A group that provides services to thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities is praising Governor Mike Parson (R) and lawmakers in both parties for approving a $56 million increase aimed at resolving an employee crisis.

Easterseals Midwest serves more than 5,000 Missourians and families impacted by disabilities (2021 photo courtesy of Easterseals Midwest)

Easterseals serves more than 5,000 Missourians and families impacted by disabilities. Easterseals Midwest vice president Cathy Brown tells Missourinet it’s the largest one-time investment in state history in fixing the direct support professional (DSP) crisis.

“The turnover in the DSP positions that provide direct support to people with developmental disabilities gets as high as 53 percent. That’s not good. That’s not good for the care and support of people with developmental disabilities and it’s not good for our employees to not be able to be paid a fair wage for the hard work that they do,” Brown says.

DSPs are the essential workers who provide around-the-clock care to people with disabilities. She says more than half of DSPs left the profession within their first year in 2019, leaving disability providers with constant positions to fill.

Brown says the funding increase signed into law by the governor will allow Easterseals Midwest to boost starting pay for DSPs to $15 to $22.50 per hour, and to offer bonuses of up to $1,500 for new employees in their first year.

“And it absolutely would not have been possible without the support of Governor Parson and the Missouri General Assembly. The dollars they appropriate directly impact what we are able to pay direct support professionals in our service system,” says Brown.

Brown describes the bipartisan funding boost as a major step forward in solving Missouri’s DSP crisis. She says Easterseals was drowning before the boost, saying the funding increase is a life preserver, although, Brown says, there’s still more to be done.

Easterseals Midwest provides services, education and advocacy for thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities. The DSPs provide 24-7 care to Missourians with disabilities.

“Direct support professionals are the key people who walk alongside a person with a developmental disability during the day to help them with any number of things. They’re teachers, medical care providers. They help cook, they take people where they want to go. They help them with their finances,” Brown says.

She says Easterseals wants to pay them a fair wage for their difficult work, and says this is a major step in the right direction.

Missouri’s new $35 billion state operating budget also includes unprecedented support for the foster families who care for the thousands of children in Missouri foster care. The budget provides a $90 million increase for foster and adoptive children.

Missouri currently has 14,107 foster children, according to the latest numbers from the state Department of Social Services (DSS). The $90 million dollar increase boosts the clothing allowance for foster children and foster teens, and also increases the diaper allowance for Missourians caring for infants.

Click here to listen to Brian Hauswirth’s interview with Easterseals Midwest vice president Cathy Brown, which was recorded on July 23, 2021:

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