Home > Uncategorized > Mass Arc echoes our concern that DDS faces ‘systemic failure’ in providing services

Mass Arc echoes our concern that DDS faces ‘systemic failure’ in providing services

Almost two years ago, we first reported that direct care staffing shortages were causing a potentially serious deterioration in residential and day program services in the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) system.

We have also reported repeatedly that the ongoing staffing shortages have caused worsening conditions in the group home system and a lack of meaningful activities in community-based day programs.

Now, the Arc of Massachusetts — an organization that lobbies for DDS residential and day program providers — is echoing our concerns.  GBH News, citing the Arc, reported on April 27 that “up to 3,000 Massachusetts residents are waiting for a placement in these much-needed day programs, which are facing the same staffing shortages seen in other social service fields.”

The public radio news outlet quoted Maura Sullivan, a senior Mass Arc official, as saying:

There are thousands of adults with developmental disabilities that are not being served or we consider them underserved — very, very few services…

I think of it as really a systemic failure. And we’re really waking up to the fact that, you know, human services is a workforce that has been neglected in terms of rate increases. (my emphasis)

We would emphasize that we believe that thousands of Massachusetts residents are waiting not only for day program services, but for residential placements as well. In her remarks, Sullivan did not refer specifically to day program services, but to a lack of services in general.

The resources may be there

What the Arc isn’t saying is that the corporate providers are well funded in the state budget. The provider residential line item will have grown from $847 million, ten years ago, to more than $1.7 billion, under Governor Healey’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget proposal.

We think there is sufficient funding in the DDS system to provide needed services. It’s just that DDS isn’t using the resources in an optimal way. An example of that is DDS’s neglect of the ICFs and state-operated group homes as potential resources.

We have suggested to families whose loved ones are either receiving substandard services or are waiting for services that they ask DDS for placements in either the state-run Wrentham or Hogan ICFs, or in state-operated group homes. In the vast majority of those cases, however, we have heard that DDS has either not responded or pushed back on those requests.

While the state has continued to pour money into the corporate provider system, the number of residents in the state’s state-operated group homes and state-run ICFs have continued to drop.

As of the fall of 2021, we heard that state-operated group homes were being closed, and last month, we received records from DDS indicating that those closures were the result of insufficient staffing of corporate provider-run group homes. Yet, the records also indicated that the state-operated group homes continued to have vacancies.

Poor pay of direct care workers not the result of a lack of resources

We agree with the Arc that the human services direct care workforce continues to be grossly underpaid, and that this is a primary reason for the continuing staffing shortages.

Where we disagree with the Arc is that it once again doesn’t appear to us that the problem of low pay for direct care workers is necessarily due to a lack of resources.

The increases in state funding to the providers over the past decade have resulted in continuing increases in the pay of the provider executives. The increased state funding, however, hasn’t been passed through by the providers to their direct care employees.

We hope the Healey administration is open to a new approach to this problem. The new administration needs to redirect more of the state’s resources to state-run programs, and needs to ensure that those resources get to those who underpin the entire system — the direct care workers.

  1. Jean Bowden
    May 7, 2023 at 5:54 am

    This is concern all in all placements but the results for them create an issue the health of our family members who are being given prescription medications rather than programing and proper staffing to work with special needs individuals behaviors . I blame these “medication manager” site (Stocked with one or two many doctors and RN PHD nurses with a degree to allow them to prescribe such drugs which resembles or is a Pyramid scheme) One said this to me “if you cannot change the environment … when I just about freaked out on her) These mixes of CNS prescription drugs cause not only behaviors to escalate but all sorts of side effects from the annoying (dry mouth and headaches) to dementia , eye crossing, intoxication, addiction leg swelling, excessive weight fat storage and brain fog. The very thing they are trying to help is made worst and might work in the reverse. One big culprit is the use of the drug Gabapentin used off label. I made them take my daughter off that that one given to her to get her to sleep. Its for licensed for that and or anything else but nerve pain and siezures She looked like/behaved like she had been to the local bar on the mix of drugs and was regressing in speech, health, skills etc. Since off she is way way better. I see it and other drugs are going to be off also and or changed Please check your family members medication mix. I had a licensed pharmatist review my family member’s list. That professional said it was abusive and dangerous I am going to report that drug to the FDA and a few other places. The staff are also exhausted and many placements are advertising and trying to get help Not just in this field but others like nursing homes, businesses like grocery stores etc


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