RISE Life Services, Elected Officials Warn of Life-Threatening Employee Shortages

Wage disparities, COVID have created desperate shortage of direct care workers.

Riverhead, NY- Charles Evdos, Executive Director of RISE Life Services, yesterday was joined by New York Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio, RIVERHEAD Town Supervisor Yvette Aguilar to call for New York State to address wage disparities that have created a critical and life-threatening shortage of direct care employees throughout New York.

“The people who work in the field of direct care for independent or private agencies like RISE Life Services are providing critical services to the most fragile people in our communities and they are paid less than New York State employees who do the very same jobs in state-run facilities,” said Evdos. “We are talking about caring for people–some who are severely disabled–who need help doing the most basic things in life getting paid the same or less than a summer employee at an ice cream stand. That’s dangerous.”

RISE Life Services operates 32 group homes and provides programs for developmentally disabled and mental health issues. The agency has seen a 30% decrease in new hires both pre-and post-COVID.

“The low wages had already caused hardship for our employees, some of whom must work a second job to make ends meet,” said Evdos. “We had senior level people working in group homes to fill the gaps left by the need for direct response employees.”

Direct service employees also worked tirelessly during the COVID pandemic, despite the dangers the pandemic posed to them or their families.

“They are just as much heroes as the doctors, nurses and first responders who put the health and safety of others before their own,” said Evdos. “Paying them fairly sends an important message of recognition for their dedication.”

If people are hired, RISE Life Services often cannot keep them as they will depart for better salaries. It is also a financial burden for agencies as they need to provide training to new employees.

“We invest about $5,000 per employee in training, none of which is reimbursed but is mandated by New York State,” said Evdos. “This is more than just a job. It is a calling, a mission and a desperate need.”

Evdos pointed out that there was no COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) increase for close to eight years in a row.

“This is an emergency, plain and simple,” said Evdos. “We are asking our leaders in New York State to address this issue right away and ensure the health, safety, and dignity of our disabled members of the community.”