Archive

Posts Tagged ‘direct care workers’

Staffing shortages and low pay affecting care in DDS group homes

July 19, 2021 7 comments

As the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) system in Massachusetts emerges from the COVID crisis, a number of systemic problems are lingering, including reports of staffing shortages in group homes.

The staffing shortages may not be directly due to the pandemic, but the pandemic may have brought matters to a head.

Staffing shortages have long been a potential result of the low pay provided to direct care workers in the DDS system compared with high salaries provided to executives managing the nonprofits operating most of the group homes.

Even with a $4.2 billion surplus in state budget revenues projected for the current fiscal year, there appears to be no sign of urgency on Beacon Hill to address the direct care wage problem. Legislation (H.4171) that would have boosted minimum direct care wages in the DDS system to $20 per hour died at the end of the previous legislative session last December, and apparently hasn’t been revived.

We sent an email query on July 13 to state Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders and DDS Commissioner Jane Ryder, seeking confirmation of the staffing shortages and reasons for them. We sent a similar query to the Legislature’s Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities Committee.

In our emails, we asked whether there are legislative efforts underway to boost direct care pay in the DDS system in order to recruit more caregivers and prevent others from leaving the system.

Neither Sudders nor Ryder has responded to our query.

A staff member of the Children and Families Committee did get back to us last week, saying a bill has been proposed for the second year in a row that would gradually raise the pay of direct care workers employed by DDS providers to the level earned by similar workers employed by the state.

Unlike last session’s bill, which would have raised direct care pay to $20 per hour, no actual hourly payment amount is specified in this year’s bill, H.237. The measure was referred to the Children and Families Committee on March 29.  A “tentative” vote on the bill isn’t scheduled by the Committee until this coming fall.

In response to a separate query we sent earlier this month to our membership, a number of family members maintained that staffing shortages exist and have caused problems in their loved ones’ residences. One parent said a DDS regional director had confirmed to her that “there is a staff shortage statewide and they are working to recruit people.”

In one case, a DDS official emailed a parent of a state-operated group home resident, saying DDS was “in touch with (the group home management) …to ensure proper staffing ratios are being met at all times.”

But a number of family members said they did not believe staffing has lately been adequate in the residences. One parent said her son needs two staff to assist him. She said, however, that there were only two staff available per shift in the entire residence, whereas there used to be five staff per shift. The parent termed the staffing situation “potentially dangerous.”

Another parent said several staff in her son’s residence were either on vacation, had resigned, or were in training elsewhere. She said the situation resulted in a recent incident in which a resident of the home left the residence unnoticed and was eventually found outside and brought back by staff.

Affecting quality of care

The parent cited above added that the shortage of staff in the residence has been accompanied by a shortage of hygienic supplies such as disposable wipes and body wash. “The lack of good personal hygiene is neglect,” the parent said.

Use of temporary employment agencies

Two family members said the providers running the group homes were using temporary staffing agencies to fill full-time positions. “They come into the house,” said one parent, “turn on the TV and sit down.” The parent said the temporary staff are not allowed to drive, so her daughter “is stuck inside the house all day, sometimes day after day, which is contributing to her health issues.”

A parent of a resident in a state-run group home said a number of the group home Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy staff were also working in provider-run homes in order to supplement the staffing there.

Need for higher pay for direct care workers

A number of parents pointed out the connection between the staffing shortages in the group homes and low pay for direct care workers.

As one parent put it in an email to us, “Since the governor has a $4 billion surplus, maybe he could give DDS money,” specifically to increase group home staff wages.

A state budget fund was created a number of years ago, in part, to boost direct care wages. The problem is that while the fund has generated surplus revenues for many providers in recent years, little of the money has apparently gone to boost direct care pay.

In 2018, Governor Baker did sign legislation to raise the minimum wage of direct care and other workers to $15 an hour; but the minimum wage won’t reach that amount until 2023. In 2017, the Legislature rejected efforts to raise direct care wages to $15 as of that year, and rejected a bid in 2019 and again last year to raise direct care wages to $20 per hour.

EOHHS no longer tracking staff vaccinations

Also possibly due to the staffing shortage, the administration is not only not requiring working staff to be vaccinated for COVID-19, the administration is no longer tracking the number of staff who are vaccinated. EOHHS said it has never tracked the number of staff refusing vaccinations.

In a response to a June 28 Public Records Request we submitted for the latest numbers on residents and staff in the DDS system who have been vaccinated, EOHHS said they stopped tracking that information as of April 23. That was the last time they provided that information to us.

On April 23, EOHHS gave us information from early that month, indicating that about 50% of staff in DDS-funded group homes had been vaccinated, and 75% to 90% of residents in group homes had been vaccinated. So apparently with only half of the staff in the system vaccinated, EOHHS decided to stop tracking it.

Perhaps given the fact that the administration doesn’t require DDS staff to get vaccinated, the administration decided it isn’t necessary to know how many staff have actually done so. That seems to be a risky approach.

It also seems one of the administration’s biggest fears has been that the COVID crisis would lead to staffing shortages. As a result, the administration was slow to require testing of staff for COVID-19, and has declined to require that staff get vaccinated.

Despite that fear, the administration and Legislature apparently don’t seem to want to do the one thing that would go furthest to prevent staffing shortages — that is, ensure that direct-care staff are adequately paid for the difficult and important work they do.

Connecticut has moved ahead of Massachusetts on direct-care worker wages

September 18, 2018 2 comments

It apparently took the threat of a major strike, but the Connecticut Legislature passed a bill and the Connecticut governor signed it earlier this year to raise the minimum wage of direct-care workers in that state’s Department of Developmental Services system to $14.75 an hour, starting January 1.

A similar effort fell short last year in Massachusetts when a budget amendment to raise direct-care wages to $15 was killed in a budget conference committee in the Massachusetts Legislature.

While Governor Charlie Baker signed separate legislation in June to raise the minimum wage across the board in Massachusetts to $15, that wage level won’t actually be reached until 2023. The minimum wage will rise to only $12 next year, whereas it will be close to $15 in Connecticut for human services workers as of January 1.

It seems that even though legislators and the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy in Connecticut are equally as tolerant of runaway privatization as they are here in Massachusetts, the Connecticut Legislature and governor have shown a greater recognition that increased privatization has resulted in low wages for direct care human service workers, and that low wages have had a negative impact on services.

In May, after the Connecticut Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of setting the minimum direct-care wage at $14.75, Malloy made a statement that we have yet to hear Governor Baker make:

“For far too long,” Malloy said, “the people who provide care to our most vulnerable neighbors have been underpaid for their critical work.”

In fairness to Baker, Malloy made that statement only after 2,400 employees of nine corporate provider agencies in Connecticut voted in April to authorize a strike that was set to begin in early May. The workers in Connecticut are represented by the SEIU 1199 New England union.

Clearly hoping to avert that strike, the Malloy administration proposed raising the minimum wage for human services workers to $14.75 an hour and providing a five-percent raise for workers earning more than $14.75 an hour effective January 1.

The Malloy administration’s proposal, which was endorsed by the SEIU union and ultimately signed into law, applies to 19,000 union and non-union caregivers that staff some 170 group homes and other nonprofit agencies that receive Medicaid funding in Connecticut, according to The Connecticut Mirror.

As Connecticut Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney noted:

The work (those caregivers) do is among the most important in our state in terms of humanity.  If we are to consider ourselves a humane and caring society, at long last we should begin at least to recognize the value of that work.

In Massachusetts, SEIU Local 509 helped organize a five-day strike  for a living wage in July at CLASS, Inc., a DDS-funded day program provider based in Lawrence. The workers there were getting paid about $13 an hour and wanted a $1 increase. The company was offering an increase of only 40 cents.

The president of CLASS, meanwhile, was making about $187,500 a year, according to the state’s online UFR database.

In July, workers at CLASS, Inc. reached a settlement with management to raise the workers’ wages by 60 cents an hour. That would still leave the average worker there well below what direct-care workers will be earning in Connecticut.

The Massachusetts strike, moreover, didn’t have the impact on legislators and other policy makers here that the threat of the Connecticut strike apparently did in that state. Thus far, it isn’t apparent that there is any political will in Massachusetts to raise the minimum wage of direct-care workers to Connecticut’s level.

That is concerning because five years is a long time to wait for the minimum wage for direct-care workers to reach $15. Due to inflation alone, that $15 will be worth less to Massachusetts workers in 2023 than it would be if they were to receive it starting this January.

 

DDS vendor executives not sharing the pain of their workers

February 13, 2012 2 comments

Direct-care workers in the state’s contracted human services system have seen their wages stagnate in recent years, but the executives who run the largely nonprofit contractor agencies that employ those workers do not appear to have been feeling that same pain.

We examined compensation to both CEOs and direct-care workers in a sample of 30 service vendors to the Department of Developmental Services, both large and small, from around the state in Fiscal Years 2008 and 2011.  This information is available in Uniform Financial Reports, which are submitted to the state Operational Services Division by the vendors and are posted online by the OSD at www.mass.gov/ufr

The CEO compensation of our sample increased by an average of 16.6 percent during the four year period while the direct-care salaries decreased by an average of 2.17 percent during that time.  (See Vendor Compensation Table.) 

Among the 30 vendors, the average CEO compensation in FY 08 was $197,068.  It increased to an average of $229,872 in FY 11.  In FY 08, the average direct care salary for the sample was $33,508.  It decreased to $32,780 in FY 11.   In FY 11, direct-care workers were earning an average of 14 percent of what the CEOs of those vendors were earning, down from 17 percent in FY 08.

Among the sample, nine CEOs received compensation increases in the four year period reviewed while the direct care workers employed by those same vendors actually saw their wages cut.  In two of those cases, the CEOs received increases exceeding 100 percent. 

That many CEOs have taken hefty pay increases and the direct-care workers have gotten little or nothing, or in many cases decreases, raises  questions about repeated calls from the vendors to add $28 million to a state budget reserve fund to increase those direct care salaries.

If the Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers and its member vendors are really concerned about their direct-care workers’ pay, why have these companies given raises only to their CEOs?  Should the state be called upon to bear the entire burden of raising direct-care wages?

“The vendors appear to have it in their own power to give their direct-care workers increases,  but they’ve chosen not to,” said Colleen Lutkevich, COFAR executive director.   “Instead, they’re looking to the Legislature.”

If the Legislature does step in to fund the direct-care salary reserve account, it will not be at the urging of Governor Patrick.  Despite the ADDP’s appeals, the governor’s budget for the coming fiscal year proposes zero for the reserve fund.

Note: We were not able to use data from one of the vendors, Massachusetts Mentor, Inc.   Massachusetts Mentor is a subsidiary of NMH Holdings, Inc., a for-profit corporation that provides residential and other services for intellectually disabled persons in 36 states.  NMH Holdings was incorported in Delaware, according to its audited financial statements, though it actually appears to be headquartered in Massachusetts.  (NMH Holdings appears to be referred to as The Mentor Network on its national website.)

Massachusetts Mentor’s  UFR  and other reports filed with the state OSD employ what appears to be an unusual method of listing only partial salaries of top executives.  The compensation listed is apparently the amounts of the executives’ salaries that are attributed to Massachusetts.  For instance, total compensation for Edward Murphy, CEO of both Mass. Mentor and The (national) Mentor Network, was listed as only $14,830 in FY 10, in a filing with OSD).  (The company does not appear to have filed a UFR report in Massachusetts for FY 11.)  Murphy is a former commissioner of both Mental Health and Youth Services in Massachusetts.

Greg Torres, chairman of the Board of Directors for both Mass. Mentor and The Mentor Network, earned a total of $2,484 in compensation in FY 10, according to the OSD filing.  Torres, a former chief of staff of the Massachusetts Senate Ways and Means Committee, is also currently president of MassINC, the nonprofit civic think tank in Massachusetts that publishes CommonWealth magazine.  (CommonWealth frequently advocates for more transparency in governmental finances and operations.)

Also working for Mass. Mentor is Gerald Morrissey, a former commissioner of DDS in Massachusetts.  Morrissey’s total compensation as a vice president at Mass. Mentor was listed in the FY 10 OSD filing as $5,113.  None of these clearly partial compensation listings could be reliably compared with other CEO and direct-care compensation in Massachusetts.

NMH Holdings earned more than $1 billion in revenues in FY 10, according to filings with OSD, while Massachusetts Mentor took in $3.7 million from DDS and $19.4 million from the Department of Social Services in FY 10, according to its UFR report.

Calls and emails to OSD with questions about Mass. Mentor’s and NMH Holdings’ partial compensation listings for their executives were not returned.

%d bloggers like this: