Arizona's Direct Support Professional Workforce Faces Crisis

Published: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 - 4:44pm
Updated: Wednesday, February 19, 2020 - 8:57am
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Direct support professionals provide assistance to people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The national workforce is in crisis with high turnover rates and low wages.

A 2018 study found that Arizona’s median wage for direct support professionals was only about 10% above the state minimum wage. The study also found that about 44% of the state’s workforce turns over within a year.

Erica McFadden is executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. She says two-thirds of the workforce had been working in their positions for less than three years.

"We have people that may have autism, behavioral issues. And so it takes a while to get to learn what people's needs are, what their strengths are, to get to know somebody. And when you have somebody who's only there for a few months, it's really hard to be able to find a rhythm or a pattern to help them be successful," McFadden said. 

McFadden says in addition to raising wages, a possible solution would be to expand benefits for these positions, to include employee assistance or education programs.

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