"R" in ARPA = RESCUE. Urgent!
Our social service infrastructure is in crisis.
Rhode Island’s system of care that provides essential services to children, families and individuals with disabilities is in crisis. Community agencies are seeing unprecedented staffing vacancies. Programs like Early Intervention that service children with developmental disabilities ages 0-3 are having to turn-away referrals. Intensive community-based behavioral health programs that serve children and families as a resource to the Department of Children, Youth, and Families have waitlists that are months long. This workforce crisis is exacerbated by the fact that our system has been chronically underfunded for years, resulting in stagnant wages and people leaving the field for higher-paying jobs. Staff that remain to do this important work are experiencing high levels of burn-out due to high caseloads, long work hours, and feeling as if there is no light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, vulnerable children, families, and individuals are unable to access the care they need. The COVID 19 crisis has increased the need for these services as many are still suffering from the negative impacts of the pandemic.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has provided our state with an opportunity to address this crisis. Please join me in advocating for community providers and ensuring that our fellow Rhode Islanders have access to essential services by reaching out to your legislators and urge them to ACT NOW! We need the RI House of Representatives to reconvene now to address this workforce crisis. Releasing ARPA funding to address the workforce shortages is a down payment for the system to respond to children and families in urgent need.
Sarah Kelly-Palmer is Vice President of Family Service of RI and an associate member of the NK Democratic Town Committee.