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Millions of Americans Endangered by Growing Shortage of Professional Caregivers, Groups Say; Up To 75 Percent of Jobs Turnover Every Year, Thousands Already Wait For Services, Demand Will Grow 62 Percent Through 2010


WEBWIRE

WASHINGTON -- As the debate in Washington and state houses across America is focused elsewhere, the health and quality of life for millions of Americans is endangered by an alarming shortage of professional caregivers. Even more troubling, demand for services among people with disabilities and aging Americans is rising dramatically. Two leading national disability organizations have launched http://www.WhoWillCare.net to raise public awareness about this largely ignored crisis.

Professional caregivers, also known as direct support professionals, are the key to quality community-based health care services. They assist people with disabilities and aging Americans with their daily affairs, including getting dressed, taking medications, personal hygiene and preparing and eating meals. With the help of direct support professionals, individuals with disabilities work, volunteer and contribute to their communities.

Nationwide, the direct support professional turn-over rate is between 40 to 75 percent every year because of poor wages and increasing job demands.

Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities are already waiting for services and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says demand for caregivers will grow 62 percent through 2010 as Americans grow older. Also, more than 100,000 people with disabilities in the workforce depend on direct support professionals.

WhoWillCare.net is an Internet-driven campaign created through a partnership between the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) and United Cerebral Palsy (UCP), two of the nationís largest non-profit health organizations whose respective members and affiliates provide services to hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities.

ďAmerican families already know the impact of the direct support professional shortage, and those who donít soon will. Thousands of families are waiting for help, and millions make do with little more because there are simply not enough direct support professionals,Ē said Renee L. Pietrangelo, CEO of ANCOR. ďWhoWillCare.net is about getting this issue on the radar before itís too late.Ē

A 2003 national report found that direct support professionals earn an average of only $8.68 per hour, a wage clearly unequal to their responsibilities. Support professional wages, which are almost entirely publicly financed through Medicaid, are increasing well below comparable jobs and even the minimum wage. According to the Department of Labor, the wages of personal and home care aides increased only $0.82 from 1992 to 2000 versus $4.11 for fast food workers.

ďWhoWillCare.net recognizes that direct support professionals make a difference, and that itís time they make a living too,Ē said Stephen Bennett, president and CEO of United Cerebral Palsy. ďWe entrust direct support professionals with tremendous responsibility yet we expect them to work in jobs that donít even meet welfare-to-work wage minimums.Ē

In its first phase, WhoWillCare.net calls on supporters to urge their Members of Congress to cosponsor the bipartisan Direct Support Professional Fairness and Security Act H.R. 1264 to protect millions of Americans who depend on direct support professionals for daily assistance and support.

Introduced by Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Lois Capps (D-Calif.), the legislation promotes fair support professional wages in an effort to stabilize the high turnover and vacancy rates. Increased wages and lower turnover rates will improve support for people with disabilities to live in the community and provide families with assurances that their loved oneís health and independence is ensured.

Visitors to http://www.WhoWillCare.net can also learn more about the issue, read stories about direct support professionals and sign a petition calling on state lawmakers to take action on this important issue.

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About ANCOR:

The American Network of Community Options and Resources is a nonprofit trade association representing and advocating on behalf of the more than 800 private providers of services and supports for 385,000 Americans with disabilities. ANCOR is distinguished in the provider industry by its balance of leading practices resources and advocacy for member agencies and the people and families they serve and support. For more information, visit http://www.ancor.org or call 703-535-7850.

About United Cerebral Palsy:

United Cerebral Palsy is one of the nationís leading organizations serving and advocating for the more than 54 million Americans with disabilities. Most UCP consumers are people with disabilities other than cerebral palsy. Through its nationwide network, United Cerebral Palsy offers services to individuals, families and communities such as job training and placement, physical therapy, individual and family support, early intervention, social and recreation programs, community living, state and local referrals, and instruction on how to use technology to perform everyday tasks. For more information, visit http://www.ucp.org or call 800-872-5827.



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