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Advocates: Workers who care for disabled should get more money

Advocates hold signs as they rallied in Mineola

Advocates hold signs as they rallied in Mineola in favor of increased wages for workers who care for people with developmental disabilities on Friday, June 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

Terri Manzione spoke fondly of her 21-year-old son to the crowd gathered in nearly 80-degree weather outside the Nassau County Supreme Court building Friday morning, detailing the ways her son lives with severe autism.

His food, laundry, medicine and bathing all are handled by direct service professionals, who provide daily care for people with developmental disabilities. And, she said, they should be paid well for the work.

Manzione, 53, of Glen Head, joined state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City), former state Democratic Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg, other parents and a coalition of advocates to call for more state government funding, so organizations that employ the professionals can raise their wages.

Direct service professionals — responsible for administering medicine and taking care of people in emergencies — make around $10 per hour, said Seth Stein, the executive director and general counsel of the Alliance of Long Island Agencies, which supports organizations caring for those with developmental disabilities. Advocates want to raise this wage to attract candidates and reduce turnover.

“What we want to see as the governor is starting to prepare the budget ... as they make that preparation that they put in adequate funds, funds for the workers that we are talking about today,” said Hannon, who works with the subcommittee that deals with Medicaid.

Direct service professionals mostly are funded by the government. The groups use 80 percent of the government funding they receive to pay the salaries of the helpers, Stein added.

The advocates said they want to ensure that those who want to maintain a long-term career as direct-service professionals can do so, by providing them a wage they can live on, Stein said.

Their efforts are drawing out employees, parents, and participants. Several direct service professionals and the individuals they serviced attended the news conference Friday, holding signs that included phrases such as: “The staff make going to program worthwhile.”

When the news conference ended, the crowd erupted into clapping and chants, yelling: “Be fair to direct care.”

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