Each year on January 31st, Emmaus team members visits Capitol Hill to participate in a very special event known as MARF (Missouri Association of Rehabilitation Facilities) Advocacy Day. MARF is an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of Missourians with disabilities by driving public policy and strengthening member organizations through advocacy, education and collaboration.
As a MARF provider, Emmaus works hand-in-hand to help serve people with disabilities through many aspects including: Residential Services, In-home Supports, Day Programs, Individual Supported Living (ISL), Group Homes, Community Access Training, Skills Training, Job Development, Supported Employment, and Sheltered Employment. We work to help MARF accomplish their Legislative Priorities:
- To adequately fund services for people with developmental disabilities.
- To ensure all Missourians have the opportunity to work in a competitive, integrated setting as the first and preferred choice.
- To oppose managed care for long-term services and supports (LTSS) that adversely impacts service delivery.
In order to live active, integrated and productive lives, many people with disabilities require supports and services from organizations like Emmaus. For decades, those with disabilities were not able to get these needed services in their own home and community. Government funded programs, particularly Medicaid, are known to have a bias towards funding institutional services instead of home and community-based services. Emmaus and MARF are working year-round to not only end this institutional bias, but also to end our nation’s Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce crisis.
We need to provide adequate funding for our DSPs who work tirelessly to provide quality support services, helping those living with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) reach their full potential by living independently in the community and reaching their goals. In Missouri, 15,000 Direct Support Professionals provide critical support services to people with IDD so they can live and work in their communities. 25,000 Missourians with IDD live and work in their communities because of the staff who support them. Fully-funding reimbursement rates would impact 7,500 receiving residential supports.
Here are the challenges we are faced with:
- 60% turnover disrupts and endangers people with IDD who depend on DSPs to live and work in the community.
- An FY17 Mercer actuarial study indicates provider rates are currently underfunded by 40%. As a result, DSP wages suffer.
- 25% DSPs live in poverty
- 25% of DSP positions are vacant, leaving people with IDD without critical services
- DSP pay is 64% of the U.S. median.
- 52% DSPs receive some sort of public assistance
This is why our Advocacy efforts are so valuable to not only Emmaus and our industry, but to the increasing millions of people living with disabilities in the United States. Our legislators can help stabilize the workforce that serves 7,500 Missourians with intellectual and developmental disabilities by fully funding the $76.5 million general revenue in the FY20 budget.