In Armstrong County, Shapiro Administration Highlights Needed Budget Investment Proposal to Support Access to Intellectual Disability and Autism Services, Invest in Direct Care Workforce

Secretary Arkoosh with Disability Advocates

Kittanning, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today visited Lifesteps, a provider serving western Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A) to discuss the life-changing investments in Governor Josh Shapiro’s 2024-25 proposed budget for the ID/A community across the Commonwealth. The proposal includes major, transformative increases in the number of Pennsylvanians with ID/A who will be able to receive home- and community-based services as well as support for rate increases for the providers, which will support an increase in wages for direct support professionals who provide essential care and support every day.

“For decades, Pennsylvanians with ID/A have had to remain on years-long waiting lists for services instead of getting access to the right supports at the right time – a delay that often limits how they participate in their community and that can affect their families and caregivers as well. This is unacceptable, and we must do more to ease barriers to care and services and help Pennsylvanians with ID/A live the everyday lives they deserve,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “Under Governor Shapiro’s proposal, Pennsylvania will work to eliminate the ID/A waiting list, invest in the value and importance of ID/A service providers and direct support professionals, and, most importantly, demonstrate our commitment to dignity and quality of life for all Pennsylvanians. We must take this step forward with these investments so we can help individuals, families, and even entire communities live and thrive in the way they choose.”

Governor Shapiro’s proposed budget would invest $483 million in federal and state funding to provide more resources for home and community-based service providers so they can increase the average starting salary from approximately $15/hour to $17/hour so they can pay more competitive rates to both attract and retain the qualified staff who provide these essential services. Governor Shapiro announced late last year that DHS would re-examine rates earlier than required 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 will also receive a one-time supplemental payment later this spring to assist with workforce recruitment and retention.

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 home and community-based 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.

For 100 years, Lifesteps has helped individuals and families along life’s journey by providing programs that will help to improve their quality of life. A non-profit serving western Pennsylvania, Lifesteps believes people of every ability have the right to live to their fullest potential. Services for children, families, adults with disabilities, and seniors are designed to encourage growth, independence, confidence and dignity. Programs span the age spectrum, ranging from free developmental screenings for infants and toddlers to programs that allow adults with intellectual disabilities to live an “Everyday Life,” encouraged to be as independent as possible.  

Through the years, the organization has evolved and adapted to the changing needs of our communities. Lifesteps’ first Guiding Principal is, “Our programs and services will respond to present and emerging community needs.” Today Lifesteps continues to serve its communities with over 40 programs and services throughout Western Pennsylvania. To learn more, visit  

“Individuals with special needs will greatly benefit from Governor Shapiro’s proposed increase in state funding for home and community-based service providers,” said Karen Sue Owens, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lifesteps. “The increase will allow us to attract and retain the Direct Support Professionals who are so essential for the care and quality of life for individuals with intellectual disabilities. We also applaud the Governor’s efforts to eliminate the barriers and emergency waiting list that is currently preventing care and services to thousands of Pennsylvanians.” 

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

Read the Governor’s full budget proposal.

Secretary Arkoosh with Disability Advocates

DHS Media Contact Details

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Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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Brandon Cwalina

Press Secretary Department of Human Services 717-425-7606
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