Representatives of Sunflower Diversified Services made it clear to Kansas legislators that a wage increase for staff members is imperative, said Brandon Wiig, the non-profit agency’s residential services facilitator.
Eleven Sunflower individuals and two staff members relayed the message in person at the recent Push Day at the State Capitol in Topeka. InterHab, the statewide agency that advocates for people with developmental disabilities and delays, sponsored the annual event.
“We hope the Legislature will approve a rate increase that could provide funds for a salary increase,” Wiig said. “There has not been a wage increase in 10 years. It is not just the staff that is concerned. So are the people we serve. They deserve staff members that are adequately compensated because it would help keep turnover to a minimum.
“Push Day is a great forum for us,” he added. “Our voices need to be heard by those who make decisions that affect all of us. We have to make our concerns known and stand up for what we believe in.”
While the wage increase was a major Push Day topic, Sunflower individuals and their families also are concerned about adequate school funding.
“Special education in our schools is always a priority,” Wiig commented. “Legislators need to understand that the choices they make about taxes and education have real-life effects on the individuals we serve, as well as on those who help them achieve as much independence as possible.”
One illustration of the importance of these issues is the record turnout for Push Day this year, noted Amanda Urban, residential coordinator.
“More than 700 people registered for the event, which is an all-time high,” Urban said. “It is gratifying to know that we stand hand-in-hand with many other entities that serve people with developmental disabilities and delays.”
Another advantage to Push Day was staff members came away with enhanced knowledge and new ideas.
“We learned from people with disabilities from all across Kansas,” she explained. “And we gathered more information about the legislative process. We must remind lawmakers as often as we can that their constituents need their help.
“Without that help, vital services and families are at risk,” she added. “The decisions made in Topeka have direct results on the most vulnerable people.”
Sunflower, which is in its 51styear, serves infants, toddlers and adults with developmental disabilities and delays in Barton, Pawnee, Rice, Rush and Stafford counties.