Report ranks Washington #1 in supporting direct care workers

January 23, 2023

DSHS Office of Communications

Jessica Nelson

Jessica.nelson1@dshs.wa.gov

(360) 628–1043

OLYMPIA — The Department of Social and Health Services’ commitment to the thousands of Washingtonians caring for older adults and people with disabilities is getting national attention. In a new report, research and advocacy organization PHI ranks Washington state #1 for supporting direct care workers, which include home care workers, residential care aides and nursing home assistants. DSHS’ Aging and Long-Term Support and Developmental Disabilities Administrations support these dedicated workers through policies ensuring workers receive competitive pay and benefits, worker protections and by providing rigorous and relevant training. These achievements are the result of partnerships between advocates, labor, workers and the authorizing environment to change laws that support individuals to receive services in their setting of choice.

PHI’s ranking is based on two main components: statewide polices supporting direct care workers and the economic status of these essential workers. Washington got high marks on several factors, including training requirements that exceed federal minimum standards, wages above state and national minimums, protections for LGBTQ+ employees and offering paid sick and family leave.

“PHI’s ranking is a great vote of confidence in our work,” said Bea Rector, Assistant Secretary of DSHS’ Aging and Long-Term Support Administration. “For the last 40 years, DSHS has been part of a concerted statewide effort to improve client access to home and community services, give clients choices in how they receive care and support the vital direct care workforce community in our state. I am pleased our state is being recognized for its progress on behalf of direct care workers, but I also acknowledge that we still have a long way to go.”

While PHI’s ranking shows Washington is best in the nation for supporting direct care workers, DSHS knows we still have work to do. Washington state continues to face an ongoing direct caregiver crisis. Low Medicaid provider rates (and therefore wages), barriers to testing and certification and lack of awareness in the community around the importance of these critical jobs all play a role in the ongoing workforce shortages. DSHS is continually working with the Legislature, the Governor’s Office and our community partners to address these concerns.

Progress does continue to be made. The Governor’s 2023–2025 proposed biennial budget made investments in Medicaid provider rates. If implemented, this would be a good step forward in improving wages and work for providers and direct care workers. Other issues DSHS would like to address are reducing barriers to testing and certification, creating career pathways for direct care workers and providing better data on workforce needs. ALTSA is also committed to increasing awareness of caregiving as a career and necessity for Washington state.

Additionally, DSHS is hosting multiple outreach events this spring to recruit new caregivers. These events include training opportunities in local high schools, presentations at WorkSource Washington Offices and supporting monthly Brown Bag Hiring Events at JBLM in the Hawk Career Center. See below for events in western Washington through February 2023:

Jan. 25:

· Brown Bag Fair @ JBLM Hawk Career Center

· Annual University of Washington Diversity Career Fair (Seattle Campus, Husky Union Building Ballroom)

· WorkSource Customer Service & Healthcare Virtual Job Fair

Jan. 27:

· Everett Community College: Refugee and Immigrant Services Outreach

Feb. 6:

· Washington State University Career Expo (Virtual)

Feb. 15:

· Brown Bag Fair @ JBLM Hawk Career Center

Feb. 22:

· Washington State University Career Fair (Vancouver Campus)

If you, or anyone you know, is interested in an opportunity to become a direct caregiver, and get a leg up into the health care field, please go to www.wacarecareers.org.

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