By Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services
Happy New Year!
Like many of you, we at Penn-Mar are starting the month of January with a host of positive new goals that we want to achieve in 2018. I hesitate to call them “resolutions” because according to the experts, most “resolutions” are watered down or forgotten after only a few weeks.
Instead, I’d like to share with you our New Year’s Resolve.
The Penn-Mar story is one of perseverance. We are proud and grateful for all that we have accomplished as an organization but know that our work will never be done. It’s not as simple as reaching a destination and declaring, “Mission accomplished!”
The game plans (and budgets) at the state levels that affect our ability to deliver services are always changing.
But the mission at Penn-Mar cannot.
We resolve to continually do whatever it takes to be truly transformational as an organization to help people with disabilities gain more control over their lives.
In Maryland, we are concerned about how the state will reimburse providers under a new system which is evolving. We are strongly advocating for an appropriate level of reimbursement for each service we provide. In addition, we currently receive funds in advance of providing services. Starting January 2019, we will instead be paid retroactively which is certain to create cash-flow challenges.
In Pennsylvania, we fought long and hard last year, advocating for more opportunities for the individuals we support and more compensation for the Direct Support Professional (DSPs) who have the responsibility for their care and independence.
We were successful in advocating to the Governor as well as the legislature to increase funding but what is not clear is how these funds will be allocated in terms of DSP compensation vs. new services and programs that comply with the new Medicare waiver.
At the current provider reimbursement rate, DSPs are still underpaid and will need more than cost of living increases to get to a competitive living wage. We are continuing our advocacy to the Governor and the legislature for assurances that the state will make those funds available at a time when recruiting and retaining DSPs is at an all-time crisis nationwide.
As an organization, Penn-Mar has looked at every employee position from top to bottom, conducting a comprehensive wage survey to determine fair wages at all levels. We resolve that providing fair living wages to all our employees will be an ongoing priority, in spite of many challenges in this area.
And as many of you are aware, we’ve transitioned from traditional facility-based work programs with as many as 10 individuals in a group to a community-based model where there is generally one staff person for every three or four individuals.
We applaud this new dynamic but it comes with a cost. And presently we are attempting to discern in the long-term how these cost will be funded. Yet we resolve to continually enhance the way our services are delivered, to transform the lives we support, and to tirelessly advocate for the resources needed to make that happen.
To be successful in our future, we will always need to be proactive in how we problem-solve. Part of my vision for our future is that we will always be students of curiosity, exploring what is possible and coming up with ideas that no one in our field has even thought about yet.
Ours is an ever-evolving process that will rely on the younger generation to spark innovative, next-generation thinking to provide opportunities for our individuals and staff that won’t exist until we create them ourselves.
Finally, we resolve that our core values of Integrity, Excellence, Collaboration and Innovation will continue to ground and inspire us as we look to do greater things.
Here’s to an exciting 2018!