School of Professional Studies

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)


School of Professional Studies

Chief Instructor

Mary Piecewicz


The human services field is growing rapidly in Massachusetts as it is across the country, and the Commonwealth does not have enough qualified staff to fill vacancies. The workforce shortage has risen to crisis levels due to high turnover, insufficient training, low wages, and a lack of recognition and appreciation for direct support professionals. The individuals receiving services in Massachusetts deserve quality and stability. The state budget – strained by inefficient service models and reactive fixes – also demands systemic change. The human services workforce crisis impacts a variety of stakeholders. Individuals served are directly affected, as are the direct support employees. Additionally, provider organizations and state funding departments constantly bear the burden of this problem. Families of individuals served are substantially impacted, as is the overall community (including taxpayers). The costs of the crisis are reflected in service quality, in relationships, and in dollars. This paper explores the literature on factors contributing to this workforce crisis and its effects. My focus is on intellectual and developmental disability services, but relevant research from other human service areas is considered. Information from various academic journals and industry studies at both state and federal levels is included. Public policy is an important consideration. Based on my research and experience, I will propose additional solutions to the problem, particularly around wages, training, technology, and employee recognition.



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