblood of the system. The direct care person is the contact between our family member and the world outside the home. These people interact on a regular basis and form positive relationships with those in their care.

We will not get a decent workforce without decent pay, and we are not going to get decent pay unless it is authorized in the state budget. Families and individuals need to know that service providers will be there. Without a robust and dedicated workforce, the whole system falls apart. Be fair to direct care.

Mary Jo Butler


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