The Biden administration is rolling out a host of new initiatives aimed at addressing the severe shortage of workers supporting people with disabilities living in the community.

With a pair of technical assistance opportunities, an online information hub and a webinar series, federal officials said they’re looking to boost systems for recruiting, retaining and developing direct care workers across the nation.

The moves from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living come as disability service providers have struggled in recent years to maintain and grow their stable of direct support professionals, limiting the supports available to people with disabilities.

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A survey last fall of hundreds of providers of community-based services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities found that staffing shortages had forced 77% to stop accepting referrals while nearly half had cut back on their offerings.

Now, federal officials are unveiling a new website to serve as a national hub of information from government agencies, advocates and other stakeholders about best practices for bolstering the direct care workforce. The resource is part of the Direct Care Workforce Strategies Center, which was created by the Administration for Community Living in 2022 and is tasked with providing technical assistance to states and service providers on issues related to the direct care workforce.

In addition, the Strategies Center is offering state agencies two different opportunities to receive individualized technical assistance to help grow the availability of support staff for people with disabilities. And, the center is launching a webinar series for states and stakeholders on the topic.

“Urgent action is needed to address the shortage of direct care professionals, which is threatening to reverse decades of progress in community living,” said Alison Barkoff who leads the Administration for Community Living.

“The (Direct Care Workforce) Strategies Center was created to strengthen collaboration across state agencies, direct care professionals, people receiving services and other stakeholders in order to improve recruitment, retention and development of this critical workforce,” she said, adding that the new initiatives “are an exciting step forward toward this goal.”

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