Paying caregivers a competitive wage is essential for the health and safety of people with developmental disabilities. Without competitive wages, qualified caregivers will not be attracted to this essential field. And without competitive wages, well-trained and seasoned caregivers will not stay. This is true regardless of where the person lives or where the care is provided.
Today, most people with disabilities live in community-based settings, but a few individuals with disabilities still live in state-run institutions. The State of Utah Department of Human Services (DHS) is responsible for supporting and overseeing community-based settings AND DHS is responsible for operating the last remaining state-run institution for people with developmental disabilities in the state: the Utah State Developmental Center (USDC).
As of the writing of this letter, the DHS website is advertising starting wages for Caregivers at the USDC between $16.00/hr. and $18.21/hr. The Governor’s own budget indicates that these USDC staff are paid below market by between 15% and 34%. While currently, the rates paid by DHS within the State’s home and community based provider system only sustain an average starting wage of about $12.50/hr for Direct Support Professionals doing the exact same work in the community.
The work of Direct Support Professionals in the institution and in the community is the same. The discrepancy between what DHS is paying for caregivers in an institutional setting, and what providers are able to pay DSPs with state-set rates is alarming and is indicative of a system that gives preference to institutional settings, not with a system that is seeking to support and strengthen community services.
To be clear, the work that caregivers provide at the USDC is essential. They are needed, and their compensation of $16-$18/hr. is well-earned. Without competitive wages like this, essential services at the USDC would not be sustainable. It is challenging and noble work and well worth wages in excess of $16/hr. However, that work is very similar to the work done by Direct Support Professionals in community-based settings. Their work is equally challenging and equally noble. Their work is every-bit worthy of similar compensation to those caregivers working at the USDC. And people with disabilities living in the community deserve to have staff supporting them with comparable skills and tenure. This is only achievable with similar pay.
We call on representatives at DHS and the state of Utah to increase their rates in order for DSP wages to equal those of Caregiver positions at the USDC.