March 17, 2016
Arizona Daily Sun
Monica Attridge, CEO of the Hozhoni Foundation
To the editor:
Through a privatized system of contractors, Arizona cares for about 35,000 individuals with severe developmental disabilities. They are served by direct support professionals in a wide range of roles – skill training, companionship, assistance with medication, food and personal care. Since 2008, there have been unprecedented cuts in reimbursement rates. After the 15 percent rate reduction, there have been well-intentioned, but insufficient, efforts to restore the funds.
Currently, there are not enough resources built into AHCCCS funding for wages for these employees, many of whom make between $8 – 9.25/hour. This has led to a 56 percent urban and a 70-85 percent rural area turnover rate, respectively, creating a shortage of these caregivers.
This is a crisis for anyone with a disability. We are not asking the Legislature to reinstate 100% of the previously reduced funding, as we understand the challenges of the current budget. Instead, we are requesting to be restored to 2008 rates - a 7 percent funding increase, which is critical to stopping this system from tearing apart at the seams.
The people we serve, who need assistance through no fault of their own, deserve better. Unless we adequately address this caregiver shortage, providers of these services will be unable to provide quality care and basic security to our most vulnerable residents. The Hozhoni Foundation in Flagstaff experienced a massive unprecedented loss in our last fiscal year and we continue to struggle at the same level in the current year. We must have the requested 7 percent increase in funding.
CEO Hozhoni Foundation