Frontline Initiative: DSPs Responding to Crisis

NADSP Update:
The Time is Now

Author(s)

Joseph M. Macbeth is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. Joe can be reached at: jmacbeth@nadsp.org

Joe Macbeth

Throughout the 30+ year history of community living for people with intellectual and development disabilities, direct support professionals (DSPs) have always risen to the occasion during times of crisis. This is true if the crisis is weather-related like hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, or health-related like hospital coverage, end-of-life supports, and pandemics. DSPs meet crisis head-on. This issue of Frontline Initiative provides deep context about how essential DSPs are when it counts the most. Isn’t it a shame that since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were furiously advocating to be deemed “essential” so we could have access to personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and public transportation? Isn’t it a shame that it took a once-in-a-century pandemic to shed light on how critically important DSPs are in helping people with disabilities to stay safe and healthy during our darkest hours? 

As we slowly emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that our elected officials have finally seen what we’ve all known for decades – we have a “caregiving” crisis. Finally, in virtually all serious discussions about advancing Home and Community Based-Services (HCBS) opportunities for people with disabilities, the topic of the direct support workforce is front and center. After decades, it finally appears, with overwhelming consensus that we need to do something about it. The NADSP has adopted new strategies to advance our long-held initiatives. Timing is critical, and we must act quickly.

The accelerated demands for DSPs with unique specializations, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, has elevated capacity building and improved socioeconomic advancement of the workforce as a critical priority for this Congress and the new Administration. Because of this, the NADSP has undertaken a vigorous public policy initiative to:

  • Advocate for and promote our policy priorities to professionalize and improve the economic advancement of DSPs in major federal legislation related to workforce development and Medicaid Home and Community Based Services reform. 
  • Push for changes to existing federal regulations that impede the professionalization of the direct support workforce, hinder the socioeconomic advancement of DSPs, or restrict opportunities for individuals with disabilities to choose the individuals they wish to hire as under self-direction models. 
  • Help train and develop a national grassroots advocacy base to heighten constituent pressure on federal policymakers to implement NADSP’s goals.

To achieve our goals, we will implement short-term and long-term strategies and rely on our members, partners, and stakeholders to consistently share our messaging that DSPs finally receive the recognition, access to more formalized competency-based training and career ladders and certifications that lead to professional wages. Please join us by getting on our mailing list at https://nadsp.org/resources/receive-nadsp-emails/.

We’ll be sharing a lot of information and opportunities for DSPs to be more engaged in these issues.  We will be hosting a full-day, virtual session this fall on these important topics and how to get more involved in DSP advocacy and engage with your state, local and federal elected officials.  Connect with us on Twitter:  https://twitter.com/nadspinc or Like us on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/NADSPINC/