By Tony Lopez

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A local non-profit that helps adults with intellectual disabilities is making a desperate plea: it needs workers, and now.

United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Sacramento and Northern California is a group filled with compassion, but the worker shortage is keeping them from carrying out their full mission.

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Joanne Wright, a UCP client, has been in an adult day program for more than 30 years.

“We do a lot of different things,” she said.

It allows her and others with a range of developmental disabilities to get out of the house and have some fun, but now the days and hours they’re allowed to attend have been dramatically reduced.

“It was a full day and now it’s only three hours,” said Jim Freeberg, Wright’s brother-in-law.

“I feel very sad and lonely,” Wright said.

The program is run by UCP and the cuts are due to a staffing shortage they’ve been dealing with since the pandemic began.

“We saw a 20-30% reduction in our workforce,” said Eric Ciampa, chief operating officer of UCP of Sacramento and Northern California.

The results are empty exercise classrooms with bikes and treadmills sitting idle and an arts and crafts space sitting empty with the crayons and colored paper going unused.

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Oftentimes, clients can’t even get out of their homes because there’s no longer a bus driver to transport them to classes – and there are no caregivers to provide in-home family respite services.

“I don’t know where they went, but I just need people to come back,” Ciampa said.

Raising wages is not an option because salaries are set by state funding guidelines.

“That’s certainly part of the problem,” Ciampa said.

Now, UCP is launching a recruitment campaign trying to hire nearly 200 more workers.

“If you can pass a background check and you want to do this type of work, there is a position right now available,” Ciampa said.

It’s an effort to solve this puzzling problem and allow Wright and her friends a chance to improve their social skills and feel less isolated.

“I’d rather be here,” Wright said.

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Thursday’s job fair begins at 9 a.m.