August 2021
Maryland Regional Direct Services Collaborative Monthly Newsletter
Jeneva Stone, a new member of the Collaborative’s Board of Directors is highlighted in this month’s newsletter. Ms. Stone serves as a member of and blog manager for “Little Lobbyists”, a parent-led group that advocates for children and young adults with complex medical needs and disabilities and volunteers for the Montgomery County Work Group on Developmental Disabilities. She and her son Rob, who has a rare disease, completed the Arc of Maryland’s Partners in Policymaking Program in 2020. An advocate for bolstering support of the frontline direct services workforce, she is the author of Monster (Phoenicia Publishing, 2016), a meditation on caregiving, disability and medicine. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals in addition to opinion pieces found in the Washington Post, CNN Opinion, and 
The Collaborative issues its Newsletter each month reporting on its progress in addressing the critical development and training issues affecting the frontline direct services workforce throughout Maryland and the District of Columbia. The newsletter is distributed to members of the Collaborative and to the increasing number of stakeholder organizations.
Strengthening Partnerships: Community Colleges and LTC Businesses

Work to implement the “School of Aging Services Demonstration” continued this month with a meeting that brought the Community College working group together with representatives of several long-term care business organizations in Maryland.  The meeting launched a dialogue that will help frame the initiative. Business leaders were quizzed by the working group as to the workforce problems they’re confronting and how they view community colleges in addressing them. Sam Albanese, Ingleside’s HR Vice President, characterized the worsening workforce environment as the “severe storm headed our way” and called for a new paradigm to meet the storm. 
The dialogue underscored the need to find new ways and means to not only open the door to renewed partnerships that positively impact on the recruitment and retention of the workforce but also expand the availability of clinical sites, build on and expand certificate options, and stimulate new career ladders and apprenticeships.  Both the working group and the evolving advisory committee view the initiative as one that will strengthen the community colleges capacity to meet the changing regional workforce demands for older adults.

Business Community discussants included:
  • Salvatore (Sam) Albanese – Senior VP for Human Resources – Ingleside
  • Jeff Kagan – CEO – Sterling Health Care
  • Daren Cortese – President at Brinton Woods
  • Dawn Seek- CEO and President – Maryland National Capital Home Care Association
  • Michael Jacobs- VP for Government Services – Fundamental Services

The August 10 “Working Group” meeting was recorded session and is available on the Collaborative’s website at: Maryland Direct Services Collaborative News Updates

Increasing Medicaid Rates and Passthrough for the Direct Services Workforce

The Collaborative’s Wages and Benefits Task Force under the leadership of David Rodwin  (attorney with the Public Justice Center in Baltimore and the Collaborative’s Vice Chair) is considering the feasibility and timing to press for a legislative proposal that both increases Medicaid rates in Maryland and provides a passthrough to direct service workers.  Attention is being given to legislation enacted or under review by other states such as the bill introduced this Spring in North Carolina, i.e., “An Act to Provide a Medicaid Rate Increase to be Used to Support the Direct Care Workforce”. Additional state initiatives are being assessed including that being considered in Massachusetts (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) to strengthen home and community based services as well as those authorized in Minnesota and Wisconsin. 

The Task Force will report make its recommendations on wage rate and passthrough changes to the Collaborative in September.  

Quizzing Corporate Business on Caregiving Issues

With facilitation provided by the Mid-Atlantic Business Group on Health, the Collaborative is exploring ways to bring the corporate business community to the table as a working partner. Given the impact of the pandemic with changing schedules and often inflexible work cultures, women in the workplace are finding they must choose between their jobs and providing caregiving services at home.  

The need for caregiver support has become a core issue for businesses. Denise Giambalva, VP with the Midwest Business Group on Health points this out in an article “Companies Can’t Afford a Shecession”. Some MBGH member organizations are reporting that childcare, elder care and the care of a spouse or “significant other” have become some of the top challenges faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. And the issue cuts across industries.  She expects more business leaders will be looking for solutions that better support those employees who are having to cope with caregiver demands.

At the Collaborative’s request, the Midwest Board of Directors was asked about the adequacy of caregiving benefits provided to employees. Member responses were divided as to whether new and/or supplemental benefits should be offered to ease the demand on the use of Family Leave. The issue remains an unresolved issue for the time being but is expected to remain on the Board’s agenda..
A similar dialogue concerning employee benefits is planned for this Fall with the Mid-Atlantic Business Group on Health.   

Launching the New Workforce Innovation Grants Program

The Maryland Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning will soon announce the implementation of the newly enacted “Direct Workforce Innovation Program”. An informational webinar is planned by the Collaborative in September to highlight the program on its provisions, timeline and implementation.   

With increased attention given to the growing importance of the frontline workforce, this new grants opportunity comes at an especially good time. The program will provide matching grants in the amount of $50,000 with the purpose to……”create and expand on successful recruitment and retention strategies that address the barriers to increasing the number of direct care worker”. 

Innovation and new thinking will frame the initiatives from the drawing board to implementation. The Collaborative’s goals are well reflected with those set forth in the legislation. Special importance is placed on the training of direct care workers, collaboration with institutions of higher education and enabling advancement career pathway opportunities.

The Collaborative continues to work with the Department of Labor’s Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning in advance of the program announcement.  

Articles and News Items of Interest

  • Insights from the Frontline: Results of a Statewide Survey of Paid Caregivers in Arizona – PHI partnered with four managed care organizations in Arizona to survey the paid caregiver workforce about their experiences and insights. The PHI report presents the survey findings and identifies opportunities to improve job quality in the State. from the frontline

  • Bills to Bump Up Pay for Direct Care Workers – The North Carolina General Assembly is considering two bills that address the staffing crisis in the state. One of the two bills focuses on the care for individuals with disabilities and the second would increase the pay for long-term workers.  Both bills were passed by the House Health Committee with overwhelming support.

  • Steps to Advance Biden Home-Care Plan Via Medicaid Cash – Legislation is being implemented that expands in-home care for the elderly and disabled while boosting caregiver wages and unionizing opportunities. The bill conditions the funds on a state’s ability to shift people to home-cased care from nursing homes, recruit and train more health care workers and provide pay increases.
2021 Fundraiser - Donate Now!
The Collaborative continues its 2021 fundraiser and urges individual and organization to contribute support. Its success rests on receiving assistance from others. Everyone’s support is critically important to the mission to assure the availability of the frontline direct services workforce throughout the region.

Membership information can be found on the Rodham Institute/Collaborative’s website at:
The Maryland Regional Direct Services Collaborative is a network of organizations and individuals working together to build and sustain a well-trained direct services workforce in the Maryland region. It prioritizes the principles of diversity, advances knowledge that draws upon current and previous training and development initiatives. The Collaborative seeks to pro-actively address the critical issues impeding the availability of the needed support services for older adults and persons with disabilities through policy reform, advocating systems change, and providing leadership in the design and implementation of new program initiatives.
Maryland Regional Direct Services Collaborative
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