Strengthening the Direct Care Workforce: Scaling Up and Sustaining Strategies That Work
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed long-standing fault lines in the direct care workforce—the people who provide hands-on care and supervision to frail older adults and people with disabilities. Although most of the headlines focused on direct care workers in nursing homes, those who provide care in homes and community residential settings faced extraordinary challenges as well. COVID-19 compounded the problems for direct care workers: too few workers to meet the need, inadequate training, low wages and benefits, and high turnover. Solutions to these problems exist, many of them supported by solid evidence. But the solutions have not been scaled up or sustained with dedicated funding and resources.
Mathematica’s Center for Studying Disability Policy held a webinar on June 3, 2021, from 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET in which a leading researcher, policymaker, advocate, and direct care worker discussed evidence-based policies and practices for strengthening the direct care workforce in the wake of the pandemic. They highlighted state and local initiatives that scaled up evidence-based recruitment, retention, training, and career advancement strategies, and discuss adaptations made in response to COVID-19. Panelists also discussed a range of national and state policies that are needed to expand and sustain these efforts going forward. Moderated by Debra Lipson, senior fellow at Mathematica, the webinar featured the following panelists:
- Robyn Stone, Senior Vice President for Research, LeadingAge and Co-Director, LeadingAge LTSS Center @UMass Boston
- Bea Rector, Director, Home and Community Services, Aging and Long-Term Support Administration, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services
- Robert Espinoza, Vice President of Policy, PHI
- Zulma Torres, Direct Care Worker, Cooperative Home Care Associates