State lawmakers are calling on New York state officials should provide incentives for job training for direct support professionals who care for vulnerable people amid a statewide shortage.

Republican Sens. Sue Serino and Mike Martucci in a joint statement called for the issue to be made a priority in the state as direct care providers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in recent weeks have increasingly raised concerns over the depleted workforce as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I have received too many calls and emails from concerned residents who see the impact a lack of staff is having on the health and safety of their loved ones with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Serino said. “Here in our community we #ThinkDifferently and it is far past time for the state to do the same and ensure that New Yorkers of all abilities have the resources they need not only to stay safe and healthy, but to truly thrive in meeting their full potential. That starts by ensuring organizations that serve this population have the staff they need to provide high-quality care to all those they serve, which is why we are urging the state to make solving this staffing shortage a top priority.”

The drop in the workforce for direct support professionals was reflected in a report surveying more than 100 agencies that provide services, finding a 74.3% increase in vacancy rates for staff between January and April of this year. Job applicants dropped by 93% in the first quarter of the year as well, the report found. 

“Direct support professionals are the backbone of our care system for the Intellectually and developmentally disabled community,” Martucci said. “OPWDD must act swiftly to ensure that the alarming number of open positions identified in the New York Disabilities Advocate’s report are addressed. Working with local schools, we can train the next generation workforce that the I/DD community needs and provide them the care they deserve.”