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Local advocate for the disabled speaks at Albany Rally for investments in direct care

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Read the speech by Arc Allegany-Steuben’s Peer Support Specialist, Joe Damiano

Hundreds of advocates from The Arc New York (including advocates from The Arc Allegany-Steuben) and the New York Disability Advocates partners rallied together in the NYS Capitol War Room on Wednesday, November 17, 2022, calling for investments in the Direct Support Professional workforce and the services that are essential to supporting New Yorkers with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD).

Specifically, the advocates called for:

  1. The Establishment of a Direct Support Wage Enhancement (DSWE)
  2. The Inclusion of the statutory 8.5% Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) in the 2023-24 Executive Budget.

For decades, New York state has not made adequate investments to sustain the essential programs and services people with I/DD rely on. This systemic underfunding has driven service providers into a critical staffing crisis and eroded New York’s system of supports for its citizens with I/DD. The data speaks for itself:

  • 38% of providers discontinued or reduced programs and services in 2021 alone
  • Average statewide staff turnover rate is 35.5%
  • Turnover costs for non-profit providers have risen to more than $100 million annually
  • Nearly 20,000 critical Direct Support positions are vacant statewide
  • The 18% vacancy rate means New Yorkers with disabilities are missing out on needed care and support

The Arc Allegany-Steuben’s Peer Support Specialist, Joe Damiano, spoke during the Rally. He had originally written a speech, but ended up speaking “off the cuff”. “I introduced myself and then said without DSP’s people would not get the services they so rightfully deserve,” stated Joe Damiano. “Then I said you can go to McDonalds or Burger King and make 15.00 an hour compared to the agency. That’s it in a nutshell what I said.” Attached please find Joe’s original remarks as well.

Joe’s speech at the rally:

Hi My Name is Joseph Damiano, I am a peer support specialist at The Arc Allegany-Steuben as well as a self-advocate.

Without DSP’s people with disabilities would not be able to get the services they so rightfully deserve and we have to be able to maintain a livable wage for DSP’s.

Some of these DSP’s have a family and even with working a job at an Arc have to pick up a second job just to make ends meet.

For many people with disabilities having the support they need is a safety net for them.

There are cracks that are showing in this workforce crisis that takes into account New Yorkers with disabilities may not be able to get basic service if they don’t get a liveable wage.

Caring for people with different abilities is rewarding yet challenging and requires ongoing training and skill.

At some point in each of our lives either we or someone we love will need to receive some kind of support in regards to HCBS Services.

It is not a discussion of if but when so we must ensure that people are cared for and have the safety blanket for many years to come.

Thanks for your time today.

Watch video from the rally

You can still join the call with one click here: https://p2a.co/e5sta1V  Raise your voice for New Yorkers with I/DD!

PHOTO: (l-r) Marlena Bialy, Judy Alger, Stephanie Kubiak, Ridge Erskine, Ted Perry, Mike Damiano, and Joe Damiano advocate at the November 17, 2022, NYS Capitol Rally.

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