PALMESANO HIGHLIGHTS IMPORTANCE OF DIRECT-CARE PROFESSIONALS DURING WEEK HONORING THEIR ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Direct Support Professionals Week is September 10-16
A Legislative Column by Assemblyman Phil Palmesano
With “Direct Support Professionals” week underway, I wanted to take a moment to reiterate my commitment to the dedicated men and women who provide critical healthcare services to the developmentally disabled. Communities across the country mark September 10-16 as a week to thank these important healthcare professionals who do so much to strengthen our communities and provide the most vulnerable New Yorkers with exciting opportunities, needed care and critically-important services. It isn’t just important for the individuals who receive expert, compassionate care. It’s important for their families and it’s important for our entire community.
Assisting the development disability community and the workers who help it thrive has been a top priority item for me. Last year, my Assembly Republican Conference impaneled a task force to find new ways to protect the rights of the developmentally disabled. At public hearings around the state, we sought testimony from patients, parents, direct-care workers and other stakeholders to find new ways to improve the quality of life for these New Yorkers. We issued a report detailing the findings called, “Championing Aid, Rights, Equality and Services (C.A.R.E.S.) Plan: A report on the Olmstead Decision & its impact on the state’s developmental disability community.”
I hosted a forum in Corning with Assemblyman Chris Friend. One item that was stressed to us repeatedly was that increasing wage mandates were making it impossible for nonprofit service providers to retain workers, particularly during a time when Medicaid reimbursements were not seeing a corresponding increase. This session, we worked with the governor and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle in both houses of the Legislature to secure new funding in the state budget to help these nonprofit service providers pay direct-care workers a competitive, living wage.
It was the right thing to do. Direct-care professionals are talented. They’re patient, they’re highly skilled and highly trained. I’m gratified that we got it done.
It is also clear to me that we have so much more work to do when it comes to helping developmentally-disabled New Yorkers lead healthy, fulfilling lives. Many of the recommendations from our Conference’s 2016 task force deserve to be a bigger part of the legislative conversation heading into the new session. We need to have a serious conversation about protecting sheltered workshops and about providing real housing solutions. In many cases, aging parents are the primary caregivers for their child with a developmental disability, and they shouldn’t be shouldering anxiety about what is going to happen to their child when they’re gone.
We’ll do what we always do: make noise, and bring the fight to the Capitol. In 2013, our conference fought to restore $90 million in proposed spending cuts to the Office of People with Developmental Disabilities. We’ll never stop fighting for our most vulnerable New Yorkers.
I’d like to close by again thanking all of the direct-support professionals who do so much to provide critical quality-of-care and life services to our most vulnerable citizens. Your work is so valuable and so important to our communities. Thank you to all of you as we celebrate ‘Direct Support Professionals’ week.