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What Utah parents have to say about the disability staffing crisis

LuWenn Jones, a brown-haired white woman, sits in front of a table with microphones.
Institute for Disability Research, Policy & Practice
LuWenn Jones speaking in last week's Disability Staffing Crisis Press Conference about what its like to be a parent in this urgent time.

With wages so low for disability workers, long-term care centers are unable to provide enough care for the disabled. This staffing crisis is leading to overworked caretakers and often neglected clients. Parents with disabled children are speaking out.

“Please hear me when I say that direct care with individuals who have significant support needs cannot be done remotely. It is hands-on 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year. Disability does not take time off.... It's frankly time for us to recognize that we can no longer in good conscience ignore the needs of individuals with disabilities in our state. Our disability system was barely above failing, and now we are failing," said LuWenn Jones, parent of Elaine who is significantly impacted with disabilities. She spoke at last week's disability press Conference at the Capital to raise awareness of the disability workforce crisis.

Jones shares her concerns about wages for these essential disability care workers. She says the wages are so low it causes high turnover.

“The staff continues to get younger and younger, less and less equipped to handle the complex needs of Elaine, her roommates and others in the system. My greatest fear right now is for Elaine’s future," Jones said. "If the provider system implodes and does not recover from this staffing crisis, what will happen to Elaine and others like her?”

Mike Menning serves on the Utah Developmental Disabilities council and the board of trustees for Disability Law. He speaks about the urgency of this crisis through his first hand experience with his special needs son named Michael.

“It's impossible for them to take proper care of our son. And they now have put diapers on him. And it's like putting diapers on anybody in this room. Because Michael knows how to go to the bathroom, but he just needs some help," Menning said. "But they're forcing him to soil his pants and that is because ofstate policy. That's because the governor doesn't understand. I would like to show them what's going on with our dear son and to everyone that’s there. We need to speak up for those who can not speak for themselves.”

Colleen Meidt is a science reporter at UPR as well as a PhD student at Utah State University. She studies native bees in the Mojave Desert and is particularly interested studying the conservation status of the Mojave Poppy Bee. In her free time, Colleen enjoys photography and rock climbing in the canyons.