There is an industry sector in Maine that employs 12,000 Mainers and is responsible for more than $400 million in economic activity — the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) services system. Not unlike other sectors, the IDD system is having trouble attracting and retaining its work force.

There is a bipartisan bill currently in the Legislature that would help solve the current problems facing the work force shortage of the IDD system. Specifically, it instructs the Maine Department of Health and Human Services to restore funding rates to 2007 levels and subsequently adjust for inflation.

Maine has been at the vanguard of IDD services reform through the past 30 years, most notably evidenced by the closure of Pineland Hospital and the establishment of the person-centered planning and community inclusion model. The IDD system relies on direct-support professionals to deliver the required services to Mainers with IDD. Accordingly, the rate funding model is based on staffing hours. The state’s rate cuts in recent years have subsequently reduced wages for DSPs to barely above Maine’s minimum wage, causing an exodus of DSPs from the system, depleting this successful system of its most necessary resource — its work force. Without the appropriate level of funding, the service delivery system does not function and currently has reached an unsustainable level.

Should this current IDD service system work force crisis remain unaddressed, the delivery of services to Mainers with intellectual and developmental disabilities could collapse and impact more than 12,000 jobs and $400 million in the Maine economy.

Dana Connors, Augusta, president,

Maine State Chamber of Commerce

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