Government’s $1.5 billion cut for developmental disabilities could avert crisis in NY

Local News

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Years of protests and marches, and disappointments are finally paying off for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities. The state is dedicating $1.5 billion for their care and the money could head off a crisis for their caregivers.

The American Rescue Plan is providing the money to the state’s Office for People With Developmental Disabilities to recruit and retain direct support professionals. It is an answer to the prayers of thousands of families who have just about reached their wits’ end.

Families and caregivers for New Yorkers with developmental disabilities have marched and protested for the last 10 years in Western New York and in Albany pleading for help.

Governor Hochul’s decision to boost spending by $1.5 billion could be just what is needed.

“We actually lost some staff during that period of time. We had actually three that worked to the end of their shift and said I’m out of here,” said Max Donatelli, parent.

Max and Joyce Donatelli’s son Craig lives in a privately operated group home and when it loses direct support workers it is nearly impossible to find a replacement due to the job’s high qualifications and the low pay.

“They have to buy groceries for themselves and their family. They have to go to the doctors like anybody else does, and they need the money to do that, and they need to feel proud of what they are doing because they are taking care of human beings,” said Joyce Donatelli, parent.

The Donatelli’s talk with the staff at their son’s residence and are shocked at the low pay, benefits, and tough working conditions.

“And he said, ‘You know, I wonder sometimes, I could make more money at McDonald’s,’ and that is disheartening. As a parent, I thought, oh,” said Joyce.

“I think we are waiting for some confirmation from the new commissioner,” added Rhonda Frederick, DDAWNY president.

Rhonda Frederick broke the good news to the board for the Developmental Disability Alliance of Western New York, of which she is president. Frederick told us the pay raises and recruitment of new direct support workers could put the breaks on a looming crisis.

“It is funded for our Direct Support Professionals. We are facing an incredible workforce crisis and this is going to help us to attract folks into the industry and to retain them,” added Frederick.

Rhonda Frederick also shared one stark statistic with us.. of the 40 agencies that comprise DDAWNY, one out of every four staff positions is vacant–that is a 50-percent decrease from just two years ago.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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