Buffalo River Services has been adjusting to a lot of changes. We have completed the method that we are going to use to pass on the wage increases that the DIDD and the state legislators have awarded to the provider rates. It is a complicated situation but we are very happy for the increase. Over the past year and really beginning several years ago, I and other provider directors have been lobbying and asking for increases in our rates so that we can give wage increases to our staff. Primarily, we have fought hard for DSPs. I have personally met with the Governor, Senator Hensley and Representatives Doss and Byrd. This year, we were more successful than ever before. But still we got a mixed blessing. To try and explain this situation, I have borrowed from the DIDD Open Line and from Commissioner Payne’s memo to providers.
During the past legislative session, Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly dedicated approximately $50 million in state and federal dollars towards a rate increase for providers contracted with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. The legislation clearly states the funds are for the sole purpose of increasing the Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff salary component in the DIDD provider rate methodology, with a legislative intent to increase the hourly wages of DSPs at DIDD contracted provider agencies. This translate to $0.26 cents added to formula for DPS hourly wages for the part that we will get paid every year in our rates from now on out. Then the for non-recurring the part that is one time only, $0.59 cents that the senate and house gave us for a one year only amount unless out of the goodness of their heart, the legislators decided to bless us again.
1. This rate increase includes both recurring and nonrecurring funds. Approximately $34 million ($0.59 cents per hour) of the money dedicated for this increase is “one-time” money that must be reauthorized by the state legislature in the following legislative session;
2. The current rate methodology assumes an average hourly wage of $9.15 per hour for DSPs. The recurring funding included in the budget increases the average hourly wage from $9.15 to $9.41. The non-recurring funding further increases the average hourly wage of DSP staff from $9.41 to $10.00 an hour. The total funding was calculated on $0.85 average hourly wage increase for DSPs.
3. The legislation clearly states the funding is intended to increase the wages of DSPs. Each agency will need to determine the best strategy for that agency to effectuate this intent.
4. The funding provided through this rate increase is intended for DSPs, not administrative staff.
Now that is as simple as I can put things. In order for us to pass this money on and not dig ourselves into a debt that we can’t afford next year we will have to be very creative in how we pass this on.
This is our plan for our DSP wage increase methodology:
We are renaming our entry level DSPs in training. We don’t want to pay the same rate for entry people as we will pay for people who are fully trained. Therefore, a person hired to become a DSP will not be called a DSP until they are fully trained and on-boarded. The new title for this position will be DSPC or Direct Support Professional Candidate. The starting rate of training pay will be $9.50 per hour.
All DSPs who are currently working and have passed all their training requirements will have an increase of $0.50 per hour. At this time this will bring anyone who is at $9.50 an hour to $10.00. Even with doing this we are taking a risk that we will have no income from the one time increase next year to continue to support $0. 24 cents of this amount. However, we believe we can truly hope and pray that the legislators will come back with help in 2019. Throughout the year, the remaining funds that available will be awarded if and when we are able to. All this and more information has been communicated to DSPs.