AUSTIN, TX – In local broadcasts across Texas this week, Nexstar TV featured the stories of staff from Down Home Ranch, a member of the Time To Care coalition, highlighting the urgent need for the Texas Legislature to raise wages for direct support professionals (DSPs) serving Texans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD). Across the state, group homes like Down Home Ranch are facing a workforce crisis that threatens critical, quality services for Texans with IDD due to the insufficient average wage for community-based DSPs, which currently sits at $10.60 per hour.

Barry Hamilton, Chief Operating Officer at Down Home Ranch, emphasized the importance of keeping good DSPs employed to ensure individuals with IDD can continue enjoying housing, activities, and a stronger sense of community.

“It’s critical for people with intellectual disabilities to be able to access their community in a real, meaningful way,” Hamilton said. “We want the best for people, and providers have a really tough job in ensuring that people get the fullest life that they want.”

Hamilton emphasized: “We can’t do that for $8.10, we can’t do it for $10.60, we can’t do it for $13.00. There are people who have multiple jobs to make ends meet and, honestly, that’s not the standard of care that we would want.”

Craig and Naomi Russell, who have a 32-year-old son with Down syndrome living at Down Home Ranch, attribute their son’s improvement in communication skills and a sense of independence to the staff.

“One of our core values is do with, not for,” Craig Russell said. “We want all of us to be working together to improve people’s lives.”

“They deserve to get a good caring person in there to help them be the best person they can be,” Naomi Russell said.

Group homes serving Texans with IDD are grappling with more than 30% staff vacancy rates across Texas. This alarming situation is largely due to DSPs receiving a less than 9% rate increase over the last 13 years, posing an existential threat to community-based providers’ ability to recruit and retain qualified staff to serve Texans with IDD

In an interview with Nexstar, State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) acknowledged the dire need for a pay increase and said he would support raising the average DSP wage to $15 an hour.

“This is a safety net. This is really at the end of the road for a lot of this vulnerable population where family members need help,” Representative Walle said.