Countywide, there has been a shortage in the direct-care worker population. Concrete efforts from advocates and workers everywhere are being made to change this trend.
According to IMPART Alliance, direct-care workers is a general term referring to individuals who provide essential services through behavioral health, community mental health, and long-term care systems to support individuals with disabilities and older adults.
They provide care for individuals who usually are unable to take care of themselves without assistance. Unfortunately, these essential workers are amid a critical shortage. The shortage of DWCs has become even more prevalent as the workers compete with low wages, lack of guaranteed hours, little to no benefits, and a rapidly aging population. Direct Care Workers and ally organizations are speaking out in hopes to enforce change.
AuJanee Billy, Detroit, is an undergraduate student at Michigan State University, family caregiver and former direct -are worker. Billy took an interest in caregiving in high school and says she likes giving patients what their families often can’t provide. “You have to have a loving heart,”she said.
Her first actual job was working for an agency called BrightStar Care. Billy says working for an agency is different than working for a patient directly. She was required to work within the homes of several patients without supervision or help.
Billy said one needs training and thick skin to provide direct care. Even after being called racial slurs, working for low wages and long hours Billy says she would continue this work if school and her finances permitted. She recalls fun times with patients and doing things that made them happy. It bought her joy. “I always think about my patients and going back,” said Billy. Nevertheless, she hopes that lawmakers consider raising the pay and extending benefits to combat the current shortage.
In Michigan, multiple organizations are currently joining forces to support the Direct Care Workforce. Those include but are not limited to IMPART Alliance, The MDHHS, The MI Care Legislative Caucus. Initiatives are being made in hopes of expanding funding, advance policy reform and stabilize the workforce.