At Bucks County Stop, Gov. Shapiro Talks Funding For Intellectual Disabilities & Autism Services

The governor made a stop in Central Bucks County on Wednesday.

Gov. Shapiro greeting a client at BARC Developmental Services on Wednesday.
Credit: PA Internet News Service

Gov. Josh Shapiro made a stop at BARC Developmental Services in Bucks County on Wednesday to champion his proposed 2024-2025 state budget

The governor’s office said the proposed spending plan aims to enhance support for Pennsylvanians with intellectual disabilities and autism (ID/A), their caregivers, and advocates.

Accompanied by Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Val Arkoosh, Shapiro spoke with community members and Bucks County officials to discuss how the budget’s proposed allocations could improve access to home and community-based services and address the critical shortage of direct support professionals.

The Democratic governor’s proposal earmarks $483 million in combined federal and state funds to bolster salaries and attract more professionals to the field. This investment aims to raise the starting wage of direct support professionals from an average of $15 per hour to $17 per hour, with potential further increases for more experienced staff, Shapiro’s office said.

A budget I think is more than just a set of numbers on a spreadsheet – it’s a statement of what your priorities are and what your principles are. My priorities and principles are helping folks like you, both the people who are receiving the support and the people who are providing the support,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro’s budget also includes a strategic plan to end the state’s emergency waiting list for ID/A services.

An additional $78 million will be directed to assist 1,500 Pennsylvanians currently on the waiting list within the next fiscal year, the governor’s office said.

The need for the measures was highlighted by the personal story of the Jennings family from Lititz, who were featured during the governor’s budget address. Matthew Jennings requires round-the-clock support and his mother Cindy and grandmother Judy to fill the gap of needed care due to low compensation for professional caregivers, according to the governor.

Shapiro spoke at BARC Developmental Services in Warminster Township. The organization has provided residential and vocational support to over 700 individuals annually for more than 70 years, stands as a testament to the ongoing needs of the ID/A community.

Mary Sautter, executive director of BARC, praised the proposed budget.

“We applaud Governor Shapiro’s proposed investment in ID/A services in Pennsylvania for increased rates, supplemental payments, and more capacity to address the waiting list.  The foundation of BARC Developmental Services are the direct support professionals (DSPs) who work tirelessly every day to provide the care needed so our supported individuals can lead happy, fulfilled lives and contribute to their communities,” said Sautter.

The proposed budget reflects a comprehensive effort by the Shapiro Administration to not only increase funding but also to restructure the administration of these programs to allow for more flexibility at the local level, ensuring that services can be tailored to meet immediate and specific community needs.

As Pennsylvania looks forward to the potential passage of this budget, the focus remains on transforming the state into a leader in home and community-based services, providing a better future for all Pennsylvanians with ID/A.

Arkoosh said the budget would make the state “a leader in the home and community-based services space by working to eliminate the waiting list for services, investing in the value and importance of ID/A service providers and direct support professionals, and, most importantly, demonstrating our commitment to a better future and opportunity for all Pennsylvanians.”

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers and families gathered at an organization that offers work services for those with intellectual disabilities to call for more support for programs and an easing of regulations.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.

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