Opinion | Direct care workers need better pay to help our most vulnerable

By Todd Culver & Robert Stein: Complete Post through this link…

For years, those of us working in Michigan’s behavioral health sector have been warning of an imminent systemic collapse. Now, it’s reached our doorstep.

The cause? Our system only works when direct care workers are available to care for people in need of services. These individuals provide hands-on care and support for people with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges, helping with everything from training and counseling to daily bathing and food preparation.

Since Medicaid is the funding source for families and private providers, they can’t simply increase the pay of their DCWs. As a result, the pool of available DCWs is dwindling, due to poor compensation and benefits. This leaves many Michigan families in a state of crisis as they try to ensure their loved ones are safe and well cared for.

The hard truth is that inflation is pushing the cost of living higher than ever. And for the most part, salaries across Michigan have kept pace, with one notable exception: DCW pay remains low, with a starting wage of $15.20 per hour, according to recent survey findings. 

This level of compensation is just too low to keep DCWs on the job, leading to a 42-percent turnover rate in the field.  As you might imagine, turnover adds its own costs and risks to the care Michiganders need. These pressures are unsustainable and require urgent legislative action.

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