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Letter to Legislators from the Autism Society of North Carolina

The following letter was sent in May to thank legislators for increased funding for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). The Autism Society of North Carolina will continue to advocate for competitive wages for DSPs in recognition of the work they do improving lives and supporting families.

 

May 18, 2022

To: House and Senate Leadership, Joint Appropriations Committee Chairs, and Joint HHS Appropriations Committee Chairs

From the staff, families, and individuals on the autism spectrum that the Autism Society of North Carolina advocates for, we would like to extend our gratitude for the Direct Support Professional (DSP) one-time bonus funding and Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid rate increase in the state budget.

Direct Support Professionals employed by our organization work daily one-on-one with those with autism to make sure they are happy, healthy, and in a position to succeed. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they had the added responsibilities of making sure they and those they served were safe, learning new ways to interact, and helping them navigate the many changes going on in our world. People with autism often have difficulties adapting to change, so consistency in staffing is one of the most important factors in helping them reach their goals.

Over the last decade it has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain DSPs at pay levels that had not kept pace with the cost of living. With the increase in HCBS rates with this budget, ASNC has been able to increase hourly wages for our DSPs delivering services under Medicaid. Our hope is that with this increase in rates we are able to ensure more individuals with waiver slots have increased staffing they need and reduce the high rate of turnover amongst our DSPs.

People on the spectrum and families deserve that consistency of support. Here’s a comment from one of our parents about the importance of having a reliable DSP. “It means so much as a parent for us to have someone so trustworthy to be able to count on, especially over the last year. A year ago, my husband was diagnosed with cancer…this would be difficult for any family to deal with but having a child on the spectrum adds a challenging layer. [Our DSP] has been there every step of the way. She has been so flexible, stepping in to care for our son so I could accompany my husband to his various medical appointments and provide his post-surgical care. We truly would never have made it this far without her care and compassion.”

From all of us at ASNC, thank you again for making services and supports people with autism a priority in this state budget.

Sincerely,
Tracey Sheriff, CEO
Chris Whitfield, Board of Directors Chair

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