Commentary: Providers for disabled need to be funded

As our legislators gather to work on the budget for the state, please let them know that you are dissatisfied with the state’s underfunding of providers who serve adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

As a Delaware resident, I’m embarrassed to say, Delaware’s Division of Developmental Disabilities Services (DDDS) is not paying its contracted service providers like KSI the full cost, established by their own 2014 rate study, for the services being provided to residents with intellectual/developmental disabilities.

I’ve worked for KSI since 1997 sharing the message that people with disabilities have abilities. My job affords me the pleasure of sharing lots of success stories about the individuals with I/DD receiving services from KSI. I can share these stories because people with I/DD are receiving quality services from KSI and its trained staff. At KSI and most other service providers, the Direct Support Professional (DSP) is a critical person, a critical position in the life of an adult diagnosed with I/DD as this is the person/position responsible for providing direct care.

There’s a crisis developing as DSPs are not staying in this field, or they need to have additional income to make ends meet. Change can be tough, but I think it’s hard for most people to understand how difficult it is for someone with special needs to adapt to change, to make adjustments to their “norm.”

The continuity of service among this population is critical to their well-being and a crisis can be averted if DSP pay rates can be increased. KSI is not able to pay its direct support professional staff the wages they need to make a decent living, requiring many to work additional jobs. KSI will not be able to provide the same services it does currently if the funding is not covering the costs. Will we need to reduce hours? Alter transportation services? How will this affect the lives of our Delawareans?

I hope you will contact your legislators to let them know that you want adults with I/DD to continue receiving the quality services they have become accustomed to which is only possible if the state of Delaware fully funds the providers. Numbers are numbers, millions are millions, but when you’re not paying full cost for something that you expect to receive, something needs to be changed if you’re not paying the provider what it costs to provide a quality service.

Alicia Hollis is director of community relations at Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. in Milford.

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