Rick Surpin

Independence Care System (ICS)
Year founded: 

Sister organizations: Cooperative Home Care Associates (CHCA), Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI)

A family of organizations in New York City that is dedicated to transforming the quality of direct care worker jobs and the quality of care in the long-term healthcare sector.

Focus: Health, Labour Conditions, Unemployment
Geographic Area of Impact: US
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 1,600 home care aides-CHCA; 2,000 consumer members-ICS (2011)
Annual Budget: US$ 150 million (2011)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 90%
Recognition: Social Entrepreneur of the Year, US, 2003

Direct care workers and adults with physical disabilities are often treated as invisible in our healthcare system. Direct care workers generally receive low pay and few benefits, and have unstable employment. Adults with physical disabilities are often treated as “problem” consumers who cost too much. The number of adults with physical disabilities continues to increase as people live longer with their disabilities than previously imagined. Finding the right high-quality care for them remains an imperative for Rick Surpin and the organizations with which he is associated.

Innovation and Activities
Cooperative Home Care Associates, Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute and Independence Care System are affiliated complementary organizations, which are transforming home healthcare in the United States. ICS and CHCA serve as local models and PHI broadens their reach through its work on a national basis.

CHCA is the first worker-owned home healthcare agency in the US. Its owner-employees are African-American and Latino women, 70% of which were previously dependent upon public assistance. Today CHCA has 1,600 workers and US$ 40 million in revenues. The agency has historically paid wages and benefits that are 20% higher than the industry average, resulting in high morale that contributes to higher quality services. It has succeeded in cutting characteristic health aide worker turnover to approximately 20% annually compared to the 40% industry average. Employees elected by CHCA worker-owners comprise the majority of its board of directors, and a labour-management committee is the primary vehicle for balancing worker ownership, labour union members and management issues.

ICS supports low-income individuals with physical disabilities to live independently in a community setting. It has established unique programmes in wheelchair purchases and repair, wound care and specialized care management for adults with multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury in addition to home care aide services. ICS serves 2,000 members, 90% of which are Latino or African-American, and has 165 staff and US$ 100 million in revenue. As a contractor for aide services, it has been the driver of CHCA’s growth over the last 10 years.

PHI conducts policy analysis at both the national and state levels and provides organizational development and training services to improve practice in both homecare and nursing home settings. It has 35 staff and US$ 10 million in revenue.

The Entrepreneur
Rick Surpin started CHCA 26 years ago with the basic premise that home healthcare clients would only receive higher quality care if healthcare aides were offered higher quality jobs. And, if workers owned the company on a one-person, one-vote basis, they would create the possible jobs for themselves. The result was a successful worker-owned company few people thought was possible. Surpin is a passionate believer in an individual’s ability to be their own agent of positive change if provided with the right opportunities and support. He served as President of CHCA for 15 years before becoming President of ICS, and currently serves as the board Chairman of CHCA and PHI.