Low wages and limited access to benefits has resulted in extremely high turnover in the human service workforce. This turnover can cause gaps in services, create lack of continuity in care, and interfere with the development of positive relationships between workers and those they support. In 2006 SEIU members, direct support workers and disability rights advocates in Washington DC took a first step down a long road to recruit, train and retain a workforce that can provide high quality service and supports for people with developmental disabilities.
Working together, they successfully passed the Stevie Sellows Act through the Washington, DC City Council. The Act established a fund to improve jobs and the quality of supports for people with disabilities living in Intermediate Care Facilities(ICF/MR). The Funds can only be used by facilities who have an agreement in place with their employees to improve the quality of support services and increase the wages, benefits and training for workers in the facilities.
Over the last few months we have been talking with workers at ICF/MRs about what they can do to make sure the policy is implemented and other ways to provide high quality supports and good jobs for the people providing them. It has taken four long years, but the policy will finally go into effect this fall in Washington, DC. Solving the problem of turnover of direct support professionals is a complex, challenging problem and the Stevie Sellow Act is no magic bullet. SEIU will continue to work with disability advocates, family members, consumers and direct support professionals in Washington DC, and through-out the country to develop innovative solutions.