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With Direct Care Staffing ‘In Crisis,’ CSEA ‘Works To Find Solutions’

Published Wednesday, January 12, 2022
by Janice Gavin/CSEA News
With Direct Care Staffing ‘In Crisis,’ CSEA ‘Works To Find Solutions’

(ALBANY, NEW YORK) – The Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) is continuing to work with Governor Kathy Hochul and elected New York State leaders to address long-standing staffing issues plaguing human services agencies like the State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and the Office of Mental Health (OMH). 

Unfortunately, the Coronavirus Pandemic and associated mandates have only worsened short staffing problems for Union Members providing direct care, increasing the reliance on mandated overtime into crisis proportions in some areas.

In recognition of the crushing burden of mandatory overtime that so many Workers are absorbing, CSEA and New York State recently agreed to a temporary increase in overtime for thousands of Union Members employed as Direct Care Workers and Support Staff at both state agencies, among others.  Workers in eligible titles at both agencies are temporarily receiving 2.5 times their regular salary rates for any overtime worked through early 2022.

“CSEA fought to get these temporary overtime increases for Workers to acknowledge the immediate crisis in staffing you are experiencing and to recognize the sacrifices you continue to make to provide vital services throughout this exceptionally difficult time,” CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan said in an announcement to the Workers. “I appreciate Governor Hochul’s willingness to work with us to recognize our Workers and find long-term solutions.”

This victory is only one step in helping address the pervasive problem of understaffing in direct care.

While public demand for direct care services remains high, Direct Care Workers are forced to do more with less amid severe understaffing.

Not only can’t the state increase services, there’s a real possibility it can’t sustain existing ones.

CSEA has continued to remind elected leaders of these shortages for years.

Recently, CSEA Legislative and Political Action Director Fran Turner testified on the Union’s behalf regarding OPWDD’s staffing crisis to the State Senate Committee on Disabilities.

And CSEA Legislative Director Joshua Terry recently testified before the State Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health about OMH’s staffing levels.

Both testimonies noted the need to invest in staffing, since OPWDD has lost 15% of Staff since 2010 and OMH has seen a 25% reduction of workforce levels since 2000.

The staffing problems stem from issues with both recruitment and retention.

These lower staffing levels, combined with years of budgets cut to the bone, have resulted in fewer Workers, an over-reliance on mandated overtime and little-to-no work/life balance for Direct Care Employees.

It’s a vicious cycle, with these working conditions leading to personal difficulties for many Workers, many of whom opt to leave, in turn leading to even more mandated overtime.

“Needed services are lagging and now New York is at a real crisis point,” Turner said in her OPWDD testimony. “It’s not just a crisis in the developmental disabilities community, but for any area that uses Direct Care Workers, including home care, nursing homes and care for people with mental illness.  There are too few Employees willing to enter these fields while the number of people in need of services continues to grow.”

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