Thomas Cook, Executive Director Testifies at House Health Committee in Support of HB433
On Wednesday, June 22, 2016, Thomas Cook, executive director of the Ability Network of Delaware (A.N.D.) testified in support of House Bill 433, an act that will mandate the funding of developmental disability services in Delaware at 100% of the market rate. In his testimony, Thomas reported the House Health Committee that the Developmental Disability system in Delaware is underfunded by $39 million, or roughly 25%. In a 2014 Department of Health and Social Services study it was determined that an appropriate hourly wage for direct support professionals (DSP), the individuals who work one-on-one with Delawareans with disabilities, was $12.75 per hour. In Delaware, three years after that study A.N.D. member agencies are reporting pay rates anywhere between $10 and $11 per hour for their DSP staff members.
Representative Melanie George Smith, who also co-chairs the Joint Finance Committee, was the primary sponsor for the bill. In her presentation to the committee, Rep. Smith described the bill as a necessary step to ensuring our most vulnerable Delawareans are receiving the level of care necessary to ensure health and safety. In addition to members of the House Health Committee, there were also over 30 disability advocates in attendance including representatives from 10 A.N.D. member agencies who provide services in the developmental disability community. Many A.N.D. agencies provided supporting testimony for HB 433 as well, leading to approval by the House Health Committee.
Considering the very grim state of the Delaware fiscal year 2017 budget, it is not likely the bill will be approved in appropriations. However, it is a necessary and meaningful step in narrowing the gap in funding and continuing the conversation in the coming budget year. The Ability Network of Delaware and its membership would like to extend our gratitude to Rep. Smith and the co-sponsors Senator Bethany Hall-Long, Reps. Briggs King, Heffernan, Hensley, and Senators Lavelle and Townsend.