Frontline Initiative Autism Spectrum Disorder

NADSP update:
The winds of positive change


Joseph Macbeth is the Executive Director of NADSP

In reference to a recent NADSP presentation about Ethics and Competencies, a Direct Support Professional (DSP) proclaimed, “Finally, the winds of positive change are here.” I’d like to borrow that theme for this update.

The winds are shifting in a positive direction for direct support professional development. Though this shift may take some time to bring about any real change. I have been an advocate for these initiatives for over a decade and can attest that decision makers in federal government, key states and others who can influence policy changes are finally beginning to feel the breeze.

One of the things that we are most excited about is joining forces with other stakeholder groups and the National Direct Service Workforce Resource Center ( in the Road Map of Core Competencies for Direct Service Workers Project. The goal of this project is to assist federal agencies, states and employers in taking a more unified approach to competency development and training. This project represents a collaborative effort to strengthen the home and community-based direct support workforce. The stakeholders who have participated in this effort have reached consensus on a common set of core competencies that apply across the various sectors within the direct service workforce. These sectors include behavioral health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, physical disabilities and aging services.

Why is this important? These cross-sector competencies are relevant to the work of both tenured and new DSPs. The competencies will guide the development of training, service delivery and performance improvement practices. The core competency set might also serve as the foundation for novel career ladders. New career ladders would validate the many competencies needed among DSPs across sectors of community based long-term services and supports. It’s a really big deal for our advocacy work and we’ll keep you posted on how things are moving along.

Another area that we are watching very closely is managed care. Managed care is intended to reduce the cost of providing health benefits and improve the quality of care for the people we support. One of the things that managed care organizations will be trying to measure is the capacity and competency of an organization’s direct support workforce. Managed care organizations will be interested in how the direct support workforce will lead to better supports and less cost. For more than ten years, the NADSP has been advocating that a well-trained, skilled and ethical direct support workforce is the primary factor in quality service delivery. Now we are hoping that organizations that operate within a managed care environment can measure the outcomes of its DSPs and compensate them for demonstrated skills. This might take time but it’s clearly going bring positive change in how DSPs are viewed.

Lastly, I’d like to thank and say good-bye to our long time board member, Regis Obijiski. Regis needed to resign from our board of directors because he has recently taken a leadership position with the New York State’ Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. Regis was instrumental in the early days of the NADSP and has spent more than twenty years being a tireless advocate and voice for DSPs. He is a mentor to many of us. His steady, common-sense approach to dealing with big issues will be sorely missed. We are hoping that Regis will make even bigger change in implementing the Code of Ethics and Core Competencies across the state of New York in his new position. Please join me in thanking Regis for his tremendous work.

As you see, a shift is happening. More than anything, we need DSPs to take a more active role in this work. We need managers to support and empower DSPs to be better professionals and advocates. Ultimately, it’s about providing better supports for people with disabilities. We’re all in this together. Be part of this shift and help us strengthen the winds of positive change.