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Workforce Crisis Letter

November 3, 2021

Statewide developmental disability organizations representing providers, county boards, and other stakeholders have drafted a joint informational letter outlining the current state of Ohio’s DD workforce crisis. This letter, which is primarily intended for people served by Ohio’s DD system and their families, is attached.

All of the signatory organizations understand that the DD workforce crisis is affecting each community differently. For this reason, they are strongly recommending that members of their respective groups pair the letter (which cannot be modified) with a similar message from each local organization outlining how the current crisis is (or is not) affecting people with disabilities at the local level. The following are prompts that can help localize the information contained in the letter from statewide associations:

For Providers

  • Are you currently experiencing a workforce shortage? How is this impacting the level of services you are offering? What strategies are you putting in place to reduce the potential negative impact in the lives of people you serve?
  • Are you not currently experiencing a workforce shortage but predict that you may experience one soon? When do you think this may occur (i.e., six months, next year, in the distant future)? What are you doing to prepare for this possibility?
  • Have you been experiencing a periodic and inconsistent workforce shortage? How did this impact the services you offered? How might it impact services if it occurs again in the future? What are you doing to overcome this instability?
  • How can the people and families you serve volunteer to help reduce the strain on your staff while not sacrificing their needs, goals, or services (i.e., scheduling, living arrangements, transportation needs, etc.)?
  • How might your agency be using technology, remote supports, and virtual services to help bridge gaps caused by the current workforce shortage, both in the short-term and the long-term?
  • Who can the people and families you serve contact at your agency if they are concerned about their ability to receive services or to ask questions?

For County Boards

  • Are providers in your community experiencing a workforce shortage? Describe strategies that local providers have been using to temporarily overcome these challenges.
  • Are workforce shortages impacting the quantity or type of services that local providers can offer? If so, how is the county board working to connect people with alternate provider options?
  • Is your community not experiencing a workforce shortage right now, but you predict that it might experience a shortage soon? How is the county board preparing for this possibility?
  • How can the people and families you support voluntarily modify their supports to ensure their expectations are met, but without sacrificing their needs, goals, or services (i.e., scheduling, living arrangements, transportation needs, etc.)?
  • How can people consider accepting the use of technology-based solutions, remote supports, and virtual services to help bridge gaps caused by the current workforce shortage, both in the shortterm and the long-term? - What should the people and families you support know about how the county board will support them if the provider shortage occurs or worsens locally?
  • Who can people and families you support contact at your county board if they are concerned about their ability to receive services or to ask questions?

Questions about this effort should be directed to a county board or provider’s respective trade association.

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We write to you today to start an important conversation about the ability of Ohio’s developmental disability service delivery system to continue meeting your needs in the weeks, months, and years ahead.

Our system has been struggling with a workforce crisis for a long time. Unfortunately, with the end of the pandemic now predicted to be much later than we expected due to the Delta variant and other factors, and with direct support professionals (DSPs) leaving our field for jobs in other industries that have significantly increased their wages to attract new employees (like restaurants, retail stores, warehouses, and others), our system is entering a new, much more difficult phase of its workforce shortage.

Examples of actions that some DD service providers have recently had to take because they don’t have enough employees to support them include:

  • No longer accepting new people for services (also called “closing the front door”);
  • Ending services to some people they already serve because their level of need can’t be met with the agency’s current staff;
  • Creating waiting lists for some services (such as residential/Intermediate Care Facility (ICF), Homemaker Personal Care, vocational and adult day hab, transportation, and others);
  • Completely shutting doors and/or closing homes.

Our system’s leaders, including the Ohio General Assembly, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, Ohio’s 88 County Boards of DD, and thousands of DD service providers, have taken several action steps in response to these staffing shortages:

  • Many providers have slashed all non-staffing expenses to significantly raise DSP and nursing wages.
  • The Ohio General Assembly has allocated state funds to allow for a 4% rate increase for DD services when it passed its most recent two-year State Operating Budget earlier this year.
  • County boards of DD across the state have provided millions of dollars in grants, resources, and— at times—even loaned their professional staff to provide direct care for people in need.

Unfortunately, these efforts are not yet enough to fix this problem. We will need your help to ensure our system can continue to meet everyone’s needs.

The following are some ways you can help:

  • We are asking for your patience. It has taken our system years to reach this point. It is going to take time and planning to work our way out of this crisis.
  • We are asking for your support. Talk with your county board SSA about how this crisis might impact your ability to accomplish the goals in your plan. If you feel comfortable, check in with your provider and ask how they are coping with the current workforce crisis. Ask if there are ways you can help.
  • We are asking for your partnership. Partner with your county boards and providers during the planning process to come up with creative solutions that can meet your needs with fewer staff by reading this guide (oacbdd.org/workingtogether).

This letter is only the beginning of our long journey with you. We will continue to keep you informed as to how you can be involved in this discussion as we move forward.

We look forward to working closely with you to ensure a bright future for all people with developmental disabilities and their families in Ohio.

 

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