What Proper Funding (and the Lack Thereof) Does for the I/DD Community

By Sara Porcaro | May 24, 2022
PCSEPP, BHDDH, Employment, Opportunity, IDD, Disabilities, Rhode Island, ADA, Empower, Equality, Government

Flowers in bloom, skies blue and clear--that's what most of May has looked like in Rhode Island. And for individuals in the Person Centered Supported Employment Performance Program (PCSEPP), that lovely weather showed up in more than just the growing grass and wildflowers, or the wonderfully warm breezes: it's also appeared in their own spirits, their joy and confidence just as bright as the sunshine. The reason is simple: through PCSEPP, they've not only learned more about how to use technology and advocate for themselves, but also learned how to turn their unique skills and outlooks into paying jobs in their community, where they continue to make new friends and connections.
But of course, for this project to operate at its best, it relied on funding from RI's Department of Behavioral Health, Hospitals, and Developmental Disabilities (BHDDH)--and such work cannot easily continue without the State of Rhode Island similarly funding Direct Support Professionals and the agencies they work for.
"You're a healthcare worker, counselor, therapist, [and] companion all in one day program," says DSP Charlene Howard, who works with Cece to find new opportunities and experiences in the community. She also supports Cece through PCSEPP trainings and developing her talents through volunteer positions at Praise Tabernacle's Dream Center. "None of us come to this job to get rich... but we are not earning a livable wage."
PCSEPP brings together the talents of agencies and organizations like Perspectives, AccessPoint RI, and the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center, as well as Skills for Rhode Island's Future, Able Opportunities, Inc., and the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMASS Boston. Together, we provide the necessary connections, tools, resources, and trainings to help participants learn about networking, using technological accommodations, and more. But one key part of PCSEPP is that it's funded by the BHDDH--and without that funding, none of it would be possible. Likewise, our DSPs cannot provide the quality services individual need, in their home lives, community, and places of employment, without access to the agencies and professionals that provide those services.
"Society as a whole is upside down on its priorities," Field Supervisor Jacqueline Silva insisted at the Senate Finance Committee hearing. "These people are so important; we need to give them the services we need. They deserve to have staff that are going to be around."
That's why the two bills, S2311 and H7180, are so important. Introduced in February by several legislators, including Senator Lou DiPalma and Representative Julia Casimiro, and co-signed by several other members of the house, these bills would help ensure that DSPs are getting paid the livable wages they deserve by intertwining Medicaid reimbursement rates with economic indicators, like inflation. This way, the many DSPs that Charlene and Jackie raise awareness for--the ones having to work two, even three jobs just to keep financially afloat--will be in a place that allows them to give their all to the work they love most.
Perspectives and fellow agencies across Rhode Island, like the J. Arthur Trudeau Memorial Center and AccessPoint RI, continue to advocate for the health, safety, and stable lives of individuals we support, and that starts by properly funding the backbone of our workforce. Whereas PCSEPP as a program will one day come to an end, individuals we support will continue working, growing, learning, and finding their dream careers. That's why we'll always advocate for a properly funded workforce--one that will have the support to help individuals become valuable members of their own crews at their workplaces.
Let your legislators know how important this legislation is, and why it needs to pass!


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