Increasing funding for services for people with disabilities is not a complete solution and gives hope | South Dakota News
SIOUX FALLS, SD (AP) – South Dakota is setting aside an unprecedented amount of money for residents with developmental challenges this year, but those working on the ground say it may not be enough to stem high staff turnover rates and long waiting lists for those who need services.
Statewide, more than 5,000 South Dakotas suffer from some form of intellectual disability, such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, or Down syndrome. The state’s department of social services has allocated an additional $ 28 million for agencies that provide housing and daily support services to those who cannot always take care of themselves.
The additional funding is a 14% increase, bringing the annual allocation for community service providers to more than $ 200 million for fiscal 2022, which begins Thursday.
Officials from community support providers say the additional funding will allow their organizations to increase salaries to stabilize the high turnover rates that have led hundreds of South Dakotas to wait to be admitted to support the programs.
In Sioux Falls, LifeScape had more than 130 vacancies this spring, for direct support professionals, case managers, nurses and teachers. This shortage of workers meant the nonprofit couldn’t admit nearly 60 adults who needed varying levels of support.
“We have empty beds in homes and we know we have a waiting list,” LifeScape CEO Steve Watkins told Argus Leader. “But if we brought someone in, it would probably tip us over.”
Watkins said the high number of vacancies is due to the high job requirements and the industry’s struggle to compete with the private sector. Both LifeScape and Black Hills Works use the extra money to raise wages and make jobs more attractive.
But industry experts say the scale of this year’s funding increase shows how far past legislatures have fallen behind in keeping funding for community support providers in line with the actual costs of providing. services that the state is obliged to pay. From 2009 to 2021, these community support providers enjoyed an average annual increase of about 1.5%, far behind increases in inflation and the cost of living.
The Department of Social Services is now required to update rate modeling at least every five years to keep pace. This work continues this summer. Watkins and Sioux Falls representative Chris Karr is optimistic he will identify efficiencies for community service providers, find loopholes in the pricing model the state has been using for over a decade, and s ‘will support this year’s budget increase.
“The state has really supported us this year and has come up with a number that is just fantastic,” Watkins said. “It doesn’t solve the problem, but it certainly moves the needle and gives everyone hope.”
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