Services for disabled Delawareans get funding boost

Gov. John Carney holds legislation he signed that increases funding for direct-service providers working with Delawareans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Gov. John Carney holds legislation he signed that increases funding for direct-service providers working with Delawareans with intellectual and developmental disabilities. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

For nearly 30 years, Michael McNesby was employed at Elwyn in Wilmington, where adults like him with Down syndrome can work and take part in vocational training. The goal is to help residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities maintain purpose and dignity.

Those who knew McNesby best say that goal was fulfilled at Elwyn.

“This is the room where direct-support professionals like Vicky Haschek and George Earley worked their magic,” said Jerry McNesby, Michael’s brother. “They worked their magic with these individuals through caring, enriching their lives.”

Michael McNesby died in March at the age of 58, but his legacy lives on through legislation that bears his name. (Photo courtesy MichaelMcNesbyAct.com)

McNesby died in March at 58, and his friends and family gathered at the Wilmington facility Tuesday morning to celebrate his life and a new law designed to support the work of Elwyn and similar direct-service providers. The Michael McNesby Act requires the state to pay 100 percent of the funding for service providers by fiscal year 2021.

“His name, his life, his energy, the people that he touched, it gave life to this bill,” said Elwyn executive director Kendra Johnson.

Delaware currently pays 75 percent of the market rate for service providers, according to a 2014 study by the Delaware Department of Health and Social Services.

“This bill commits us to trying to keep to a standard of funding for the nonprofit agencies like Elwyn who employ these folks, so that they can help special citizens across our state,” said Gov. John Carney. “Michael just represented all people with special abilities across our state and the need to provide services for them for a lifetime.”

Increasing the funding level is designed to improve recruitment and retention, while decreasing staff turnover and vacancies. It’s an effort to make sure Delawareans with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the services they need and are free from abuse and neglect, said Thomas Cook, executive director of Ability Network of Delaware.

“That is the purpose of making sure that our direct-support professionals get paid what they need to be paid, to make sure that we have a workforce that’s going to do that job in a quality manner,” Cook said.

For the fiscal year that started in July, state lawmakers approved a $4.6 million increase in funding for direct-support professionals.

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