#AdvocacyMatters: Budgeting with Care
March 17, 2023 / #AdvocacyMatters
Photo ID: The picture above shows the group of advocates including their care workers (from R to L: Nakel (Georgie's DSP), Georgie Elson, Maria Matzik, Maddison (Maria's DSP) Jennifer Kucera, Maria (Jennifer's DSP) and DRO's Alexia Kemerling), the picture on the left shows Jennifer and Matthew Corcoran, and the picture on the bottom right shows DRO's Kerstin Sjoberg testifying in front of the Subcommittee.
This week, disabled advocates, and their loved ones from all around Ohio and our Executive Director, Kerstin Sjoberg, testified about the state budget to the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services (HHS), enduring all the access barriers that our Statehouse holds to make their voices heard.
While you can find all the testimony in full from this week on The Ohio Channel at the following link: Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services Meetings | Ohio House of Representatives, we wanted to take time today to highlight some of our favorite points made.
Photo ID: The picture above shows Maria Matzik testifying in front of the Subcommittee.
Maria Matzik, advocate for the Breaking Silences Advocacy Committee, expressed in her testimony the need for direct care wage increases to the HHS Subcommittee with an anecdote about her care:
“To attend today’s hearing, and to take part in the legislative process , I had to stay in my wheelchair last night. My cares take 4 to 5 hours to complete. I do not have caregivers who can come in at 4 a.m. and get me ready to leave for what could be a two-hour drive before testifying.”
This is just one story that shows the fight to participate in the People’s House in our state. For many of our disabled advocates, it starts at home with the lack of care – even to just come and testify on behalf of themselves and their beloved service providers, many of whom are their friends.
Photo ID: The picture above shows Georgie Elson testifying in front of the Subcommittee
Georgie Elson, an advocate for the Ohio Nursing Crisis Committee, shared a similar concern for our direct care workers:
“One of my caregivers works 68+ hours a week between two jobs. Due to this situation, the turnover rate for Direct Care Providers is exceptionally high at 40-60% and agencies report their turnover rate even higher at 65-89%. Understandably, Direct Care Workers leave the field to find simpler jobs that pay more and have other benefits.”
With long hours, low rates, and no access to benefits in most situations, changing wages will change lives for not only our direct care workers here in Ohio, but for our disabled community.
Photo ID: The picture above shows Kerstin Sjoberg testifying in front of the Subcommittee.
DRO Executive Director Kerstin Sjoberg highlighted the need to build out systems that will support disabled Ohioans in relation to the Olmstead right to live in the MOST integrated settings:
"For Ohio to meet this obligation it is critical they support direct care workers and provide additional funding to support increases in wages. Otherwise, inequities will be exacerbated and people with disabilities will continue to be unnecessarily institutionalized."
Photo ID: The picture above shows Alicia Hopkins in front of the Subcommittee room.
Lastly in our list of favorite quotes, Alicia Hopkins, an advocate for herself and others and a member of many advocacy organizations, shared her artwork and a call to action:
“Take four seconds and put your hand over your chest. Can you feel your heart beating? As I mentioned before, disability is the only community you can join at any time. We too, those with disabilities, are human beings with a heartbeat, and without your investment in provider wages more people will die as the system collapses. It’s time to cut the red tape to critical and necessary home care by increasing wages for every system of home care in Ohio.”
Matt O’Nesti (DRO board member), Jennifer Kucera (Ohio Olmstead Taskforce), Christine Brown (Ohio State Nisonger Center), Jennifer and Matthew Corcoran (Changes Spaces Ohio), Lauren Griffen, Susan Koller (DRO board member), Michael Denlinger (Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council), Janemarie Sowers, Kevin and Carolyn Anderson, Cynthia Fox (both #EveryoneDeservesCare storytellers) and countless other disabled advocates who we so admire testified this week, and many more will testify next week.
The impressive impact of the individual names, stories and perspectives cannot go unnoticed. We are so proud to be a small part of this movement to #BudgetWithCare, and we will never stop challenging the stereotype that our disabled community is ANYTHING but the backbone of our state.
We will continue to uplift the voices of disabled Ohioans during their important testimony, and keep you informed every step of the way. #AdvocacyMatters this week - and always.
Photo ID: The picture below shows Alexia Kemerling, Maria Matzik and her care worker waiting for the only accessible elevator available to Maria to go to the hearing room.