Archive for July, 2009

WI Coalition to Senator: Include DCWs, People With Disabilities in Health Care Reform

Posted by on July 27th, 2009 at 3:55 pm | Comments Off on WI Coalition to Senator: Include DCWs, People With Disabilities in Health Care Reform
Terry Lynch

Terry Lynch

In a July 17 letter, (PDF) a broad-based Wisconsin disability rights coalition asked U. S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) to address issues important to people with disabilities in health care reform – including the lack of sufficient health care coverage for direct care workers.

In its letter, The Survival Coalition of Wisconsin Disability Organizations noted that about a quarter of the state’s direct care workers do not have health insurance. “Of the ones who do have coverage,” the group adds, “the employer premium cost-share, co-pays and deductibles are often prohibitive (in light of the average wages of direct service workers of $10.85 per hour.)”

The letter also notes that many disability provider organizations have received minimal or no reimbursement rate increases for the last six years, resulting in “a) an inability to provide wage increases, b) dramatic increases in employee cost-shares, c) many agencies eliminating the health care benefit, and d) some agencies on the verge of bankruptcy.”

The group asked the senator to pursue seven objectives in developing a final health care reform package, including “Ensure that the concept of ‘affordability’ is applied realistically to people with disabilities, families and direct service workers who have very low incomes.”

I will report on any actions taken by Senator Feingold or other members of the Wisconsin delegation.

Related Documents
The DCA’s Direct Care Worker Principles for Health Care Reform (PDF)

Terry Lynch
Board Member
Direct Care Alliance

ANCOR and the DCA Team Up for Better Wages

Posted by on July 27th, 2009 at 3:54 pm | Comments Off on ANCOR and the DCA Team Up for Better Wages


Sign up for our webinar

Are you concerned about the low wages being paid direct support professionals? Do you wonder what you can do to change the situation?

If so, join the Direct Care Alliance and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) on August 19 for a free webinar to learn about a proposed federal law that would improve our wages – and what the “Power of One” can do to affect the outcome!

The DCA and ANCOR have partnered to host a one-hour leadership session. We will:

  1. Discuss wage issues impacting the direct care workforce.
  2. Give a brief overview of pending federal legislation to improve DSP wages.
  3. Provide a tutorial on the legislative process.
  4. Share information on how best to communicate with congressional leaders and the value YOUR participation can add to the process.

The presentation has been designed with direct care workers in mind, but friends and allies of direct care workers are also welcome. Your involvement and action could mean the difference between higher wages and business as usual.

Jeff Britt
ANCOR Advocacy Consultant

DCA Board Endorses Community Choice Act

Posted by on July 27th, 2009 at 1:49 pm | 1 Comment »
Laurie Powers

Laurie Powers

Read the board’s resolution in favor of the Community Choice Act

Ask your legislator to support the Community Choice Act

I hope we all can come together to support the Community Choice Act, which was endorsed by the Direct Care Alliance’s board of directors on July 20.

As a DCA board member, a person with disability, and a professional working to increase self-determination and community participation by people with disabilities, I can attest to the critical importance of passing this legislation. It’s essential for people with disabilities to finally have the right –just like everyone else – to live in their communities if they so desire, rather than being stuck in institutions simply because they cannot get the care they need anywhere else.

Continue reading »

DCA Video Diary: Helen Hanson, Eunice and Jeanne

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 5:23 pm | 3 Comments »

In this new video from the Direct Care Alliance’s Video Diary series of videos by direct care workers, home care worker Helen Hanson talks about her work. She also interviews her daughter Jeanne about the sacrifices her family has to make because of her low wages and tapes Eunice Spooner, the woman she works with, as Eunice talks about what her home care workers mean to her. It all adds up to a 360-degree view of the challenges and rewards of direct care work.

Mark Your Calendar for DSP Recognition Week

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Comments Off on Mark Your Calendar for DSP Recognition Week
Darlene Ricco, ANCOR's 2009 DSP of the Year

Darlene Ricco, ANCOR's 2009 DSP of the Year

If there’s a direct support professional in your life who you’d like to thank for his or her good work, mark your calendar for this year’s Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, September 13-19.

This is the second year for this initiative, which the ANCOR National Advocacy Campaign created to honor direct support workers and recognize the difference they make in the lives of the people they support.

“Direct support professionals provide critical daily supports to individuals with disabilities, allowing them to live more meaningful and productive lives within their community by promoting inclusion and independence,” says ANCOR CEO Renee Pietrangelo. “DSP Recognition Week is but one way we all can show our appreciation for the role they play in strengthening our communities and supporting our most vulnerable neighbors, friends and family.”

Check out ANCOR’s website in the coming weeks for more information on DSP Recognition Week 2009 and how to observe it.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

Keeping DCWs in the Picture at Health Care Reform Day

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 1:24 pm | Comments Off on Keeping DCWs in the Picture at Health Care Reform Day
VOP in DC on the bus with Claire.smallOn June 25, I took the DCA’s message to Washington, D.C.

I went there with a group of Virginia activists who were urging our legislators to support health care reform now. There were about 200 of us in all, brought together by the Virginia Organizing Project. I rode up on a bus with 56 other people from Lynchburg and Charlottesville. (That’s me in front in the yellow shirt.)

After attending a rally in the morning, we spent the afternoon visiting our representatives in Congress. Congressman Tom Periello (D-5th) greeted us all very warmly. He was busy on the House floor with votes and only got to meet with us briefly, but his staff got to hear many sad and compelling stories about the need for health care reform.

Our goal was to support comprehensive health care reform that includes a public health insurance option, but I made sure to talk to everyone I met with about the DCA’s health care reform principles. I told them our country won’t be able to meet its long-term care needs – either in institutions or in the home, where virtually everyone would prefer to stay as long as possible – until we make the jobs of direct care workers a realistic choice thanks to fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. Continue reading »

No Health Care Without Health Care Workers, Warns Iowa Editorial

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Comments Off on No Health Care Without Health Care Workers, Warns Iowa Editorial

des moines register 1“It’s a simple fact: Access to coverage does not equal access to care. Ask the many Iowans who already have trouble finding and keeping a health-care professional,” writes John Hale, the policy director for the Iowa CareGivers Association, in the July 14 Des Moines Register.

In “Health Care Won’t Improve Without Enough Workers,” Hale says Iowa is ahead of most states in documenting and addressing the growing health care worker shortage. However, he argues, the state can’t fix the problem on its own: The federal government needs to help.

Hale’s editorial lists several things the federal government can do. The most important, he says, to “give this looming crisis the sense of urgency it deserves and provide funds to the states to allow them to act.” The health care reform bills currently being considered in Congress, he adds, provide “an opportunity to deal proactively with the health- and long-term-care work force that each of us depends on.”

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance

On the Road With Roy — An Update from the DCA’s National Advocacy Director

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 11:09 am | Comments Off on On the Road With Roy — An Update from the DCA’s National Advocacy Director
Across the country, direct care workers are speaking up and being heard by policy makers, long term care consumers, and employers. In my work with the DCA, I’ve traveled far and wide and been fortunate enough to be part of a national movement of direct care workers who are finding their voices, standing up and speaking out.

In the past few weeks, I was invited on a TV talk show here in Maine (see video) to talk about the work I’ve been doing to make health care more affordable for direct care workers. I’ve attended and spoken at direct care worker conferences in Texas — both Houston and Killeen — and in Pennsylvania. I’ve helped organize and participated in more than 50 visits with House and Senate members in Washington DC by direct care workers and their allies. And I’ve met with new DCA partners in New Mexico.

Change is in the wind! To see what I mean, come along while I revisit the highlights of the last two or three months: Continue reading »

Better Enforcement of OSHA Standards Needed to Protect Home Care Workers

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 3:34 am | Comments Off on Better Enforcement of OSHA Standards Needed to Protect Home Care Workers
Dr. Jane Lipscomb

Dr. Jane Lipscomb

Home care workers need federal and state workplace safety and health protection to protect them from injuries and illness on the job, according to an article in the July issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Occupational blood exposure among unlicensed home care workers and home care registered nurses: Are they protected?” presents the findings of a survey of nearly 1,000 personal care assistants (PCAs) who care for clients in their homes. Lead author and DCA board member Dr. Jane Lipscomb notes that little is known about the risk of blood exposure among these workers. She conducted the survey to see how often they were at risk compared to the registered nurses (RNs) who work in home care.

 The PCAs in the study worked for two large home care agencies in a large Midwestern city. Eight of every 100 reported that they had contact with their client’s blood and body fluid in the course of providing care.

Continue reading »

Nursing Home Staff Share Lessons Learned in Katrina

Posted by on July 22nd, 2009 at 2:47 am | Comments Off on Nursing Home Staff Share Lessons Learned in Katrina

Ann Stansberry“A crisis doesn’t build character; it reveals character,” says director of nursing Ann Stansberry of the staff of her nursing home in The Big Uneasy: Katrina’s Unsung Heroes. “We’re watching on TV and they’re seeing their entire city flooded to the rooftops, not knowing if their husbands are okay, if their children are okay. But they hung in there and they cared for these individuals.”

DONs, nursing assistants, administrators and other staff of several New Orleans nursing homes tell their stories in the film, describing how they cared for and protected residents during and immediately after Hurricane Katrina. “People who work in nursing homes are often invisible – or even worse, they’re viewed negatively,” says co-producer and narrator Cathie Brady in her voiceover. “This film bears witness to their caring and seeks to make visible their selfless acts of courage.”

Available for viewing on the website of B&F Consulting, a long-term care consulting company run by co-producers Brady and Barbara Frank, The Big Uneasy was funded by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.

Managers, owners and staff offer one example after another of how they pulled together in the crisis, developing a deep respect for each other and a hierarchy-free camaraderie. There’s a lot of useful information for nursing home employees in their descriptions of how they prepared for and coped with the crisis. And there’s inspiration to burn in their descriptions of the creative thinking, compassion, and courage that emerged in the crisis – and the ways in which those things have been carried over into their relationships since, with managers asking staff for ideas, and people really listening to and respecting one another. As one of the DONs observes, “You got to know people from the inside out.”

Continue reading »

House Health Care Bill Amendment Would Support Direct Care Workforce

Posted by on July 21st, 2009 at 11:35 pm | 1 Comment »
Rep. Dave Loebsack

Rep. Dave Loebsack

An amendment added to the House Education and Labor Committee’s version of the health care reform bill would mandate three kinds of support for the direct care workforce, including new core competencies for personal and home care aides.

“The voices of direct care workers are being heard,” says DCA National Advocacy Director Roy Gedat. “Health care reform is providing an opportunity to make some much-needed improvements to direct care jobs.”

The amendment (PDF) was introduced by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA) at the encouragement of PHI and the Iowa CareGivers Association.

Continue reading »

Join an Online Conversation About Women and Caregiving

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 1:48 pm | Comments Off on Join an Online Conversation About Women and Caregiving

Feminism2.0 logoReaders of the DCA’s blog and newsletter are invited to share their thoughts and experiences about women and caregiving on the Feminism2.0 website, which is hosting an extended online discussion of the topic this month. A Twitter conversation on the same topic is also open to anyone who has or wants to start a Twitter account.

“We are looking for insights, comments, and expertise,” said a Feminism2.0 organizer in an email to the DCA. “We are looking for personal stories to illustrate the human experience of caregiving and to build a sense of solidarity among all caregivers.”

Continue reading »

New York Times Calls for Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 1:08 pm | Comments Off on New York Times Calls for Fair Pay for Home Care Workers

Act now! If you haven’t already sent Secretary Solis a letter urging her to extend Fair Labor Standards Act coverage to home care workers, visit our Legislative Action Center now and send one in. It will only take a minute of your time.

A strongly worded editorial in yesterday’s New York Times echoes the DCA’s call to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to extend federal minimum wage and overtime protection to home care workers

Fair Pay for Caregivers starts by outlining the DOL ruling and Supreme Court decision that led to the exclusion of home care workers from the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act. It then describes the House and Senate letters sent to Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as a result of the DCA’s campaign. The editorial explains why failing to ensure that home care workers get fair pay is not only unfair to workers but also costly to taxpayers, who foot the bill for the food stamps and other public assistance that many home care aides must rely on. “The public pays in other ways, too: turnover is high, undermining the quality of care and driving up overall costs,” the editorial notes.  

Continue reading »

Arizona Workers Develop Advocacy Skills, Association at Power Me Workshop

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 12:34 pm | Comments Off on Arizona Workers Develop Advocacy Skills, Association at Power Me Workshop

AZ Power Me workshop participants for webMembers of the Arizona Direct Care Worker Association (ADCWA) and other direct care workers and program leaders worked on developing their advocacy skills and their state association at a personal empowerment workshop in Tucson on June 4.

Vera Salter, the chair of the DCA’s board of directors, led the day-long Power Me workshop, following the same general outline she uses on the first day of the Voices Institute’s week-long National Leadership Program.

“The purpose of the workshop was to bring together direct care workers in the community and teach them how to access their own ability, to teach them that they had a voice and how they might best use that to advocate for themselves and for the association,” says ADCWA Program Manager Kathy Wilson.

“It’s very creative in getting them to think about themselves and draw pictures of their experiences – to be able to express themselves and then share that with somebody else. Crayons were involved, so that’s always a fun thing,” she adds.

Continue reading »

Testifying for Consumer Choice: A Direct Care Worker’s Perspective

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 11:56 am | 3 Comments »
Ted Rippy testifying on behalf of LD 1078

Ted Rippy testifying on behalf of LD 1078

My name is Ted Rippy. I am a direct care worker, a consumer advocate, and a union organizer for Local 771 MSEA-SEIU, a union for direct care workers here in Maine.

It is my pleasure to work with Helen Hanson. I met Helen through Local 771 — she’s the president and I’m the secretary. One of my favorite stories about Helen is what happened when I first met her. I asked her to keep me busy and the next thing I knew, I was on a jet plane to Chicago!

I’ve been working with Helen and other direct care workers on some of the bills before the Maine senate, legislature, and Department of Health and Human Services. I was at the meeting with Hannah Pingree about LD1059, the health care for health care workers bill. I also helped advocate for LD1364, the bill to increase hourly wages to $12 for home care workers. But what I’d like to share with you today is my testimony on behalf of a bill I advocated for along with Helen, other union members, members of AARP, and health care consumers.

Continue reading »

Launching a State Worker Association: Getting Started

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 1:03 am | 5 Comments »
Shannon Gilbert

Shannon Gilbert

Hello, and welcome from Bloomington, Indiana!

I work 40 hours every weekend in a group home for adults with disabilities while raising my family. During the week, I am taking my final two classes at Ivy Tech State College in the Direct Support Professional (DSP) certification course. The classes I’ve taken so far have been a great help to me in my work: I apply many of my new skills every weekend.

But the leader in me didn’t emerge until I attended the Direct Care Alliance’s first Voices Institute National Leadership Training in Wisconsin last May.

After I got home from Wisconsin, I was full of ideas about what I wanted to do for DSPs here in Indiana. I wanted to start making a difference in training, wages and benefits for people who work with individuals with disabilities. I decided the best way to do that was to start a state chapter of the NADSP (National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals).

Continue reading »

Ask Congress to Include Nursing Home Transparency in Health Care Reform Bill

Posted by on July 9th, 2009 at 12:24 am | Comments Off on Ask Congress to Include Nursing Home Transparency in Health Care Reform Bill

nursing-home-hallway-220The DCA’s National Direct Care Partnership has endorsed the Nursing Home Transparency and Improvement Act, which is part of the draft health care reform bills being considered by both the House and Senate. The Act would give families a lot more information about the nursing homes they put their loved ones in, including whether they have adequate staff. 

The Act, which is being championed by NCCNHR, would require nursing homes to disclose their owners and all the related entities that own, finance, or operate them. It also includes nine other provisions, including:

  •   Require CMS to collect and report accurate information about the hours of nursing care facilities provide and their turnover and retention rates.
  •   Require better state complaint handling and provide resident representatives and workers better protection from retaliation.
  •   Include dementia care and abuse prevention in nurse aide training.

Visit our Legislative Action Center and ask your representatives in the House and Senate to make sure those provisions stay in the final health care reform bill.

Elise Nakhnikian
Communications Director
Direct Care Alliance