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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Coalition fights for raises for direct care workers


By JERRY WOLFFE


As part of its 40th Anniversary, the Association for the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center (AMORC), a parents group, will host a special meeting at noon Tuesday (Jan. 13) at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center Office, 1280 Doris Road in Auburn Hills to argue for increased pay for direct care workers.

Guest speakers are Robert Stein, General Counsel for the Michigan Assisted Living Association, and Teri Donaldson, Executive Director of The Futures Foundation (TFF).

Stein will be speak about a statewide coalition he is involved in that is working on pay raises for direct-care workers or those employees who actually take care of those with disabilities or mental illness in group homes or their own apartments.

"It is disgraceful that funding has been flat for the past decade for direct-care workers who are involved in the care of the most vulnerable persons within the mental health system," said AMORC President John Torrone. "During the past decade, the rate of inflation has gone up nearly 30 percent, and the average wage of a direct-care worker currently is only $9.03. Annual turnover rates range up to 50 percent, according to providers for direct-care workers.

"On October 1, 2014, providers serving those within the mental health system were hit with a six percent cut, mostly caused because of reductions of Medicaid rates." Torrone added. "In addition, on October 1 General Fund cuts also went into effect, which impacts respite care and unlicensed respite camps. The mental health system is within one more cut of completely collapsing."

According to Donaldson, The Futures Foundation in 2014 "awarded $90,000 to fulfill the wishes, dreams, and needs of 164 individuals and $10,000 to 25 individuals for dental needs. In 2015, we will be awarding $120,000 in general grants and $10,000 in dental grants."

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence and advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586 263-8950.

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