AUSTIN, TX – This week, Spectrum News Austin’s Capital Tonight highlighted the Time to Care coalition’s urgent request for an emergency appropriation from the Texas Legislature to address the workforce crisis among direct support professionals (DSPs) who serve Texans with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD).

Rochelle Smith, who has a brother with an intellectual disability, spoke about about how difficult it has become for these individuals to find adequate care and a place to live due to persistently low wages for staff.

“He needs a team of people that can care for him so he can have the quality of life that he deserves and be able to function as an adult, even though he does need assistance,” Smith told Spectrum News.

Over the last 13 years DSPs have seen a less than 9% rate increase which threatens to undermine the Lone Star State’s ability to continue serving Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

About 229 group homes closed in the last year and another 126 are expected to close by the end of this year, according to Sandy Batton with the Providers Alliance for Community Services of Texas. Meanwhile, group homes are seeing a 30% staff vacancy all over Texas. 

“Now you have staff that don’t have familiarity with the people they’re working, with which leads to more medical errors or not knowing what somebody’s triggers is,” Batton said.

State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) recognized the gravity of this matter, acknowledging that the Legislative Budget Board, on which he serves, would have to make the emergency funding decision since the legislature is not in session until January 2025.

“The Legislature, for the last 20 to 25 years, has really dropped the ball on taking care of the staffing needs of direct care folks,” Representative Walle told Spectrum News.