This past Thursday, the ANCOR Foundation’s Included. Supported. Empowered. campaign partnered with our friends at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) to release the Case for Inclusion 2019, a comprehensive data tool that assesses all 50 states and the District of Columbia on how well state programs, primarily Medicaid, serve individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The occasion was marked with a national launch event at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, which brought together 75 of the nation’s leading researchers, policy analysts and disability advocates.
Case for Inclusion launch event speakers. From left: Armando Contreras, CEO, UCP; Barbara Merrill, CEO, ANCOR & the ANCOR Foundation; Tarren Bragdon, Lead Researcher, Case for Inclusion; Angela King, President & CEO, Volunteers of America Texas; Chris Stevenson, President & CEO, Cedar Lake
Since its inception by UCP in 2006, the Case for Inclusion has assessed states on everything from competitive employment outcomes to the number of large institutions that warehouse individuals with I/DD being operated by a given state. However, for the first time, this year’s Case for Inclusion awards additional credit in the ranking methodology for states that participate in the National Core Indicators Staff Stability Survey. This is of critical import because, as ANCOR and ANCOR Foundation CEO Barbara Merrill shared with participants during her opening remarks at the national launch event, collecting these data is critical to resolving the most significant issue facing I/DD providers: the Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce crisis.
As previous ANCOR research has found, 45% of DSPs leave their posts within a year, most often because of low wages. At the same time, all states—from Arizona, which ranks top in the nation, to Mississippi, which comes in 51st place—have room for improvement when it comes to the indicators tracked by the Case for Inclusion. Quite frankly, if providers can’t pay competitive wages to the DSPs on the frontlines supporting individuals with I/DD, they won’t be able to attract and retain the workforce necessary to meet the needs of the individuals already being supported, let alone the 424,000 individuals on states’ waiting lists for Medicaid-funded services.
This was a point made eloquently by Denise Brodey, who wrote in an article published late last week by Forbes, that “every aspect of an I/DD individual’s life could very well change for the better if DSP wages improved.” As others reporting on the Case for Inclusion have clearly articulated, the challenges surrounding the DSP workforce crisis and their subsequent impact on the effective delivery of state Medicaid programs, though profound everywhere, are especially pronounced in states that are seeing a steep slide in their rankings. A report from Connecticut, for example, documents how the state finally passed a minimum wage hike for DSPs after more than a dozen years of stagnation; during those 12 years, Connecticut dropped from 6th place to 31st place in the Case for Inclusion rankings. Meanwhile, New Jersey, which fell from 34th place in 2016 to 38th place this year, finds itself in the midst of a workforce crisis in which the state “won’t have enough new emerging [DSPs] to fill what [New Jersey will] need by 2026.”
Although these news reports and the dozens of others across the country about the Case for Inclusion are certainly cause for alarm, we also know that raising awareness is a critical component of our advocacy. This is precisely why the ANCOR Foundation and its Included. Supported. Empowered. campaign partnered with UCP to invest in the Case for Inclusion: to raise awareness about the DSP workforce crisis and elevate the conversation around public policy solutions to the crisis. We know that the change we need to create in order to solve this crisis is massive, and we know we can’t do it alone.
For that reason, we invite you to get involved. Whether you’re a self-advocate, a family member of a person with I/DD, or a representative of a provider agency that’s struggling to retain the workforce needed to support individuals in the community, there are no shortage of small but meaningful steps you can take to help us move the needle. Here are just a few ideas to help you get started:
Last week’s launch of the Case for Inclusion was just the beginning, and when it comes to ensuring people of all abilities are included, supported and empowered in the community, we’re just getting started. Thank you for being on this journey with us.
More information about the Case for Inclusion 2019 can be found at caseforinclusion.org.