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Advocacy Meeting with New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie

Advocacy Meeting with New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie

Photo credit: S:US

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. Throughout the month, we will celebrate and feature stories from the people we support. We believe that with the right set of supports, people with intellectual/developmental disabilities (I/DD) can live in, work in, contribute to, and participate in the community.

Last month a team from S:US met via Zoom with New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie to advocate for supports and services for adults with I/DD. The team in attendance were:

Melissa DaCosta-England, VP, Residential Services

Denise Gilbert, Direct Support Professional (DSP)

Kelvin, person supported who lives at S:US group home in Brooklyn

Linda, mother of son Musa, who lives at S:US group home in Brooklyn

They came together to emphasize the importance of funding for people with I/DD to live rich, engaged lives in the community with the needed support of DSPs. DSPs help people supported with a wide range of tasks, including activities of daily living, with the overall goal of encouraging them to lead independent lives and to be integrated into their communities. Some of their requests included:

A 5.4% Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) wage increase for the human services field

Funds to increase the state’s minimum wage

Bonuses for healthcare and mental hygiene workers

Housing subsidy enhancements

Crisis services expansion

Many significant points were made in the meeting with Senator Myrie. As Melissa DaCosta-England shared, “…The work that is expected of a DSP is not a minimum wage job. DSPs are not licensed nurses, but they are trained to handle nursing tasks such as medication administration which is crucial to the people that we support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our DSPs have worked tirelessly; they were showing up every day to care for people with I/DD while also working to keep themselves and their families safe despite the risks, and a majority of them work multiple jobs to make ends meet.”

Kelvin, person supported, shared at the meeting: “…I like Ms. Cynthia (a DSP) in my home because I like her cooking so much. She makes delicious fried chicken, French fries, breakfast and good coffee. I want her to cook for us all the time! She helps me make my bed and helps me wash up. She is a very nice lady and we love her.” Kelvin values her consistency and reliability in taking care of him and his housemates and knows how important it is to maintain good supportive staff in his home. Adults with I/DD rely on necessary supports from DSPs and appreciate the routine of seeing the same familiar, friendly faces in their home. Since a high turnover rate is a frequent challenge to retaining good staff, the team advocated for funding increases along with COLA to maintain valuable, consistent staff.

We’re grateful to the team for making their voices heard!

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