AP NEWS
Click to copy
Click to copy

Saint Joseph’s Center Raising Wages For Direct Support Professionals To Address Workforce Crisis

BY JEFF HORVATH, STAFF WRITERJune 6, 2019

SCRANTON — St. Joseph’s Center is hiking wages for staff who care for residents and clients with intellectual, physical and developmental disabilities. In July, the hourly starting wage for experienced direct support professionals, or DSPs, will increase to $15. That’s almost $2 per hour more than the starting wage such staff earned in January, and $4.02 more than the starting wage in July 2015. New DSPs will earn a training rate of $14 per hour, with that rate raising to $15 after six months. The center employs approximately 400 DSPs who support roughly 550 clients with disabilities. Those professionals act as caretakers and advocates, and represent nearly 70% of the nonprofit’s total workforce. Officials touted the wage hikes — which are part of a larger initiative that includes tuition assistance, leadership development, a career ladder and other incentives for DSPs — as addressing a workforce crisis in the field. That national crisis, officials said, is due in part to low wages that often force dedicated and compassionate DSPs from the profession, resulting in vacancies and high rates of turnover that contribute to workforce instability. Along with reductions in vacancies and overtime, Sister Maryalice Jacquinot, I.H.M., the center’s president and CEO, said the wage hikes will help the center retain qualified DSPs. A $500,000 grant from the Moses Taylor Foundation supports the wage increases. “We know that ensuring the quality and continuity of care is truly critical to improving the health of people in our region,” Moses Taylor Foundation President and CEO LaTida Smith said. “And we are really excited about this effort, and hope that Saint Joseph Center’s leadership will help to increase wages among other support-care staff throughout our community.” Also pleased with the news was Delta Medix CEO Margo Opsasnick, who’s developed close bonds with the DSPs who care for her 24-year-old son, Mark Opsasnick. The family turned to St. Joseph’s Center in 2012, after Mark, who has Down syndrome, suffered a severe medical issue that left him paralyzed. “It’s never been about the money for them, but to me this is a way to solidify their work at St. Joe’s, to reward them for what they do and enable them to be able to continue their work,” Margo Opsasnick said. “The problem is, if they don’t make a decent wage, they can’t continue to do what they do, and it’s so valuable.” The center will hold a hiring event on June 25, in its Cognetti Room, 2010 Adams Ave. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact the writer: jhorvath@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9141; @jhorvathTT on Twitter

All contents © copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.