The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022
by Gabrielle Sedor, Chief Operations Officer and Foundation Director, ANCOR
On Monday, February 22, nearly 300 ANCOR and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) members joined us for the launch of The Case for Inclusion 2021: A Special Report on the Sustainability of Community Disability Services in America. This marks the third year that ANCOR and the ANCOR Foundation have partnered with our colleagues at UCP to present a snapshot of services and supports to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) across the nation.
Published annually since 2006, the Case for Inclusion has traditionally served as a quantitative assessment of how well state programs are supporting people with I/DD to be included in the community.
But unlike previous years in which the Case for Inclusion read more like a report card on states’ inclusion efforts, we shifted the focus of this year’s Case for Inclusion to meet the moment. We knew the best available data couldn’t account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disability programs. So we decided to take this opportunity to show “how the intellectual and developmental disability community has coped, adjusted, suffered, and in many cases triumphed—over the unparalleled impediments that have materialized amid the greatest health crisis our nation has faced in more than a century.”
Monday’s launch was moderated by Ronnie Polaneczky of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and included panelists Donna Martin, Director of State Partnerships & Special Projects, ANCOR; Ann Coffey, Executive Director of UCP Oregon and Charlie Luke, Executive Director of the Utah Association of Community Services. While our friend Bernard Baker of Self Advocates Becoming Empowered (SABE) fell ill and was unable to join us, he shared some insightful comments about his experience during the pandemic.
What Monday’s presentation and the 2021 report shows us is that COVID-19 created new struggles for service provides such as program closures and service disruptions, and exacerbated others that have long been with us, like staffing shortages and overtime expenses. Yet, despite those challenges, many of which cascaded onto each other creating even more significant ones, we still found stories of resilience and success, many of which are shared in the Case for Inclusion.
Ronnie Polaneczky, who many of you may know from her series, Falling Off the Cliff, facilitated this conversation beautifully, gathering real-world examples from Charlie and Ann, offering her read on the Special Report and sharing advice on how we might amplify the impact of the Case for Inclusion.
If I were to encapsulate my takeaways from Monday’s event they would include:
- Brag on your people
- Tell your stories
- Find your allies
- Meet the moment
You might be wondering, in a year when data is lacking, why publish the Case for Inclusion at all? We asked ourselves the same question and decided there was still a need to document this critical moment in time. The 2021 Case for Inclusion is a testament to the resilience of providers and the people they support, it is a record of innovations and flexibilities that help providers continue to weather the storm and it is a blueprint for the future—one that both takes into consideration the immediate needs providers face given the pandemic and looks ahead to a post-pandemic world that is more sustainable than the one that providers found themselves navigating prior to COVID-19.
Here at ANCOR, we are committed to meeting the moment by actively using the policy blueprint laid out in the Case to shape our advocacy with the Biden administration and the 117th Congress.
We invite you to:
- Follow the conversation on Twitter at #CaseForInclusion.
- Read and share ANCOR’s post on Medium announcing the Case for Inclusion 2021.
- Dive deeper into the content of the report, explore the data and read stories of impact at caseforinclusion.org.
- Consider how the Case for Inclusion can compliment your advocacy efforts at home to maintain flexibilities allowed under emergency waivers.
Finally, UCP President & CEO Armando Contreras offered a challenge in his opening remarks on Monday, and we eagerly accept this challenge: to recognize that COVID-19 has not impacted all of us equally and that our advocacy isn’t complete until we see inclusion for all. As Armando shared:
When we talk about making a case for the inclusion of people with disabilities, we understand that our job, and the job of this report is to advocate for a huge swath of our population, which, despite its many gains, continues to struggle and fight for the full effectuation of its civil and human rights, or as we like to say at UCP, “the right to live life without limits.”
Now, imagine in the era of COVID-19, that you happen to be among those that are facing the triple burden, or if you will of someone who is a person of color, poor, and also living with a disability. So as we listen to this year’s Case for Inclusion report, and its accounts of the challenges, setbacks and inspiring triumphs of the human spirit, I ask respectfully that we keep in mind the plight of those who have yet to be served, heard or included.
Read the report at caseforinclusion.org, and learn how to support our policy initiatives that will steer us toward a more inclusive future.