New reports on Direct Support Professionals highlight low pay, poor benefits

June 21, 2019 06:25 PM

Organizations across the state that supply Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to families with someone who has a disability or who's older are experiencing high turnover.

The University of Minnesota, in conjunction with the state, set out to collect concrete data on the problem. 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS has the new findings and possible solutions.

The problem of high turnover with DSPs hit one Bloomington family really hard when agencies told them they simply didn't have any workers to help them, so they had to take matters in their own hands.

"For us, it feels really personal. This is our daughter, this is just our beloved child," Cindy Reed said.

Eighteen-year-old Eva Reed said she loves to dance and do crafts. She's creative and enjoys being active in the community, and opened up about what it's like to live with cerebral palsy.

"It's, um, pretty great, because it's fun, and sometimes it's not," Eva said.

Her mom, Cindy, said they were forced to find someone on their own to help Eva because high turnover caused a shortage of staff at agencies around the state.

"Having long-term employees would be so valuable," Cindy Reed said.

"We try to think really creatively about how we can set up a future with Eva where we might be able to keep people long-term, and I know lots and lots of families are thinking the same way," Cindy Reed explained.

The University of Minnesota's new study, in conjunction with the Minnesota Department of Human Services, surveyed the agencies that support DSPs, as well as the workers. This produced two different final reports.


Direct Support Worker Survey

DSW Workforce Report

They found the average hourly rate for DSPs across the state is less than $12 an hour, which contributes to high turnover rates.

For full-time DSPs, fewer than 60 percent get paid time-off and less than 40 percent get paid sick leave.

And, of the DSPs surveyed, 90 percent said they left for a job that pays more and nearly 70 percent left for a job that offered better benefits.

"In Minnesota, for every worker that's employed on January 1st of a year, by December 31st, about 40 percent of them have left their positions," Amy Hewitt, the Director of U of M's Institute on Community Integration (ICI) said.

Hewitt added, "If there was anything that was surprising it's the congruence. The workers see the problem and their employers and organizations see the problem."

Hewitt said this new data will give lawmakers the tools to make decisions in the next legislative session that could drive better pay and cheaper health insurance.

The Reed family said Hennepin County grants cover the cost of care for the DSPs they hire, but it's not enough for all of the in and out-of-home care they need.

The University of Minnesota said there are resources available to help Minnesota families. 

In late June, there's an event in the Twin Cities that will show a new documentary on DSPs and the challenges the industry and families face.

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Brandi Powell

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