Newport (RI) November 8, 2021 – The Newport County Community Healthcare Collaborative (NCCHC) joins together, once again, to bring awareness to the current workforce crisis and how it is negatively impacting health and human services across Newport County and Rhode Island. On October 18, 2021, letters were sent to all Representatives and Senators representing Newport County communities regarding the negative impact the current workforce crisis has greatly affected human and healthcare serves, and how it has affected the children and families in their care. The collaborative is asking the general assembly and governor to take immediate action by designating $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address this workforce crisis.
Dear Senator or Representative,
With funding and leadership from the van Beuren Charitable Foundation, the Newport County Community Healthcare Collaborative was formed in October of 2020 by ten organizations to support this communities’ at-risk, low-income individuals and families of color. The mission of the Collaborative has been to enhance COVID prevention while increasing testing and vaccination rates. The Collaborative has been largely successful in all these areas. However, our community is now being impacted by the aftermath of the pandemic in the form of a workforce crisis. The shortage of essential workers in all areas of health and human services- from early childhood education to behavioral health, from foster care for abused and neglected youth to health care for low-income families and finally for case management and home health care for seniors- has reached a crisis point.
This same Newport community that has been most impacted by the pandemic is now experiencing a significant reduction in all types of health and human services programs. Essential staff positions are unfilled due to wage disparity and flawed rate setting. A few examples follow:
- Low-income seniors returning home from a hospital or assisted living facility, can wait over a year for essential home services that allow them to remain living independently. Nearby Massachusetts has already released American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to providers increasing the hourly rate for essential home health care workers by over $5 dollars an hour above the rate reimbursed by the state of Rhode Island. The health and safety of low-income seniors is at risk without adequate supports.
- Historic and long-term lack of adequate reimbursement has led to sharp losses in revenue exacerbated by the pandemic. Competitive pay rates in the Skilled Homecare arena are lagging with fee-for service Medicare bearing the burden of subsidizing the managed care and Medicaid market. The shrinking pool of Medicare (FFS) recipients has created a crisis. Medicare has kept pace with COLA but unfortunately the others have not kept up and the gap is widening. This culture of scarcity has devolved into a struggling business model that has resulted in rationing of healthcare, often to our most vulnerable populations.
- The number of youth placed out of state for residential treatment now exceeds 70 with more youth on waiting lists. This is an all-time record number and in direct correlation to agencies which have had to close programs and limit intake. Excluding a 2-month period at the onset of the pandemic, DCYF has released no CARES Act funds or ARP funds to providers or to foster parents.
- Unfilled vacancies due to the inability to recruit and retain behavioral health clinicians have negatively impacted the availability and quality of mental health care for adults and children through waiting list and high caseloads.
In the short term, funds must be released to raise salaries of essential workers and provide rate relief.
In addition, we ask the General Assembly and Governor to fund long term strategies for workforce development that will be key to insuring the health, safety, and economic well-being of all Rhode Islanders. This system must include:
- Rate reform to establish competitive wages for our clinical, professional, and direct-service staff
- Long-term investment strategies to attract, stabilize, and sustain a strong service delivery system
- Resources for community-based organizations to acquire new technologies and innovative practices so that all populations receive the highest level of care
Moreover, this system must include:
- Formal training for targeted health and human service workers
- Comprehensive apprentice expansion to cultivate career pathways
- Higher education diploma tracks for the industry
We ask that the General Assembly and Governor take immediate action by designating $100 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to address this workforce crisis in the aforementioned ways.
Members of the Newport County Community Healthcare Collaborative including,
Jennifer Fairbank, CEO, Visiting Nurse Home & Hospice
Jeffrey Gaines, MD, CMO Newport Hospital
Erin Donovan-Boyle, Executive Director, Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce
Jessica Walsh, Executive Director, Women’s Resource Center, Newport HEZ
Marty Sinnott, President and CEO, Child & Family
Joan Kwiatkowski, PACE-R.I., RIDOH, COVID Advisory Committee
Stephanie McCaffrey, VP Health Administration, East Bay Community Action Program
Jamie Lehane, Executive Director, CEO, Newport Mental Health
Newport County Community Legislators:
- Representative Marvin Abney
- Representative Lauren Carson
- Representative Terri Cortvriend
- Representative Susan Donovan
- Representative John Edwards
- Representative Michelle McGaw
- Representative Deb Ruggeiro
- Senator Walter Felag
- Senator James Seveney
- Senator Lou DiPalma
- Senator Dawn Euer
- Governor Daniel McKee