SPIN Hosts PAR Legislative Forum

SPIN hosted one of many PAR legislative forums occurring across the state on April 5, 2023. The forums seek to shine a light on the critical need for an additional infusion of $430 million state dollars into the budget for services for people with intellectual disability and autism. The shortage of Direct Support Professionals across Pennsylvania means that thousands of people who need vital services are not receiving them, resulting in people with intellectual disability and autism suffering serious setbacks and families in crisis.

Mark Davis, President & CEO of PAR, the statewide provider organization, made the point that an additional $430 million will afford providers the funding for a 20% wage increase for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). With the current average wage at $16.72/hr, this would increase to $20/hr, still too low but moving in the right direction. Pennsylvania providers of these services, like SPIN, are currently enduring the second year of the state’s three-year rate freeze unless Pennsylvania increases the appropriation for these essential services. The single largest budget item for SPIN, as with most providers, is payroll for Direct Support Professionals.

Legislators who participated in the forum: Senator Jimmy Dillon, Representative Tarik Khan, Representative Patrick Gallagher, Representative Joseph Hohenstein, and Lisa Brine, Senator Tartaglione’s Constituent Service Representative, heard compelling stories from DSPs, families, individuals in service and providers. In answering the question as to what keeps you up at night, one family described, not just fears, but the reality of dealing with a health crisis of a spouse when there is no DSP to support their loved one who has 24/7 critical service needs. DSPs told the story of how they love what they do, but they worry that a short-term disability could mean they can’t pay the rent on their 600 sq. ft. apartment and fear eviction, and providers talked about the increasing needs of people and how so much of service need is not just underfunded, but unfunded, yet must continue to be provided despite severe staff shortages.

Services for people with intellectual disability and autism are a core function of government. Noting that there is a $13 billion dollar rainy day fund in Pennsylvania’s coffers, Representative Khan told the forum participants they should be asking for $500 million. PAR’s legislative forums are being held regionally throughout April. A rally for increased funding is scheduled at the Harrisburg Capitol on May 3rd.