Equal Pay for Equal Work Campaign: Pennsylvania mom calls on government to address intellectual disability/autism support crisis


This morning,  one of our colleagues, Nancy Murray, president of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh and senior vice president of Achieva, published a Letter to the Editor in multiple outlets including mychesco.comNorthcentralPA.comThe Valley Ledger, and The Citizen Tribune asking Gov. Wolf how he will account for the crisis in the ID/A system of care in PA and urges him to invest $541M (not $400M) into our ID/A system of care.  

You can read the full text of the Letter to the Editor below.  

Please share on your social media and websites. Over 30 news outlets across PA have published articles supporting the Equal Pay for Equal Work campaign. Once again, we encourage members, self-advocates, families, and friends to contact the Governor and your State Legislator and ask them to increase ODP Funding by $541M (not $400M) by releasing rainy-day funds to raise rates and invest in Direct Support Professional Wages to support Equal Pay for Equal Work. 

You can do so easily by clicking the link below to visit our Action Center to send a message to the Governor and your State Legislator. 

TPA Advocacy Action Center – Equal Pay for Equal Work


Submitted December 27, 2021

As the mother of three adult children with intellectual disabilities, I’ve spent decades advocating for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A) and their families.

I am deeply proud of the Commonwealth of PA for moving from placing children and adults with disabilities in segregated wards of state centers to a more compassionate and inclusive community-based system.

But today, the ID/A system is facing its greatest crisis in more than 60 years.

Repeated underfunding has resulted in community disability programs being unable to recruit a workforce of direct support professionals (DSPs) to support people with disabilities in their homes, at their jobs, and in their communities. This underfunding has resulted in the highest staff vacancy and turnover rates in history.

Parents of children and adults with disabilities become advocates the day their children are born and continue to advocate and care for them for decades. But we are exhausted and need help.

Across Pennsylvania, families cannot find DSPs to help them care for their family members with disabilities. Mothers who fight for the rights of their children with disabilities have more wear and tear on their souls than one should in a lifetime. So on behalf of them and our children, I’d like to ask Governor Wolf the following questions:

  1. What is your plan to stop the collapse of the community ID/A system? Our DSPs are leaving to take jobs in other places because the payment rates your administration set many years ago have not kept pace with inflation and do not allow disability organizations to pay DSPs what Walmart, Amazon, and other businesses pay.
  1. How will PA maintain the health and safety of people with ID/A with the system collapsing? Parents of children with ID/A who care for them at home save the Commonwealth billions of dollars every year. The ID/A system is our safety net. We are extremely worried about what will happen to our children if the system collapses.
  1. Why is it OK to use the same federal Medicaid funds to pay your state DSP employees 30% more than DSPs performing the same work in community programs? Why don’t you support the cherished American principle of Equal Pay for Equal Work?
  1. Do you understand that DSPs are not teenagers starting their first job at age 16? Your administration put in place a state regulation that is supposed to set fee schedule rates that will pay fair wages for DSPs who provide necessary, life-sustaining services for people with disabilities. However, recommendations from your Administration propose paying DSPs the same as teenagers working their first job. You are a successful businessperson. I know you understand these are different jobs requiring different skills and different wages.
  1. Do you know what a DSP does? As the title implies, DSPs are professionals who have very challenging jobs. They administer medications, develop and implement positive behavior support plans, and manage mental health crises and emergency medical situations. DSPs also need to maintain households, prepare specific diet-required meals, provide accessible transportation, record data for federal and state regulators, and know how to safely use crisis prevention, intervention, and resolution techniques.
  1. Will you meet with people with disabilities and family members before you present your February budget address to the PA General Assembly?

If you meet face to face with people with disabilities and families, you will better understand the impact this crisis is having on us and you will take action to fund the intellectual disability system with the $541 million that is needed to stop its collapse. Your administration’s current rate recommendation is $141 million short of what is needed.

The state has the funds targeted for this purpose from the American Recovery Plan, thanks to Senator Bob Casey and increasing state revenues that are far exceeding projections. After five years of a rate freeze, the disability system we worked decades to build is collapsing in front of our eyes. But, it does not have to. With your leadership and the General Assembly working with you, it can be saved and strengthened.

Governor, tens of thousands of families of people with intellectual disabilities and autism look forward to hearing answers to these questions.

By Nancy Murray, M.S., president of The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh and senior vice president of Achieva. Murray has more than 40 years of experience in the disability field in the areas of public policy, advocacy, family support, supports coordination, health care, and state government serving people with disabilities and their families.


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