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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 14, 2014 at 7:08 AM

Supported living: Pay caregivers adequate wages

This is in response to The Seattle Times’ editorial “Senate should protect people with disabilities” [Opinion, March 9].

No one disputes the importance of the state investigating abuse and neglect complaints for individuals with developmental disabilities. It is, however, only one piece of the equation. The other piece is to pay caregivers adequate wages.

The Department of Social and Health Services reimburses contracted supported-living providers in King County $15.78 an hour and providers in other urban counties $15.18 an hour (less in rural counties) for every hour of service. That pays wages and benefits for direct-care workers, supervisors and managers.

The average starting wage for direct-care workers is $10 an hour. Turnover averages 33 percent statewide. Many are immigrants for whom English is a second language. About half have two jobs, sometimes three. Many are also enrolled in school. Hiring, training, scheduling and retention are a huge challenge for providers.

The current reimbursement rate is less than it was in 2009. The Legislature cut the rate twice during the recession, for a total of 4 percent.

We need to focus on more than enforcement. Pay workers a living wage to provide them with some dignity and to reduce the crippling and expensive effects of high turnover.

Janet Michaelsen, Seattle

Comments | More in Health care | Topics: Department of Social and Health Services, developmental disabilities, Janet Michaelsen

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