COLUMBUS - Ryan Dougherty works at a Canton hospital collecting sharps from needles and incinerating them.
For this work, Dougherty earns $13.31 an hour. But the direct support professionals who help Dougherty, who has a developmental disability, get to work and achieve his professional goals receive $11.12 an hour.
That low pay has led to a revolving door of helpers, many of whom the family dearly loved, Ryan's mother Jan Dougherty said. One left recently because he was able to find a better-paying job to support his family.
“I’m really looking forward to some relief," she said.
That relief is coming in the form of a raise for direct support professionals who work with individuals with developmental disabilities.
In the state budget, Ohio lawmakers approved the increase from $11.12 an hour to $13.23 an hour by Jan. 1, 2021 – the first raise approved in 15 years. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed the change, preferring not to lock the rate into state law, but is implementing the rate increase through state policy.
"Our field is facing a workforce crisis like we have never seen before," said Pete Moore, president of the Ohio Provider Resource Association, which represents organizations that provide developmental disability services.
Low wages, few health benefits, limited training and few career advancement options all play a role in turnover.
On Tuesday, top Ohio lawmakers touted the work done in the state budget to increase these wages. But why did it take 15 years?
"Part of it is, frankly, people need the political will to make tough decisions," Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof said. "If you do things regularly and update things every two years, those decisions become a lot easier."
Rep. Scott Lipps, R-Franklin, who pushed for the raise increase says he's not stopping at $13 an hour. He wants to improve reimbursement rates for transporting individuals to work and other activities.