In Harrisburg, Shapiro Administration Meets with Providers, Advocates to Discuss Need for Major Investments in Intellectual Disabilities and Autism Services, Workforce

Secretary Arkoosh with Disability Advocates

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh today visited Keystone Human Services for a roundtable discussion with advocates, families, caregivers, and providers about the need for historic investments in Governor Josh Shapiro’s 2024-25 proposed budget, which would increase the number of Pennsylvanians who can access intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A) services, and support the professionals who care for Pennsylvanians with ID/A.

“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 like they deserve – a delay that often limits how they participate in their community and that affects their families and caregivers as well. This is unacceptable, and we must do more to ease barriers to care and services,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “The time has come to invest in our fellow Pennsylvanians with ID/A and those who care for them. Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal affirms the dignity of all Pennsylvanians with ID/A by eliminating the waiting list for services while investing in the value and importance of ID/A service providers and direct support professionals.”

Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal, which has received bipartisan support, would invest $483 million in federal and state funding to provide more resources for home and community-based service providers so they have the ability to increase the average starting wage from approximately $15/hour to $17/hour; an increase in wages would 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 home and community-based service providers and the direct support professionals who dedicate their careers to helping Pennsylvanians with ID/A. In addition, service providers also received a one-time supplemental payment in June 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 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.

If passed, Governor Shapiro’s budget would increase the number of Pennsylvanians with ID/A who are able to receive home and community-based services, kicking off a multi-year growth strategy to make Pennsylvania a national leader and end its adult emergency waiting list.

During her visit, Secretary Arkoosh toured one of Keystone Human Services’ licensed homes to talk with residents and staff. These homes are settings where individuals with ID/A can live more independently while maintaining access to a variety of services that promote community living, employment, communication, self-direction, choice, and control. 

Keystone Human Services (KHS) is a multi-national human services organization based in Harrisburg. KHS provides advocacy, services, and supports in early childhood education and family support, mental health, autism, and intellectual, developmental, cognitive, and physical disability. Its work focuses on inclusion and supporting people with disability to thrive, direct their own lives, establish homes, find meaningful work, pursue education alongside their peers, and fill valued roles in the community. In addition to operating as Keystone Human Services, KHS provides services through capital region organizations like Susquehanna Service Dogs and Capital Area Head Start.

“Keystone Human Services applauds the Governor’s proposed budget, which prioritizes Pennsylvanians with intellectual disability and recognizes the essential work of direct support professionals (DSPs),” said Charles Sweeder, President and CEO of Keystone Human Services. “DSPs are not just caregivers. They are role models, advocates, and partners with people with disability to encourage and support them to make decisions and fully participate at home, school, work, and in the community. Investing in community-based programs and competitive wages for DSPs will help stabilize the workforce to help Pennsylvanians with intellectual disability and autism live full lives within their communities.”

Read the Governor’s full budget proposal.

Secretary Arkoosh with Disability Advocates

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