WARSAW — Nationwide organizations offering care for individuals with disabilities are facing struggles staffing direct support professionals. Specifically, a local non-profit, Cardinal Services, deals with issues of short staffing and high turnover of DSPs due to inability to pay a higher wage.
Cardinal Services provides many services to adults with disabilities including living communities, faculty based classrooms, work service and community experience. These services could not be provided to the community without the pivotal role that DSPs hold.
DSPs, commonly known as caregivers, play a crucial role in providing care for people with disabilities. Caregivers are heavily involved in their clients lives by helping them with basic daily needs and helping them become involved in the community.
Executive Vice President at Cardinal Services Matt Boren said the non-profit organization has been continually struggling to keep DSPs staffed at Cardinal Services. Boren explained Cardinal Services has very little control over what they pay their DSPs because all the funds come directly from Medicaid.
“We take the price the that government gives us to do that service. So there’s no renegotiating that price,” said Boren.
The starting wage for a DSP at Cardinal Services is $9.35 an hour, a wage that can only raised if Cardinal Services has adequate funding. Boren said that despite schedule flexibility, insurance and paid time off, the hourly wage is what eventually causes staff to quit.
Boren said that over the last year, they have had 100 position openings, an average of 1 in 3 positions are unfilled.
Due to the shortage, Cardinal Services has had cut down on some services.
“We’re turning people away…We can’t take on more, knowing we can barely meet the needs of what we have,” said Borne, “We have the demand, just not the resources.”
Andrea Bottomley is a DSP at Cardinal Services. She has worked there for two years and loves with her job despite some of the downsides.
“It’s not work to me, it’s home,” said Bottomley.
Bottomley primarily works with day services at Cardinal Services. She helps clients with their basic needs and is a classroom instructor. She also picks up additional hours by taking clients out in the community.
Bottomley said she has seen the affects of this crisis first hand. Some of the classrooms have had to be closed at Cardinal Services and people have been turned away because of short staffing issues. Bottomley said this results in clients having to stay at home rather than coming to socialize and have an outlet.
“It runs you down,” said Bottomley.
Bottomley admits she has looked into working elsewhere with better pay, yet, this is what she loves. She said many residents have had to deal with high turn over.
“It’s an ongoing cycle. Eventually they just expect staff to leave,” said Bottomley.
Megan Reneker is a qualified disabilities professional, more commonly known as a caseworker. Reneker also picks up hours as a DSP at Cardinal Services. Reneker has worked there for 11 years.
Reneker also deals with the struggles of the DSP crisis. She regularly works 24 hours of overtime in a week because there is such a need for workers. She has to balance life at home with two young children in addition to her job. Yet, Reneker says the love for her job is what keeps her going.
“I have a passion with working with people with disabilities,” said Reneker,“I just can’t get away from this place.”
Boren explains community participation is necessary to help solve this crisis. Cardinal Services is in need of volunteers to build relationships with clients. Individuals in the community can help by simply taking one of their clients out to dinner, to a community event or church service once a week.
He added the community needs to be aware of the crisis so they can talk to local government officials to voice their opinions on Medicaid cuts or caps, which directly affect DSP wages.
“The DSP is the most important position in the company … We have to figure out a way to make that position sustainable to continue these services. And that’s gonna take a lot of efforts from local and state governments and our community,” said Boren.
Individuals can contact Cardinal Services Community Relations Manager Michelle Boxell at (574) 371-1387 for more information about Cardinal Services.