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ICYMI: “Governor Shapiro not only listened, but he also acted.”


Harrisburg, PA - Last week, the Shapiro Administration announced that the Department of Human Services (DHS) will begin updating the data used to set reimbursement rates for workers who provide home and community-based services (HCBS) for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism. These workers serve individuals with intellectual disabilities and autism by helping them safely live in their community among their family and peers.

With this announcement, DHS will immediately begin the process of rate setting ahead of the 2024-2025 budget process -- a necessary first step for greater support for this essential field and the Pennsylvanians who benefit from and rely on this care.

Advocates and members of the intellectual disability and autism community quickly expressed their support for and appreciation of this announcement, and Pennsylvanians are recognizing Governor Shapiro’s quick work to hear concerns and challenges and take quick action towards a necessary solution.

“Gov. Shapiro not only listened, but he also acted,” wrote the PennLive editorial board. “He used the power of his office to ensure families will be able to get the professional support they need to care for their loved one.”

Read the full editorial from PennLive below.

When a governor shows compassion that impacts thousands of lives, it’s reason for high praise | PennLive Editorial

By PennLive Editorial Board, September 16, 2023

It’s not often we find reason to laud public officials for showing compassion. But we have reason to do so now.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has shown considerable compassion in hearing the pleas of thousands of families in Pennsylvania that are caring for loved ones with intellectual disabilities. These families have been begging for help for years, and they were facing catastrophe.

PennLive’s Editorial Board repeatedly echoed the voices of those calling for the Department of Human Services to increase reimbursement rates for providers of Medicaid home and community-based service programs. We called for state officials to address the problem with long waiting lists for critical services.

We held meetings and published op-eds from advocates for people with intellectual disabilities and autism, including Gary Blumenthal, vice president of InVision Human Services, who led an intense campaign find relief for suffering families. Organizations such as the Arc of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources (PAR) for Autism and Intellectual Disability, Provider Alliance were all engaged in educating the public about the crisis facing thousands of vulnerable Pennsylvanians and in demanding the state properly fund support services.

We stood firmly with families who were desperate for someone in power to listen.

Gov. Shapiro not only listened, but he also acted. He used the power of his office to ensure families will be able to get the professional support they need to care for their loved one.

Matt Jennings, who describes himself as a member of the community of people with intellectual disabilities and autism, penned an op-ed with his mother Cindy Jennings and grandmother Judy Smith after the governor’s announcement on Monday. They described the governor’s moves as nothing short of historic. It must be stated that many legislators from both parties support increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates for DSPs to help ensure these families can get help. But they said the governor’s support made the difference.

The governor not only called for a review of the rates paid to direct support professionals (DSP), as they are called, but he has pledged to address the state’s long waiting list for services that are critical to these families. Gov. Shapiro pledged to make it a priority in his upcoming budget.

Jennings, his mother, and grandmother say Pennsylvania has long underfunded programs that provide services to people with intellectual disabilities and autism. That led to a shortage of professionals willing to accept the meager wages for the most demanding work imaginable.

Department of Human Services Secretary Val Arkoosh aptly described their importance in announcing the governor’s decisions. DSPs provide personal care for vulnerable people, which can be physically strenuous. They prepare meals, administer medications, and even provide transportation. No one will do this work for what some advocates described as starvation wages.

We commend Gov. Shapiro for taking time to meet with these families and their advocates. He did the right thing.

This is why voters put people into office; not to close themselves off in their wood-paneled offices, but to open their doors, hear from the people and do what it takes to help them.

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