DHS Secretary Arkoosh Visits Arc Of Lehigh And Northampton Counties To Hear How Gov. Shapiro’s Proposed Investments In ID/A Services Would Benefit Supported Individuals, Strengthen Pennsylvania’s Intellectual Disability And Autism Services, Workforce

Bethlehem, PA - Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today visited The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties to talk with caregivers, self-advocates, and professionals in the intellectual disability and autism (ID/A) community about the historic ID/A investments in Governor Josh Shapiro’s 2024-25 proposed budget. The budget includes major increases in the number of Pennsylvanians with ID/A who can receive home and community-based services and increases rates for providers, which will support higher wages for the direct support professionals who care for Pennsylvanians with ID/A.

Providers and advocates for this system of care and the people it supports and uplifts every day have pushed for this increased support and transformative change. Leadership from The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties said the proposed budget investments will help bring much needed stability. An increase in rates paid to providers will provide more resources to increase wages and support recruitment and retention of direct support professionals who help people with ID/A participate in their community, pursue individual goals, and build fulfilling lives. The investment in rates provides a foundation across the Commonwealth to expand supports to more people – a step towards ending the emergency waiting list for adults with ID/A waiting for services. 

“Every Pennsylvanian with intellectual disabilities and autism deserves to receive the services they need when they need them, but for too long, Pennsylvania has had a system that results in years-long waiting lists for ID/A services instead of providing the right supports at the right time,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “Under Governor Shapiro’s proposal, Pennsylvania will work to eliminate this waiting list, invest in the value and importance of ID/A service providers and direct support professionals, and, most importantly, demonstrate our commitment to Everyday Lives for all Pennsylvanians. The time to invest in these services and supports is now so that we can help individuals, families, and even entire communities grow, be healthy, and thrive.”

Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget would invest $483 million in federal and state funding to support rate increases to service providers. Governor Shapiro announced late last year that DHS would re-examine rates to better support ID/A service providers and the direct support professionals who dedicate their careers to helping Pennsylvanians with ID/A. This investment in rates will support recruitment, retention, and wages for direct support professionals across this field who make inclusive, enriching lives possible for people with intellectual disabilities and autism. In addition, service providers also will receive a one-time supplemental payment later this spring to assist with workforce recruitment and retention.

Pennsylvania is among dozens of states that currently has an emergency waiting list for adult ID/A services, and by working to end this waiting list, the Commonwealth will position itself as a leader in this space. Ending the emergency waiting list will be accomplished through a multi-year strategy that shifts how waiver program capacity is managed. To date, ID/A waiver programs were managed by allocating a set number of “slots” to each county, which determines a person’s eligibility. Under this model, services that a person needs are covered through their designated slot. Moving forward, program capacity will be managed under an overall budget for each county, giving more flexibility to local program administrators to serve more people based on current needs, service utilization, and overall costs. This shift also will allow counties to serve more people with greater efficiency.

Earlier this year Governor Shapiro directed DHS to immediately release additional program capacity to counties, which will allow an additional 1,650 Pennsylvanians to receive waiver services this year. The 2024-25 proposed budget seeks to build on this by investing $78 million in federal and state funds to serve an additional 1,500 Pennsylvanians in the next fiscal year.

The Arc of Lehigh and Northampton Counties is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing essential services and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families. The Arc’s focus is on ensuring access to services that empower individuals with IDD to achieve their fullest potential, prioritizing quick access to resources and services for families and supporting their success.

Through a diverse range of programs and services, The Arc strives to foster inclusion, empowerment, and support for individuals with IDD, enabling them to lead fulfilling lives. Services include: offering guidance to families involved in Pennsylvania's early intervention services, with an emphasis on enhancing their child's strengths and growth; and equipping adults and their families with the necessary resources, services and support, to help them live fulfilling lives.

“Direct support professionals (DSPs) are the backbone of supports and services for people with ID/A,” said Karen Shoemaker, CEO of The Arc of Lehigh & Northampton Counties. “Pennsylvania families rely on the critical support provided by DSPs to keep their family together, and these supports ensure that people with ID/A can live meaningful lives of their choosing in their homes or in the community. Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget with increased funding for ID/A will help to stabilize a system that has been in crisis for too long.”

Governor Shapiro’s proposed investments in ID/A services and direct support professionals have received praise from advocates, editorial boards, and caregivers across Pennsylvania.

Read the Governor’s full budget proposal.

MEDIA CONTACT: Brandon Cwalina - ra-pwdhspressoffice@pa.gov

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Brandon Cwalina

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