HUMAN SERVICE PROVIDER ASSOCIATION OPPOSES SENATE BILL 600
Senate Bill 600 would move the Department of Disabilities & Special Needs as a division within the Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS)
After a thorough review of Senate Bill 600 the Provider Association unanimously agreed that they cannot support this bill. We believe that such dramatic changes would completely destabilize our system and be detriment to existing and future services. Below are some of the key issues and concerns that we have identified:
- The Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) would become one of many programs within a much larger State Agency (DHHS) and the priorities that we need to have protected for some of the most vulnerable citizens in South Carolina would be seriously jeopardized.
- There would no longer be a voice at the State Agency level that would be able to advocate effectively for individuals with disabilities.
- DHHS is a cabinet position that is appointed by the Governor. Depending on who gets appointed determines the direction that the department will go in, which may not always be favorable for the individuals we support as evidenced by the previous administration.
- Funding would be compromised by being part of a larger entity with DDSN funding needing to take a back seat to other priorities.
- DHHS does not understand the population we support and could make policy decisions that would have a negative impact on services.
- For decades the DDSN commission has provided excellent oversight of DDSN and clearly understand the needs of people with intellectual disabilities and their families.
- DDSN currently has a fluid and flexible way to address service issues, aide providers and respond to system needs quickly and appropriately without the multiple layers of federal approval that is required in the DHHS system. Under the proposed new structure such flexibility would no longer exist.
DIRECT SUPPORT PROFESSIONALS (DSP) WORK FORCE – POSITION STATEMENT
The Human Services Provider Association (HSPA), is a network of providers who support individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), head and spinal cord injuries and autism throughout South Carolina. Our organization represents over 35 providers that support over 25,000 individuals and employ over 7,000 staff.
We are fortunate that today individuals with IDD have opportunities to be active partners in their communities thanks to the hard work and dedication of the Direct Support Professionals (DSP) who provide the much needed support each day. However, with the changes in Federal Regulation over the years and the more recent changes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) the need for qualified DSP’s has grown enormously. In order to be responsive to these new requirements and to be equipped to meet the increased demand for community based services there is a growing need to recruit and retain qualified DSP’s.
The ability to hire and retain qualified DSP’s to provide the necessary supports has grown more and more difficult to accomplish. While wages in other service industries have risen, the wages for DSP’s have remained flat. This has resulted in higher turnover and difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff. A 2014 study by the Human Services Research Institute has identified that the average turnover rate is now approaching well over 40%. In addition, it is estimated that by 2022 more than one million new DSP’s will need to be hired. DSP’s are critical to the success and stability of the South Carolina system and are essential to assure the ongoing viability of existing services. While wages for DSP’s are comparable to other entry level positions, there are significant differences between job responsibilities, training requirements, skills, and expectations. The job of a DSP is complex, requiring a broad range of skills and attributes often not found in other entry level types of positions. Their role encompasses a broad range of skills and abilities of a skilled professional responsible for assuring the health and wellbeing of some of our most vulnerable citizens of South Carolina.
We are approaching a crisis in not being able to recruit and retain qualified DSP’s. Current rates of $10.00 per hour are not sufficient to attract the skills and expertise necessary to maintain a viable service system. We believe that at a minimum DSP’s need to be compensated at $12.00 per hour in order to attract the talent that our service system desperately needs. In addition, there needs be a system that ensures annual increases to adjust for reasonable cost of living increases to assure that wages do not fall behind again. The DSP’s are the backbone of our service system. They needed to be recognized for that and compensated accordingly.