“Do not believe you will reach your new destination without leaving the shore.”
~ Chinese Proverb
In this issue, we recognize the changing role of the Direct Support Professional (DSP). We highlight public policies that can support your changing role, and ways that you support brighter futures. We focus on the successes of self-advocates, DSPs, and others who have taken and are taking action to improve quality of life for those they support through implementing person-centered practices and advocating for needed change. We hope these stories inspire you in the crucial work you do.
Sometimes, changes in policy are overlooked or ignored by those with the “wait and see” philosophy. Policy changes may not seem to affect our day-to-day work. But there are many policies that directly and significantly affect DSPs and the people you support. Authors in this edition walk us through some of these policy shifts and their importance for our direct support work. The Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Settings Rule defines community based supports for waivered services funded by Medicaid. It prioritizes community inclusion, choice, and individualized supports. State Employment First policies and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) are similarly meant to prioritize opportunities for people with disabilities to get and keep jobs in the community. Managed care policies implemented in some states may also provide opportunities for innovation and recognition for competent and efficient DSPs. Knowing about these policies is important for your practice. Knowledge helps you know how to advocate with the people you support and the profession. These policies can support person-centered practices. Authors provide us with practical tips and suggestions on getting started and moving forward. In some cases, DSPs may need to advocate for new practices that better align with person-centered values.
Advocacy is an important competency area for DSPs, “The Direct Support Professional should be knowledgeable about the diverse challenges facing participants . . . and should be able to identify and use effective advocacy strategies to overcome such challenges” (https://www.nadsp.org/competency-areas-text/ ). This issue also includes stories about advocacy in action. Here you’ll read stories from people who are standing up for themselves, others, and the profession of direct support. Cliff Poetz, Cheryl Dougan, and Morgan Ryan tell their stories of focusing their energies on building new futures. They call upon you to do the same. We hope you learn from their stories, and are inspired to continue in advocacy work.
This issue also provides stories of ways that people have organized to impact direct support on a state or local level. The #Bfair2DirectCare campaign has called DSPs in New York to advocate for fair wages. The voice of DSPs as well as other coordinated efforts have worked in concert to secure an increased DSP wage and improve the professional image of DSPs. Other states, including Pennsylvania (https://www.fixthedspcrisis.com/ ), Oregon (http://oregonresource.org/value-the-work.html ), and California (http://www.lantermancoalition.org/ ) are using campaigns to increase wages and the quality of life for people receiving supports, and the profession of direct support. In Tennessee, Rick Rader has worked with law enforcement. He has provided training in crisis response to better attend to the needs of people with disabilities. The role of the DSP is changing. It is continuing to change to ensure people have good lives in their communities of choice. We have important work to do.