Advocates say low pay and unreliable funding is putting intellectual disability system at risk of collapse

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Airdate: Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Disability advocates are sounding the alarm over the funding and staffing crisis impacting care. They say the problem is so severe that the system risks an eventual collapse unless the state government takes immediate action.

Gary Blumenthal is the vice president of InVision Human Services, in Wexford and Reading, Pa., and his organization is advocating for an immediate increase in funding. He says to prevent a collapse of the care system, the state must do two things immediately.

First, increase pay to direct support professionals; some earn almost 40 percent less if they work in a non-state owned center. Second, the community programs must be staffed and stable for people using the services. Turnover of employees is so high that the programs suffer, as do the users.

Gary Blumenthal joins Smart Talk Tuesday to discuss these issues and how the state government has failed to review program costs. Joining him is Nancy Murray, Senior Vice President of Achieva and President, The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services provided this statement following the Smart Talk broadcast:

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many challenges that existed before March 2020, and this includes workforce shortages within the healthcare and human services systems. To address the shortage of workers within the intellectual disability/autism service system, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) has committed to both one-time funding to support provider recruitment and retention efforts and to proactively engage in the process of refreshing the data that informs the department’s reimbursement rates for providers serving individuals with intellectual disabilities/autism. By regulation, the process of refreshing the data that informs the department’s reimbursement rates is to occur on a three-year timeline and is due to be conducted in October 2022. DHS has proposed to engage in this process one year in advance as part of its proposal to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) for use of enhanced federal funds for home- and community-based services under the American Rescue Plan Act. DHS is awaiting approval from CMS to move forward with this plan. Additionally, the department continues using flexibilities allowed through an agreement with CMS under the federal Public Health Emergency to operate the home- and community-based waiver program for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. Some of the flexibilities are aimed at addressing pandemic-related staffing issues.

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