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Hundreds Rally To Boost State Funding For Disability Support Services

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More than 500 people gathered at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday to pressure lawmakers to boost funding for support services for those with developmental disabilities.

The event was organized by the nonprofit group Bridge to Equality, which advocates for people with developmental disabilities.

Bridge to Equality CEO Mark Schlater says thousands of disabled people rely on aides known direct service professionals, or DSPs, to live their everyday lives.

“We do maybe 50 things in the first hour of the morning," Schalter says. "A person with developmental disabilities may need a staff person to help them out of bed, to feed them, to give them medication.”

Schlater says a shortage of DSPs has created a statewide crisis.

That’s due in part to low wages. The majority of such aides are paid through Medicaid and make about $11 per hour.  Some aides work multiple jobs to support themselves, Schlater says.

At Thursday’s rally organizers called on lawmakers to allot more funding for their services in the state budget.

“We need better wages to attract people in the community looking for jobs," says Schlater.

"It’s got to be a job that can meet their own needs. So we want to be sure they’re paid properly.”

Schlater says they already have support for the effort from some state lawmakers.

The state budget is set to be finalized by June 30.

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April Laissle is a graduate of Ohio University and comes to WYSO from WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio where she worked as a weekend host and reporter. There, she reported on everything from food insecurity to 4-H chicken competitions. April interned at KQED Public Radio in San Francisco, where she focused on health reporting. She also worked on The Broad Experience, a New-York based podcast about women and workplace issues. In her spare time, April loves traveling, trying new recipes and binge-listening to podcasts. April is a Florida native and has been adjusting to Ohio weather since 2011.