Professionalizing Care

A new bill requires state training for in-home caregivers

Caring for the elderly is a difficult, strenuous and thankless job. Thanks to the Oregon Legislature, Oregon’s in-home caregivers may start to receive better training before starting these low-wage jobs upon which thousands of lives depend.

March 1, the Oregon House of Representatives voted 57 to 2 in favor of Senate Bill 1534, which affects the 30,000 home care and personal support workers in Oregon who provide services through Medicaid. It does not address care facilities.

SB 1534 requires the Department of Human Services (DHS) to adopt minimum training standards and “any other training that the department or the commission deems appropriate for the professionalization of home care workers and personal support workers,” according to the bill.

That professionalization may also bring higher wages to this career filled with working mothers and migrants, according to Ben Morris with the local 503 chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

“Right now the home care providers are not provided training by the state. It’s not required,” Morris says. “This would provide a mandate that the state provide everyone with the training. Currently there’s a three hour orientation class and that’s the only required training.”

Morris says the training could lead to wage increases for workers. “In worker’s hands, this could be a ladder to lift themselves up into higher paying jobs and a career in caregiving,” he says. “They need to be good jobs. They need to be able to support families and be able to support careers so we get less turnover and get better outcomes for consumers.”

“In-home care and personal support are among the fastest growing jobs in Oregon,” said Senator Kathleen Taylor. “Workforce development in this area will ensure that these jobs are good jobs, and it will lift up the women and people of color who are more likely to do this work. The training legislation is a good start.”

SB 1534 passed in the Senate on Feb. 19 with a 27 to 0 vote and passed the house March 1. It will now go to Gov. Kate Brown, who is expected to sign it into law.