Frontline Initiative: The Diverse Voices of Direct Support Professionals
In early March 2022, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) embarked on our first ever national advocacy symposium . Direct support professionals (DSPs) from 43 states with strong support from self-advocates, family members, management staff from provider organizations and disability researchers shared their stories with more than half of the members of congress in 253 virtual meetings.
Engaging in public policy discussions such as this has been a long-standing goal for the NADSP. We felt that it was important to meet with elected officials in Congress and the Biden Administration during a time of unprecedented workforce challenges. The well-documented hardships caused by the pandemic and recent legislation has provided new insights and opportunities for our direct support workforce. This was a critical time to amplify the voices of DSPs with federally elected officials so that public policy can be informed by the people who are supporting people with disabilities to live, work, and thrive in their communities.
All of us at the NADSP would like to extend our gratitude to the nearly 400 advocates who participated in this event. One third of these were participating in their first advocacy event. We also thank our policy briefing presenters, trainers, and state leaders. They spent a lot of time preparing for this event and building a true collaboration. Finally, we are grateful to our Platinum Sponsor, CareSource and our Gold Sponsor, Amerigroup for supporting NADSP in creating this event and building a strong partnership between Managed Care Organizations and grass roots advocates.
One of our policy priorities was to advocate with legislators to support two bills. These bills would require the Office of Management and Budget to establish a separate category within the Standard Occupational Classification system for DSPs. This would establish a professional identity and for data reporting purposes. I’m happy to share that our efforts culminated with six new sponsors to the House of Representatives version of this bill . As we continue the work to further our mission, we are grateful to the hundreds of participants who helped us make this event a success.
One of the most important things that I’ve learned during my career is that advocacy work like ours never ends. But I believe our advocacy efforts will one day lead to true, systemic change. This will improve many lives. I am happy to announce that the 2022 policy event will certainly not be our last. In 2023, the NADSP will build from this success and host our second virtual Advocacy Symposium and Legislative Meeting Day. For those who could not attend the event, the recordings of our presentations are now available on the 2022 NADSP Advocacy Symposium webpage.
Beyond the Advocacy Symposium and helping DSPs engage in public policy, we continually monitor opportunities to further our mission. We seek to work with partners to stabilize the decades-long direct support workforce crisis. As we emerge from the pandemic, workforce issues are being taken very seriously and are part of high-level discussions. For example, in late April, the Administration on Community Living (ACL) released a grant opportunity that will award one five-year cooperative agreement to establish a national technical assistance center designed to strengthen the direct care workforce. This will give states and providers a clearinghouse of best practices, establish career ladder opportunities, and other strategies to strengthen the direct support workforce. I assure you that the NADSP will play an active role in this work.
Lastly, I am honored to share that I have been appointed by President Joseph Biden to serve as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID). I will join 19 amazing citizen members from across the United States, including NADSP Board Member, Nicole Jorwic, and 13 ex-officio members representing different federal agencies. PCPID is an advisory committee to the President of the United States (U.S.) and to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This committee is responsible for providing advice and assistance to the President and to the Secretary on a broad range of issues relating to individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Thank you all for being a part of NADSP, and please keep in touch and stay engaged with us because, by working together, we can make important change.