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Mental Health Update

November 18, 2021
Mental Health Update

MH Update 11/18/2021 – Governor Hochul Announces $1.5 Billion in Funding for the Developmental Disabilities Workforce: We also urge funding support for Behavioral Health and Other Human Service Sectors

Direct care staffs have incredibly difficult jobs and some of the most significant. When you ask someone about their personal recovery, they often reference their direct support professional. For too long, the direct care workforce has been dramatically underpaid.

That is why we are are pleased that Governor Hochul, working with the federal government, is adding $1.5 billion in funding for the workforce for those individuals with developmental disabilities.

The direct care professionals in the other parts of the human services sector are also among the hardest working people in the community, and for years, the workforce has received unfulfilled commitments and minimal funding increases.

People are complicated and they just don’t fit into one silo. Our members work with many people with cross disabilities. That has to be recognized as well. As we our ‘rising the tide’ for our dedicated developmental disability workforce, we must ‘rise the tides for all boats’ including those who represent mental health and other sectors of the human services workforce.

Governor Hochul Announces Over $1.5 Billion in Funding for Workers Who Directly Support Those with Developmental Disabilities

Long-Term Recruitment Strategies to Help Tackle Workforce Shortage Retention Incentives to be Provided to Direct Support Workers, with Additional Bonus for Staff Who Get the COVID-19 Vaccine

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities will provide over $1.5 billion in one-time American Rescue Plan Act Funding to support recruitment efforts, retention incentives and vaccination bonuses for direct support professionals who provide support for people with developmental disabilities in an effort to address workforce shortages in this field.

“Direct Support Professionals provided essential support to people with developmental disabilities throughout the pandemic when we needed them most, in spite of the risk to themselves and their own families,” Governor Hochul said. “We owe these workers a debt of gratitude and the American Rescue Plan funding paves the way for bonuses, incentives and one time pay raises to help keep these hardworking, loyal and devoted workers doing what they love most, supporting people with developmental disabilities.”

New York State submitted its initial draft spending plan to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the enhanced federal funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on July 8, 2021. The CMS has provided partial approval of the plan as it relates to the workforce.

As approved, OPWDD’s plan targeted most of the funding to workforce initiatives, including payments to provide bonuses to DSPs and family care providers. OPWDD plans to invest the one-time ARPA funding in workforce improvements and incentives including:

– A “Heroes Fund” which will provide incentive payments to those DSPs who worked during the unprecedented pandemic with additional payments for those who received the COVID vaccine. – Retention and longevity bonuses will make additional investments in the workforce by rewarding longevity and providing additional bonuses to staff who remain in the DSP workforce. – Long-term recruitment and retention strategies which will be developed and tested with funding for projects that address the long-term stability of the workforce. Funding will be made available to incentivize credentialing and other strategies that build skills and competency of DSP workforce and front-line supervisors.

Acting Commissioner of the New York Office for People with Developmental Disabilities Kerri E. Neifeld said, “Direct support professionals provide essential services to people with developmental disabilities so they can lead rich and rewarding lives of their choosing. They are the backbone of our system and they bravely showed up to work throughout the pandemic to care for and support some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers. Although the work is emotionally and physically taxing, direct support is a labor of love for the people who choose this career. As commissioner, I am pleased to be able to make crucial investments in the direct support workforce through the American Rescue Plan Act funds and look forward to continuing to support this vital workforce.”

Senator John W. Mannion said, “Securing this vital federal funding and directing it towards the well-being of an overworked and depleted workforce is a strong signal from Governor Kathy Hochul that New York State is committed to overcoming the staffing crisis. The entire care delivery system in the developmental disabilities field is built on the work performed by Direct Support Professionals. We can show our thanks and appreciation for their vital, caring, and compassionate work by providing a living wage and recruiting more people into the field. This investment will help to begin to address the extreme workforce shortages and ultimately lead to better services for tens of thousands of New Yorkers with an intellectual or developmental disability and their families.”

Assemblymember Thomas Abinanti said, “The shortage of direct support professionals has created a crisis for people with disabilities who cannot survive without them — managers are now doing the work they are supposed to supervise and programs are closing down. I applaud Governor Hochul’s direct action to confront the emergency and jump start recruitment and retention efforts with extraordinary funding.”

Michael Seereiter, President and CEO of the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation said, “These resources begin to help stem the exodus of Direct Support Professionals from our field by recognizing DSPs for the extraordinary work they have always done – but especially that which DSPs demonstrated throughout the pandemic, literally sacrificing their own health and well-being for that of people with disabilities they support. This commitment represents a refreshing new perspective in governmental priorities and serves as an extraordinary down payment toward raising up the DSP profession, as DSPs help raise up New Yorkers with disabilities to be all that they can be.”

Erik Geizer, Chief Executive Officer, The Arc New York said, “Our essential workforce is the foundation of *supports* and services for New Yorkers with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and these funds represent the first step in what we hope will be a sustained investment in our workforce. We are very pleased to hear the waiver was approved, and grateful to state leadership for ensuring the funds will be directed to address our most critical needs.”

At this time, these disbursements are only available to family care providers and direct support workers who are employed by voluntary service providers, including staff who deliver services under the self-direction program. Discussions are ongoing regarding state employed direct support workers.