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Earlier this year a service provider in St. Louis – similar to Emmaus – was forced to discontinue serving 17 people with disabilities because government rates for their services are too low to hire and retain staff.

The average rate that we receive to provide critical services for our clients is $25.91/hour. Yet, an independent study of Missouri’s rates indicates that we NEED $29.92/hour to provide these services and break even financially. A four dollar-an-hour difference in reimbursement, coupled with providing more than 1,000,000 hours of service, equates to a $4,000,000 shortfall annually.

Not many businesses can sustain losses like that, yet year after year, Emmaus and other providers are forced to. The real problem is that organizations like Emmaus are so underfunded that we can’t afford to pay Direct Support Professionals a living wage.

To prevent something like this from happening at Emmaus, our Board of Directors made the bold decision to invest $10 million over the course of three years to help retain the high-quality staff at Emmaus. At the same time, we initiated an ambitious plan to reorganize our service delivery system to enhance services to our clients and families and create meaningful career paths for our DSPs.

One donor, Ashley, put it this way, “I like that I’m helping take care of the people who are taking care of the people.” So far, we have succeeded in reducing the number of unfamiliar faces coming in to fill open shifts by 27%.

Thanks to our incredible donors, we are one step closer to keeping our base wage at the top end of the state range for Direct Support Professionals. But this crisis is far from over.

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