Desperation in the disability services industry, as the struggle for workers continues

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Disability service providers tell us that their work is really fulfilling and rewarding. But it’s a 24/7 job, and they are running out of people to cover all of those shifts.

“We are surviving on the backs of some of the best, most caring people in our community, but they are burning out,” shared Jon Nelson, Executive Director of RSI.

For Duluth Regional Care Center, DRCC for short, the lack of staff meant they had to close a few programs.

Michelle Hooey, Executive Director, said, “I think what it is is that we have to work 24 hours a day. We have to provide that level of service. I think some people just can’t imagine working a variety of shifts.”

They outlined some of their concerns on Friday with newly elected lawmaker Representative Natalie Zeleznikar, from Hermantown.

She pledged to advocate strongly in St. Paul for this group. Constituents are calling, concerned about the bottleneck factor. “They’re frustrated because it’s long waits in the emergency rooms. It’s hard to find a bed if you need one in the nursing homes. Or someone who has disabilities, and needs to be placed,” she shared.

One solution for staffing would be a boost to wages, but providers said it needs to be sustainable, not just a one-time boost.

Zeleznikar, who is from Hermantown, has a long career with nursing homes, so she understands the demands a 24/7 facility.