Letter: Fifteen disabled lost services

The 15 people with developmental disabilities served by our ACHIEVE Human Services Kingman program site lost their employment program support and, for some, the ability to earn a paycheck altogether on March 13.

Since the Great Recession, agencies that provide services to the intellectually and developmentally disabled have been advocating for the restoration of state funding that was cut at that time.

Right now, service providers are only reimbursed at approximately 25 percent below what it costs to deliver services. Proposition 206 made this situation significantly worse.

Staff turnover before the passage of Prop. 206 was on average 56 percent and as high 80 percent in areas with smaller labor pools. Providers paid $8.91 per hour on average (slightly above the old minimum wage) in an attempt to be more competitive with businesses like big box stores and fast food chains that paid a comparable hourly wage with arguably less stress associated with the work.

Now, service providers are paying the same wages as these other businesses.

Put yourself in the shoes of a direct care worker – for $10/hour – you could be responsible for the day to day care of another human being, which typically includes feeding, toileting, and managing that individual’s behaviors, or you could flip burgers for the same amount. Which would you choose?

The cost and reimbursement of our services is determined by the State of Arizona.

This means care providers cannot increase the cost of our services to cover the increase to staff wages.

We have made all the budget cuts we can make and have little, if any, options to further reduce costs to absorb the impact of Prop. 206.

We care about those we serve and will continue to fight to keep our doors open to provide services to those who depend on us, but are desperate for relief.

The ACHIEVE community is devastated over the closure of our Kingman office, where 15 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities relied on our services and staff to support them as they worked.

If funding is not made a priority, the passage of Prop. 206, coupled with the funding cuts of the past, will cause providers to close their doors or reduce the services they offer, effectively incapacitating the care provider network, and change the lives of Arizona’s most vulnerable residents who depend on it.

Carol Carr

CEO

ACHIEVE Human Services