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Overtime proposal worrying people with disabilities

Some proposed changes to how the State of Ohio pays home health aides caused an uproar among some people with disabilities Thursday. More than 40 people testified about it at a Department of Developmental Disabilities meeting. All but one of them opposed it.

The US Department of Labor announced several months ago health care workers would need to be paid overtime if they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Many independent service providers work much longer than that. The state is looking at cutting back in the amount of overtime wages it pays, but that worried people with disabilities, who may lose some of the help they desperately need.

"I can't get dressed, get in the shower, get in and out of bed, get in and out of the bathroom without the help of an independent provider," said Justin Martin, who has cerebral palsy. "We still routinely have issues trying to find providers."

He said it's not easy finding someone to trust doing that kind of sensitive work.

The Department of Developmental Disabilities said it was trying to cut down on "excessive overtime" wage for independent service providers. Ideally it could pay multiple people regular wages. Having several workers would also give patients more flexibility if their usual aide is sick or unable to work.

"This is the best case scenario that was able to be produced with a bad situation," said Joe Russell with the Ohio Association for County Boards of Developmental Disabilities.

Martin gave a passionate speech during the hearing,which brought some people to tears.

"You will abandon this policy and you will replace it with one which doesn't cause me to lie awake at night," Martin said.

He brought more than 20 classmates from Kenyon College with him. Nearly all of them testified about how much of an effect Martin has had on them and how they couldn't imagine college without him. Martin said he's only able to go to school because of his independent service provider.

"There's nothing inherently hard about having a disability," he said. "In a system of proper support with a state government that supports you, there's nothing hard at all about having a disability."

The rule being considered by the state includes an exception for people who would be "at risk of harm due to the specialized needs of the individual". The Department of Developmental Disabilities said Martin would be a good example of someone who would be approved for overtime care.

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