Like many of you, 2020 proved to be an enormously challenging year. Yet despite the incredible hurdles we faced, and because of your generous support, Emmaus persevered. Even the global-wide COVID pandemic could not stop our historic mission of serving more than 200 adults with developmental disabilities. Our heroes – the hundreds of courageous frontline team members who work in client homes – remained resolute in their commitment to protect the health and safety of our clients. Thankfully, nearly all our clients have received the vaccine and are currently virus-free.
Sadly, the impact of COVID at Emmaus has only further exacerbated our staffing crisis. Over the past year, our headcount for direct support professionals (DSPs) decreased by nearly 20%, leaving our organization with critically low staffing levels. Because of this, we have been forced to make some difficult decisions that included discharging clients and consolidating some client homes. We have also made the decision to stop accepting new clients, simply because we do not have enough staff members to safely support them.
Our commitment to continue our ministry is directly tied to our ability to provide a living wage for our frontline team members. We are disappointed that Governor Parsons recommended only $9.9 million in general revenue to combat this critical issue. This decision will have little to almost no impact on our staffing crisis. To put this in perspective, the recommendation from Governor Parsons would only provide an additional $200,000 in revenue to Emmaus. We estimate that providers like Emmaus need an additional $86 million to pay DSPs a living wage of $15/hour. While the Emmaus Board of Directors committed more than $3 million each year over the last three years to pay our frontline team members $12/hour, we are simply unable to continue this subsidy.
Our direct support professionals remain the absolute backbone of our organization, yet they continue to experience many harsh realities outside of work including:
- More than half of the 15,000 DSPs working in Missouri are forced to access some form of public assistance including Medicaid and SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program).
- Nearly one in every four Missouri DSPs lives at or below the federal poverty level.
- The most recent data available indicates that the average starting wage for DSPs in Missouri hovers between $10 and $12/hour – barely above the Missouri minimum wage of $9.45/hour.
Sadly, the DSP crisis has had an even more devastating impact on the people we are entrusted to serve. For people with disabilities, this crisis can mean that the staff they have come to love, and trust are often forced to leave Emmaus, and seek employment elsewhere. It also means that new, unfamiliar people are responsible for their most intimate care. And in some cases, it may also mean that our clients do not feel as safe.
We need you to help us share our message with elected officials. Your advocacy is more important than ever. Emmaus, along with other service providers, is tackling the DSP crisis head-on. We are imploring our elected officials to increase state funding to ensure every DSP in the state of Missouri earns at least $15/hour. We need your help to sound the alarm about this crisis. People with disabilities deserve so much better and YOU can help us by lending your voice. Please consider contacting your representatives and help us share our story. It is easy to do – and we can provide you with talking points to use when contacting your elected officials. Austin Hayden leads our advocacy efforts and can be contacted at email@example.com or 317-902-2078.
Emmaus is a leader in providing high-quality services to adults with developmental disabilities and we look forward to solving this crisis so that we can continue our mission by offering services to those in need.
On behalf of everyone at Emmaus, including the more than 200 clients we serve and the nearly 450 direct support professionals who provide their care, thank you for your continued support and attention to this urgent matter.
President & CEO