Stepping Up Our Efforts
UCP as an organization has recently stepped up our efforts in the area of disability advocacy by calling on our staff and supporters to take action on a number of key issues.
Among them, UCP is asking our elected officials to appropriate sufficient funds in the FY18-19 state budget to rebuild and strengthen capacity in community services programs for individuals with disabilities by increasing workers’ wages and providers’ rates.
To that end, UCP, as part of the ID/A Coalition, called on Governor Tom Wolf in January to include three key ID/A priorities in the budget for the coming year:
- Funding to address in FY18/19 the 5,034 individuals identified by the Office of Developmental Programs as Emergency Needs Category. These are individuals at risk and in need of services and supports immediately.
- Funding to add 100 more individuals to be served by the Autism Waiver.
- 60 million appropriation for Direct Support Professional (DSP) wages to support the call for establishing a path to a living wage for DSPs.
THE TIME TO FIX THE DSP CRISIS IS NOW
Governor Wolf released his proposed 2018-19 budget in an address to the Joint Chambers on Tuesday, February 6, 2018. Unfortunately, his proposed budget did not include any funding to be allocated to DSP wages for the coming year. Since then, and in partnership with Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources (PAR), UCP has been part of an intense, ongoing campaign to address the wages of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in Pennsylvania under the banner #FIXTHEDSPCRISIS.
PA DSPs (also known as caregivers, home health aides, direct care workers) have been challenged by wage stagnation for the better part of a decade, leading to the current crisis situation. We want to send a clear message that DSPs deserve to be paid a living wage for the essential work that they do. Like other human service agencies, UCP relies on state funding to compensate our direct care workers. Without a funding increase, there can be no appropriate wage increase. As a result, the retention of quality caregivers becomes an even bigger challenge.
OTHER LEGISLATIVE ISSUES
Other issues of importance to the disability community at large and which are currently being debated at the legislative level include:
- HB 1535. Nicknamed the “Transparency” bill. Calls for public posting by December 31 of each year of the calculations for provider rate payments for home and community-based services.
- HB 1650. Legislation to close all state institutions and relocate affected individuals. The bill (and its supporters) are taking a hit in the media by those who say the community system is not equipped to handle it. We just want to have an honest conversation about what the right system is for PA. Currently, 13 states and the District of Columbia have no state centers anymore.
IT’S THE STORIES
Getting legislators and policy-makers the facts, the specific information they need to make an informed decision is important. But for those who would cut funding for disability services, or not allocate the funding necessary to provide those services, our best and strongest counter is telling the stories of how the funding saves and enhances lives.
Facts are important, but stories are what gets remembered. Before we can properly educate and persuade our legislators on the issues, we must first educate the families we serve and our staff (especially our direct care workers) about the importance of becoming advocates. To do that, it’s crucial that we gather stories.
Check out Board Member Hope Johnson's inspirational series of social media posts highlighting her experience with Direct Support Professionals!
Call to Action
Are you willing to join our cause and help us form an Advocacy Action Group?
Keep in mind, you DO NOT need not previous experience in advocacy work or legislative issues in order to be able to have an impact. Going forward, we will be looking for people with a variety of skill sets and levels of interest. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Individuals who are committed to the cause and willing to take action when called upon.
- Individuals who are directly impacted by the outcomes: service providers, program participants, family members, caregivers, etc.
- Individuals who are well-spoken and/or are effective communicators (verbal and/or written communications).
- Individuals who have a connection to legislators or their staff.
- Individuals who have experience doing advocacy work.
- Individuals who can conduct and compile research… on the issues and on the legislators being targeted.
- Individuals who can help gather the stories (conduct interviews, take photos, prepare drafts of stories).
- Individuals who can assist us on the technical/financial/legal aspects of advocacy work.
Please contact Bradley Seltzer at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in political advocacy initiatives. Thank you!