In the past couple weeks, our long-term supporters—mostly friends, families and guardians—have received correspondence from leadership at Living Well Disability Services asking for help with two critical needs. First, we asked for help broadening our reach. And second, we want help highlighting the importance of advocacy in general, and more importantly to elected officials in 2023. As we tackle the challenges of the past few years it became clear that advocacy, and showing the world why disability services are essential, are fundamental to getting people to understand the scope of the problem.
When discussing what the issues are in our industry the very first question outsiders ask is, is it Covid? The short answer is no. The long answer is maybe. In truth, the issues we are facing have been stewing for years and are finally at the tipping point. In the past year 400-600 Minnesotans living with disabilities have been displaced because their group homes have closed. This is a burden on families ill equipped to provide care and points out that on so many levels that society is not set up to care for and support people with disabilities.
What has caused the urgency? There are many layers to the problem, but at the forefront is the staffing crisis that has plagued the entire country. Living Well has 37 group homes and serves 300 people with varying levels of need, with 500 staff. For reference we need about 100 more caring employees to be fully staffed. This means there has been lots of overtime, and unfortunately a reliance on temp staffing services to cover the ever-expanding gap. Rising cost of living expenses have played a huge part in the problem as well. And perhaps at the very top of this list is the fact that stagnate government funding is challenging our ability to provide the quality services we take pride in at Living Well.
Simply put, the future of disability services as we know them are in peril, and we need all the help we can get to share this reality. The need for legislative action to provide the support that is so richly deserved by our staff and those we serve is an essential key to solving the problems faced by disability providers nationwide. This year we are urging others to help us advocate for disability services funding because it is the only way to move forward successfully. We remain steadfast in our commitment to keep the people we serve happy and to live our mission of transforming the lives of people impacted by disabilities through the delivery of exceptional services. But we need YOUR help.
To everyone, we ask that you contact your legislators early and often. We ask you to inspire action from those within your network. And we invite you to join us on March 28th for Disability Advocacy Day at the Capitol.
To corporations and foundations, we ask that you look at your pillars of giving and recognize that Disability is Diversity. We ask you to understand that 100% of the people we serve are disabled, which is to say a diverse population, and that all are low income. We want you to know almost 80% of our staff is female, and that just over 60% are people of color. We hit all the benchmarks of diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics, yet somehow are not seen. We ask that you help us show the world our organizations value, and that the people we serve are worthy of your support and giving dollars.
To people living with disabilities and their families we ask for your patience and, at this time, also your tenacity. Now is the time to yell from the rooftops to your friends and professional networks that disability services are essential. We are committed to the cause, and the care of others that we have proudly provided for 50 years.
Minnesota is entering the most important legislative session in recent decades. With new legislators, new leadership, and a growing surplus, we need YOUR voice to stand up for the disability community. Your stories will help raise awareness and shape the decisions that will transform the future of our work. The legislative session is well underway and there has been early action in our area. Last Friday, the Caregivers Stabilization Act of 2023 (SF7) was introduced and on Monday Senator Hoffman, chair of the committee, took testimony for more than 90 minutes. This is encouraging, and we are hopeful that a standalone bill will enable us to seek early passage.
Right now, we have an opportunity to encourage legislators to act quickly to support disability services and we need YOUR help. In addition to the above actions, please take a few minutes to share your voice and speak out about the need for early action to support the disability community. Use the link below to share your concern.
All of us at Living Well remain hopeful. But our staff is tired, burnt out, and dismayed. These jobs are essential beyond measure. And the care they provide is more than a service, it is a critical need. Help us start 2023 off with optimism and join us in telling the world that our staff and the people we serve are worthy of support. Your advocacy will have a direct impact on Living Well and the industry in general.
Will you join us? We sure hope so.