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Advocates in Dayton say direct care worker shortage is critical

In total, about a dozen people spoke to lawmakers at the event.
Chris Welter
In total, about a dozen people spoke to lawmakers at the event.

The Access Center for Independent Living and Disability Rights Ohio held a listening session for lawmakers at the Dayton Metro Library this week. It was part of a broader, statewide tour where advocates have spoken with legislators about issues affecting disabled people.

State representative Andrea White of Kettering and one of Congressman Mike Turner's staffers attended the event.

Low wages for workers who provide direct care to disabled people was a big topic. Maria Matzik, the Education and Advocacy Specialist at the access center in Dayton, said home care worker pay is a nationwide issue.

"Our government just doesn't look at it as a legitimate profession,” Matzik said. “So caregivers are not compensated a wage that's anywhere equal to other health care professionals. They don't get benefits. They don't get PTO. There's no support for them."

The average wage for caregivers in Ohio is around $12 an hour. Disability Rights Ohio said they are asking lawmakers to boost wages for caregivers who are paid through state programs to $20 an hour in the 2023 state budget.

Attendees said the current wage has led to professionals leaving the home care industry, which makes it difficult for disabled people to live independently. That’s what worries Latisha Martin of Montgomery County.

“I have to keep in the back of my mind, am I going to have to go to a nursing home"? Martin said.

Disability Rights Ohio said the majority of disabled people want to live in their homes instead of being institutionalized.

In total, about a dozen people spoke to lawmakers at the event.

Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.