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Understaffed and underpaid; caring for those with disabilities is now more difficult

Wyoming Community Service Providers has been in existence since 1976.
Wyoming Community Service Providers has been in existence since 1976.

Ahead of the 67th state legislature session an advocacy group is asking lawmakers to better fund resources for those with disabilities.

The average hourly wage for caretakers who take care of those with disabilities is around $14 in Wyoming. Employers are struggling with retention while the price of everything is going up. So, it’s getting hard to keep people in these jobs.

Jeff Gardner, the Executive Director of Wyoming Community Service Providers, said Medicaid waivers for those with disabilities did not meet actual costs in 2022.

“There's not currently adequate funding, not adequate to meet the costs. Part of that is because it's always a retrospective, look at costs. The last cost study that we were functioning under now was completed in 2021, based on 2019 costs,” said Gardner. “So there's a lot that's happened in our economy and in our world since 2019.”

The Wyoming Community Service Providers want the state legislature to fund the cost of providing decent care to the state's disability population. Without it they say people will go without adequate care.

Gardner said nationally jobs like this are understaffed and those in need of services are getting turned away or receiving subpar care.

“Some data from our national association that polled about 800 providers across the country. Ninety-two percent of those said that because of the workforce issue, they are struggling to meet quality standards,” he said. “And that really, that impacted me, I mean, 92%, saying, ‘We admit that we're having difficulty meeting quality standards, because we don't have a workforce.’”

According to a report by the American Network of Community Options,nationally providers are turning away new clients at a rate of 83%. That’s up from 25.8% since the beginning of the pandemic.

Taylar Dawn Stagner is a central Wyoming rural and tribal reporter for Wyoming Public Radio. She has degrees in American Studies, a discipline that interrogates the history and culture of America. She was a Native American Journalist Association Fellow in 2019, and won an Edward R. Murrow Award for her Modern West podcast episode about drag queens in rural spaces in 2021. Stagner is Arapaho and Shoshone.

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