Congressman Dean Phillips Volunteers at Our Carlson Home

Congressman Dean Phillips Volunteers at Our Carlson Home

By Mary Gaasch, Director of Advocacy & Community Relations
U.S. Representative Dean Phillips volunteered as a Direct Support Professional (DSP) at our Carlson group home in Wayzata on Monday. During his visit, Rep. Phillips worked with the people we support to serve them lunch and cleaned up afterwards. He even learned a little bit of sign language to communicate with one of the people we support. Former Congressman Bill Luther, and his wife, Janet, were also present. Their son, Alex, is supported at the Carlson home. The former and current Congressmen talked about their shared passion for disability services. Alex gave Rep. Phillips a tour of the six-bedroom group home and introduced him to his housemates.

Rep. Phillips serves up a “Congressional” lunch.

Joel and Mary Amundson were also present to meet with Rep. Phillips. Their daughter, 
Sarah, is supported at our Royal Oaks apartment program. They are also Rep. Phillips’ constituents and volunteer on our Advocacy committee. In addition, Hammer & NER Board member, Don Haberman, and CEO, John Estrem, were on hand and talked with Rep. Phillips about Hammer & NER’s staffing concerns. We shared a report with Rep. Phillips from our national trade association, ANCOR, “The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022.”

Rep. Phillips chats with Janet Roberts and her son, Alex.

The report describes the impacts of a decades-long shortage of DSPs, which has accelerated into a crisis that now threatens access to services. The report found that:

  • 83% of providers are turning away new referrals due to insufficient staffing. 
  • 63% of providers are discontinuing programs and services. This represents a staggering 85.3% increase since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • 55% of providers are considering additional service discontinuations due to the current high turnover and vacancy rates.
  • 92% of providers are struggling to achieve quality standards which can force immediate discharge of people who were once supported and, in the worst cases, complete and permanent agency closures.
  • 71% of case managers are struggling to find available providers.
  • 66% of providers are concerned that vacancy and turnover rates will increase with the end of the Public Health Emergency. Providers remain reliant on the availability of increased funding and emergency regulatory flexibilities pursuant to the public health emergency to maintain basic operations with reduced staffing. They will face a devastating fiscal cliff when that temporary funding expires.

Thank you, Rep. Phillips, for stepping up and experiencing a day in the life of a DSP at Hammer & NER. Our staff, like Elliot, Rose, Franklin, and Tammy at the Carlson home and others who support over 360 people with intellectual and other disabilities in our group homes and apartment programs deserve a fair wage for the work they do. Thank you for visiting and learning more about us and those we support. 

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