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Arizona's Direct Support Professional Workforce Faces Crisis

Direct support professionals provide assistance to people with physical and intellectual disabilities. The national workforce is in crisis with high turnover rates and low wages.

A 2018 study found that Arizona’s median wage for direct support professionals was only about 10% above the state minimum wage. The study also found that about 44% of the state’s workforce turns over within a year.

Erica McFadden is executive director of the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. She says two-thirds of the workforce had been working in their positions for less than three years.

"We have people that may have autism, behavioral issues. And so it takes a while to get to learn what people's needs are, what their strengths are, to get to know somebody. And when you have somebody who's only there for a few months, it's really hard to be able to find a rhythm or a pattern to help them be successful," McFadden said. 

McFadden says in addition to raising wages, a possible solution would be to expand benefits for these positions, to include employee assistance or education programs.

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.