Advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly concerned programs and agencies that provide services to the state's most vulnerable population are facing a workforce crisis. 

The New York Disabilities Advocates on Wednesday pointed to a survey of 100 service providers in New York finding 93% of those agencies reported a drop in applications to fill positions that provide services and are considered the "backbone" of the system to care for people with disabilities. 

The workforce shortage adds to uncertainty for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in New York, and 70% of the agencies surveyed found senior staff would often have to cover multiple shifts. The advocacy group pointed to the need for appropriate funding for provider agencies in order to offer competitive pay to entice more applicants.

The survey results come as the state seeks to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, and programs with state support during the crisis faced uncertainty over their budgeting. 

“The I/DD community has known for a while now that we are in a crisis, and with this survey we want to highlight to everyone who’s not paying attention to how severe this situation truly is,” said Tom McAlvanah, the president of the New York Disability Advocates and executive director of the Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities.

At issue is the need to fill direct service provider positions, and nearly half of the more than 100 organizations surveyed reported having to close or reduce their operations because of staffing shortages. 

“Direct Service Providers [DSPs] provide vital life-altering services to thousands of I/DD individuals and without enough of a workforce, not only are the individuals who need their help struggling, but the remaining DSPs are pulling double and triple shifts to help those in need," McAlvanah said. "It is simply unsustainable."