Call for Action
Prospectus Berco is very concerned about the Intellectual Disability/Autism (ID/A) community and the impact the pandemic has had on the individuals we support and their families. Many providers in Pennsylvania are struggling to keep their doors open because of the prolonged conditions of reduced revenue, increased costs and staffing shortages. While we work to rebuild our capacity, we are greatly hindered by our ability to recruit and retain employees.
Sadly, individuals in the ID/A community are not receiving the same level of services that they had been receiving prior to the pandemic. While many agencies have closed programs, Prospectus Berco has remained vigilant to reopen its Day Service programs at a reduced capacity. We gradually continue to increase our enrollment, but continue to operate at a capacity that is much lower than prior to the pandemic.
Prospectus Berco is a service provider for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide services for the ID/A community. We are funded by a combination of state and federal funds, and are dependent on appropriations. Prior to the pandemic, reimbursement rates to provide these vital services were stagnant, and they continue to be flat, in spite of critical staffing needs and increased costs. We need your help to contact Governor Wolf and our legislators to secure funding for people in the ID/A community.
Here is a sample letter for you to use when contacting your legislators:
I am writing as a member of PAR and with grave concern over the current state of the Intellectual Disability and Autism (ID/A) community, the individuals, their families, and the Direct Support Professionals (DSP) who support them. Each day DSPs across the Commonwealth show up to work committed to supporting individuals with ID/A, but often don’t know if the shift after theirs will be filled, or if the shift they are working is even fully staffed. This cycle of understaffing continues to burn out employees, creating higher turnover, while stagnant wages continue to make it harder for DSPs to stay in the field when higher paying and less stressful jobs can be found elsewhere in this competitive job market.
Today, the chronic underfunding, burdensome regulations, unfunded mandates, and more than two years in a pandemic, has resulted in a crisis from which our system will not recover without immediate and ongoing solutions.
Indicators that Pennsylvania’s ID/A system is in crisis:
- Providers are unable to recruit and retain a sufficient workforce
60% turnover in Direct Support Professional (DSP) positions
23 of every 100 needed DSP positions are vacant
Increased mandatory overtime on DSPs
managers needing to work an average of 2.5 shifts every week
• Pennsylvania’s ID/A service capacity has reduced by 24% and continues to shrink
• The waiting list for services is growing
• People with the most significant needs cannot be served by any providers
PAR has worked collaboratively with stakeholders in our system to determine solutions to this crisis, and proposes the following:
• A requirement to refresh the ID/A rate data annually – with rates being modified beginning on July 1, 2023, rather than impose 3-year rate freezes followed by a larger increase every 3 years
• Senate Bill 1126 -focusing on making the system more efficient and person-centered
• As a bridge to the first annual rate revision, a one-time relief of 8.5% to all ID/A rates from July 1, 2022, ending on June 30, 2023, when the new rates are implemented.
DSPs are indispensable workers, who often struggle to pay their bills day to day, and deserve more, the individuals they support deserve the reliability of staff who are not burned out or consistently leaving for higher paying jobs. Now more than ever, as wages in private businesses continue to rise, employers within this system are unable to offer competitive wages to DSPs. ID/A service providers are losing valuable employees to fast-food chains, grocery stores, warehouses, and other places that are hiring, because they offer higher wages. Those businesses can alter their prices and/or change business practices to pay their employees more, but ID/A providers cannot.
The ID/A rates are set by the state, and regulations require that these rates be reconsidered every 3 years to ensure their sufficiency to meet the needs of the individuals being supported. This often means that rates are frozen for 3 years before any increase is applied to the rates.
I believe that the rates need to be refreshed annually. Right now, the rate of inflation according to the Consumer Price Index Urban (CPI-U) is 8.5%. In order to prevent additional and imminent risk to supports for people with ID/A, I am asking that a one-time, annual appropriation of 8.5% (approximately $205 million dollars) of ID/A waiver claims to be used as a bridge for FY 2022-23, until the new rates are effective on July 1, 2023.
Waiting 3 years to consider the rates within the Intellectual Disability and Autism system is not sufficient to meet the needs of the individuals served. Over 24% of services have been reduced in the past 2 years due to the lack of staff. I am asking for you to support a one-time investment into our system for FY 2023 and a rate refresh to be completed and implemented on July 1, 2023.
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Thank you for your attention to this important issue!
Employment First & Community Participation Supports
Prospectus Berco seeks to improve the quality of life for Berks County residents with disabilities by providing support services to help individuals achieve greater community engagement and more independence. As Community stake holders and volunteers you can make a big difference in the lives of our program participants by providing opportunities for them to be involved in their community, gain meaningful experiences that give purpose to their lives and possibly lead to gainful employment. Please consider how your business can help individuals gain on-the-job training for employment.
- The Vocational Program is looking to connect businesses with talent based on the unique needs of the company and the worker(s) with a disability. Our program provides reliable, effective, and timely services whereby Vocational staff train and support workers on-site at the job.
- Requirements include:
- Minimum wage paid of $7.25
- Only 3 to 5 production workers at the site
- We are also interested in training production workers to become an employee of an off-site business. We can provide the training but ultimately the individual would become an employee.
- We will also consider volunteer opportunities for the production workers to get out in the community and for obtaining additional job skills.
Adult Training Program
- We are looking for more outside connections to fulfill life skill opportunities which would need to be during the week from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and within ½ hour distance of our facility.
- Opportunities are geared toward relationship building with community members and in giving back to the community. Program participants have been active with Meals on Wheels, shopping for senior citizens with Berks Encore, working on activities at local churches, visiting senior centers, stocking shelves at ReStore etc.
If you have any ideas to share, please contact Jessica Penchard, Development & Public Relations Director, at 610-372-4637, ext. 103, or firstname.lastname@example.org
PAR (Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources
for Autism and Intellectual Disability)
PAR (Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability) proudly represents provider organizations whose mission is to serve and support Pennsylvania’s children and adults with autism or intellectual disability. 2020 will mark our 50th year as the only statewide provider association in the Commonwealth with this exclusive focus.
PAR Members provide the full range of supports and services for individuals with Autism and Intellectual Disability in Pennsylvania. With a workforce of over 50,000 Pennsylvanians supporting tens of thousands of individuals and their families, the association promotes the highest standards of service through advocacy, information, training and education, and the resources provided by our members.
You can help to increase awareness about the importance of this industry by contacting your legislature and government officials. Visit www.par.net to stay current on issues and to provide you with the necessary talking points, tool kits and materials to be an advocate.
Currently, PAR has undergone a campaign to support legislation to increase wages for Direct Support Professionals (DSP) in order to attract better quality workers and to provide greater stability to the industry.
Pennsylvania is facing a DSP crisis and is in need of qualified caring individuals to provide 1:1 care for individuals with special needs. Because reimbursement rates to service providers are so low, many organizations are unable to offer competitive wages and full time status with benefits for DSP professionals.
Learn more at www.fixthedspcrisis.com