In Ohio, agencies that employee direct care staff, direct support professionals or personal care workers; all struggle with a similar problem – it is difficult to find and keep workers. Due to the demanding nature of the work and low pay, it often seems like there is a revolving door for direct care staff.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide crucial care services for individuals with physical disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities. Yet, employee turnover is high in this industry with workers often finding easy jobs that pay better. However, recent rulings by the state of Ohio should provide some help for agencies hiring and retaining direct care workers.

Ohio lawmakers have approved a rate increase for direct support professionals who work with individuals with developmental disabilities. The first phase of the pay increase will go into effect on January 1, 2020. The last time the Ohio state budget allocated funds for a DSP wage increase was 15 years ago.

This pay increase from the Ohio budget has been a long-time coming. On the national level, when comparing data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Ohio lags behind the neighboring states as well as the nation as a whole. For example, as of May 2018, the mean hourly wage for home health aides in the United States was $11.63. However, in Ohio, the mean hourly wage for home health aides is $10.85.

For personal care aides, the hourly pay was very similar. As of May 2017, the mean hourly wage for personal care aides in the United States was $11.59. However, in Ohio, the mean hourly wage for the same occupation was $10.93. For additional comparison, here is the mean hourly wage for home health aides in the states bordering Ohio (May 2018):

  • Indiana – $11.52 per hour.
  • Michigan – $11.91 per hour.
  • Kentucky – $10.85 per hour.
  • West Virginia – $11.12 per hour.
  • Pennsylvania – $12.17 per hour.

The pay increase should lower the rate of employee turnover for Ohio agencies which is around 50 to 55 percent higher than the national average. In addition, since direct care workers are not state employees, they can only receive health insurance through their agency or other private company. In fact, some DSPs actually qualify for Medicaid benefits because their wages are so low.

Many human service agencies that provide services to individuals with developmental disabilities already operate on a tight budget. The phased-in pay increase is great news and is made possible by a shared partnership between state and local groups. The pay increase was part of the 2019 Ohio budget, with additional funding coming from the separate county boards of developmental disabilities.

The pay increase will take place in two phases. The first increase, as previously mentioned, will be implemented on the first of January 2020. This will increase the average DSP reimbursement rate for Homemaker Personal Care (HPC) services from $11.12 to $12.82, and the On-Site/On-Call (OSOC) rate from $6.09 to $8.55. The second phase of the pay increase will be implemented on January 1, 2021. At this time, the average DSP reimbursement rate for Homemaker Personal Care (HPC) services will increase to $13.23.

The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) wants this process to be as clear and transparent as possible. The Ohio DODD has stated that this new pay raise or reimbursement rate is an average. This is due to the fact that they have established different “cost of doing business” categories across the state of Ohio. This means that the reimbursement rate will vary from county to county depending on where the service is provided.

Some DSPs will be reimbursed at a higher rate, while others are reimbursed at a lower amount. Again, this reimbursement rate is based on the cost of doing business in that particular Ohio county.

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