Archive for Sunday, March 28, 2010

Disability rights forum calls for more funding to support workers

March 28, 2010


As a direct support professional, Andrea McMurray is a chef, property manager, health care provider, cheerleader, grief counselor, life coach, referee, teammate and mediator.

It’s a job that has McMurray brushing teeth, cleaning out fish tanks, fixing Walkmans or explaining what interest rates are while in the checkout line of Target.

“I think a lot of people don’t realize that there is that much involved in it,” McMurray said of her work in assisting those with developmental disabilities at Cottonwood Inc., a Lawrence nonprofit organization.

The average starting salary for a direct support professional is $8.82 an hour, so it’s also a profession that means having to take on other jobs to make ends meet.

At one point, McMurray said, she was supervising a staff of 27 and still had to pick up a side job of busing tables at a local restaurant. That one paid more.

“There is a lack of respect for my job, which reflects the lack of respect for the people we serve,” McMurray said.

McMurray was among the speakers at Saturday morning’s forum on disability rights, sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Lawrence-Douglas County.

The speakers stressed the need for more government funding to aid those with disabilities and the people who work with them.

With the state and federal government continually underfunding programs, social service agencies helping those with disabilities have been forced to pay their employees meager salaries. Such wages lead to high turnover rates, and ultimately the clients suffer, the speakers said.

“They have to spend weeks reteaching new staff what the they need help with, which is reminding people what their weakness are. It hurts their confidence,” McMurray said.

Direct support professionals have been the foundation of the progress made in disability rights over the past 40 years, said Tom Laing, executive director of InterHab, a group that represents Kansans with disabilities. Now that foundation is eroding.

“We are heading precariously into an area where the personal safety of those we work with and the personal safety of those that work with them is at risk,” Laing said of the lack of resources. “It will result in a service product that is unsatisfactory, then risky and ultimately tragic.”


Dan Eyler 8 years, 2 months ago

There are so many issues that effect peoples lives. But like this cause it comes at the expense of the tax payer and the middle class. Again we get pulled into the debate with statements that we are only going to tax the rich and these increased taxes never touch the middle class. But we all know now that it doesn't work that way. If we look at the state budget we see that schools are already getting 64% or 2/3 of the entire state budget. Then you have social services getting about 18% of all state taxes. These two government services make up 82% of the entire budget. This leaves 18% for everybody else. So where is that additional funding going to come from? Yes they mentioned it in the article. More federal, state and local funding. Who will pay those additional taxes? You got it, the average middle class American who is desperately standing on the brink with the governments hand between our shoulder blades nudging us ever closer to the edge. When the middle class goes so goes America and any change of the little guy getting ahead. But the middle class is going to have to decide whether or not we can ween ourselves from the fear of having to do without so many government services. Stop buying into the the fear of needing a safety net and start thinking about how much better our families would be if we reduced these government services and used those tax dollars in our own pockets where could spend or save which in turn grows jobs and the economy and creates real opportunity for all. It's not more social services we need. It isn't another government agency we need. Common sense should tell you jobs bring hope and opportunity. No opportunity or hope comes from more government agencies. Sorry but the average Kansan is tapped out so don't bother asking for more.

bkt_1977 8 years, 2 months ago

Quality, consistent care for any population in need of support will enable more of its members to contribute to society. When given the opportunity, people with disabilities work and pay taxes like the rest of us.

We must ask ourselves: Do we want to encourage dependence or independence? Do the elderly, disabled veterans, autistic children, accident victims, abuse victims, the blind - everyone who started life with a limitation or had one thrust upon them - deserve less than "the average middle class American" referred to by Kansasfaithful? What about the Direct Support Professionals who can barely make ends meet? The ones who stick it out, like Andrea McMurray, are far from average... they are extraordinary.

Everyone's civil liberties are compromised when basic civil rights are denied a demographic because it is deemed different, or because the alternative might be difficult. We must never take our own independence and freedom for granted, and we must always encourage it in and for others.

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