Here's What's Happening at EPI
by Katie Slade on Friday, June 16, 2023
Have we, Americans/Iowans, become desensitized to crisis? For more than three decades, the Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce (and the “care” industry in general) has been one of the most unstable workforces nationwide. The data shows it continues to deepen reaching historic proportions.
That’s not the only challenge facing providers in Iowa. We must figure out how to serve more people, people on the waiting list for services, people in facilities missing the close connection of family and belonging to a community not to mention the closing of Glenwood Resource Center. While we face these challenges, what really matters is that we do a good job for each person we’re serving.
I’m proud of the way this organization rises to the challenges before us. For decades, we’ve focused on leading the market when it comes to wages for our DSPs and we’ll continue to do so (we could use your help here, keep reading).
Recently, we evaluated and made adjustments to how we were scheduling staff. Our first priority was to increase the consistency of staff working with each individual. Next, we had to find a way to offer our amazingly dedicated and hard-working DSPs real, scheduled down time by offering the opportunity to work three - four days a week (with three - four scheduled days off a week). Finally, we wanted to free our managers from the continuous coverage calls allowing them to get back to intentional relationship building with persons served, staff, and families.
While we still have work to do, we’re making some great progress. We’re happy to share our early indicators are very promising. We’ve been able to reduce our DSP vacancy rate by half and holding steady. We’ll continue to do everything in our power to retain our incredibly talented workforce.
We can’t do it alone. Our ability to remain successful recruiting, training, and retaining an outstanding workforce providing high quality services relies heavily on our state and the rates approved to support Home and Community Bases Services (HCBS). Our rates are simply inadequate and makes it difficult to compete for the limited workforce available in Iowa. If our industry has been in a workforce “crisis” for decades, what happens when the crisis is prolonged or exacerbated?
If you count on and/or care about our Direct Support Professional workforce to provide high quality services for a loved one, please raise your voice with our legislators often and without apology. Ask your legislator to support rate increases to address the workforce crisis for individuals utilizing HCBS and Habilitation services. I believe, together we will.