BOSTON – The Disability Law Center (DLC) released a report today finding that the direct support professional (DSP) workforce crisis in Massachusetts is placing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities at risk of harm. The report concludes that low wages and benefits, high vacancies, and staff turnover are leading to understaffed programs and reliance on inexperienced temporary workers or fatigued overtime staff, all of which negatively impacts people with disabilities, their families, and DSP workers.
The report, “Direct Support Professionals: A Workforce Crisis Limiting Security, Human Rights, and Opportunity for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities” is available below.
DLC has investigated frequent instances of abuse and neglect against individuals with disabilities and human rights violations that stemmed from a workforce that is too often understaffed, unsupported, inadequately trained, and poorly supervised. In addition, DLC found that the workforce crisis has resulted in individuals served by Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) funded programs being isolated and unable to access the community as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The report, which also includes examples of abuse and neglect, highlights seven recommendations for future action, most for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
Rick Glassman, Director of Advocacy at DLC, stated, “State agencies, the people served by them, their families, advocates, and provider agencies and front-line staff should all want the same thing: a well-supported staff who are well trained and fairly paid for demanding and sometimes difficult work. But wage rates for front line staff are no longer competitive. We are moving further and further away from having a stable and well supervised workforce providing quality services, and more and more people are vulnerable as a result.”
DLC Staff Attorney Jacqueline Hubbard noted: “I spend much of my time monitoring group homes and speaking with the people they serve, their families, and their providers, all of whom experience this staffing crisis. For individuals served and their families, levels of anxiety are escalating, as staffing issues and vacancies place more people at risk of continued and future harm.”
DLC’s Interim Executive Director Tatum Pritchard concluded, “DLC’s work is far from over. As the Protection and Advocacy system in Massachusetts, we will continue to monitor facilities and investigate abuse and neglect, human rights violations, and segregation of individuals with disabilities. However, it is not enough to rely on these interventions and implementation of corrective action after harm has already been done. The Executive Office of Health and Human Services must commit to and invest in making real change by expanding the training, pay, and size of the direct support workforce and enhancing supervision and oversight provided both by providers and the state.”
he report emphasizes that these systemic issues within the direct support workforce are longstanding, and the COVID-19 pandemic only exacerbated the existing problems. Against this backdrop, the report concludes that without action the current crisis will continue to negatively impact the dignity of people with disabilities in Massachusetts and the quality of services they receive, leading to more instances of abuse and neglect, human rights violations, and isolation and segregation.
The Disability Law Center (DLC) is the designated Protection and Advocacy System for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is authorized under federal law to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect and engage with policymakers on the need for modification or adoption of laws or policies affecting the rights of individuals with developmental disabilities. See e.g., 45 C.F.R. sec. 1326, Subparts B & C.
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