The energy was high and minds determined as we took to the State Capitol March 25 to rally for a Fair Wage for direct support professionals in New York State.
The Arc of Delaware County was present and accounted for among over 1,000 others in the War Room of the NYS capitol for the #bFair2DirectCare rally. Eleven of us including DSP’s, parents, and self-advocates shared a trip to Albany with our sister chapter, Arc Otsego. We were thrilled to take part in strengthening and building our community through supporting a fair, living wage for this vitally important profession. Self-advocates experienced the significance of their citizenship as we heard from the Governor’s council that the Governor would not approve a budget without a wage increase for DSP’s. He announced that this was a direct result of the massive turn out bringing a clear and powerful message that it is time to end the critical shortage of DSP’s in the state and across the nation.
We stand together with our community to create jobs, develop relationships, champion fair wages, and continue to provide and prosper in assisting people to live fulfilling lives.
We stood shoulder to shoulder alongside a non-partisan representation of people concerned and affected by the current crisis in DSP shortages. Some of the representation of legislators from both the Senate and Assembly also spoke, including Senate Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities Committee Chairman David Carlucci (D-Rockland), Assembly Mental Health Committee Chairwoman Aileen Gunther (D-Orange) – both speaking on behalf of the Legislature’s majorities, and Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan (R-Nassau).
Due to a lack of state funding, non-profits in our field are losing staff members to easier work that can pay better. Non-profits took over primary responsibility for direct support after the Willowbrook scandal of the 1970s, where residents were living in inhumane conditions in a state facility. In a relatively short period of time, we have come a long way from the days of Willowbrook and have risen to amazing heights in supporting people as they accomplish goals, learn, have jobs, contribute to successful communities, overcome challenges, and live full, meaningful lives!
The details will remain to be seen but the day’s events mean the Governor, Senate and Assembly all agree to fund a wage increase for direct support professionals (DSPs), the trained professionals who support New Yorkers who have autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and other developmental disabilities.