Advocates Rally at PA Capitol for Increased Funding for Disability Services

Advocates in support of human service programs and initiatives that help millions of Pennsylvanians rallied at the PA Capitol. Members of the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA), the Commonwealth’s largest and most diverse health and human services trade association, were joined by a bipartisan group of lawmakers and Pennsylvanians who rely on health and human service programs, to advocate for increased state investments in critical, transformative social services.

The Governor’s 2024-25 proposed budget includes a total $480 million in state and federal funding for intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) services, which would help address direct support professional (DSP) reimbursement rates and allow providers to serve more Pennsylvanians with IDD. However, other areas of human services — namely brain injury services — were overlooked in the budget proposal.

“We are grateful to Governor Shapiro for his commitment to the IDD community, and for proposing a 12% increase in funding that will allow IDD providers to address critical workforce and program needs,” said Richard Edley, PhD, RCPA President and CEO. “But we cannot forget about the brain injury and other disability service providers that are struggling to help Pennsylvanians in need due to funding and workforce challenges.”

Joining RCPA’s call for maintaining the proposed IDD funding was Sherri Landis, Executive Director of The Arc of Pennsylvania. Landis said the 2024-25 budget proposal was a ray of hope after more than a decade of fiscal and workforce challenges, and that she was overjoyed to have a governor finally listen to their calls for adequate funding.

“On behalf of the IDD community, I simply say, ‘Thank you, Governor Shapiro,’” Landis said. “The funding the Shapiro administration has proposed will enable providers across Pennsylvania to help more individuals and more families. We urge the General Assembly to include this funding as proposed so that our network of care can begin to return to stable footing.”

The proposed budget fails to allocate sufficient funding for residential habilitation providers specializing in post-acute brain injury, leaving them unable to offer crucial support to the 500,000 Pennsylvanians living with brain injuries who rely on their services. Merely a fraction of these individuals receive direct support from the Commonwealth, and it’s estimated that an additional 138,000 sustain brain injuries annually.

“Providers serving both IDD and brain injury-disability individuals encounter identical workforce and funding hurdles, while delivering essential residential, employment, home, and community-based services,” noted Edley. “Families from both communities grapple with comparable challenges: navigating difficult decisions to care for their loved ones, grappling with a scarcity of available providers, and enduring lengthy Medicaid waiting lists for disability services. Without an increase in state investments, many individuals may face the prospect of nursing home placement or lack of professional support.”

Human services providers have been dealing with staff turnover and vacancies. A March 2023 survey of IDD providers in Pennsylvania found that 62% have reduced service capacity. Additionally, 34% of providers surveyed have permanently closed programs — the vast majority of closures due to staffing shortages — and findings showed that the open position vacancy rate is 23%.