Frontline Initiative: Direct Support Professionals Supporting People's Employment
NADSP Update: No More Short-Term Solutions
As we begin to emerge from nearly three years of a pandemic that took the lives of millions of people, the direct support workforce (caregivers is the term that most people use) from all service sectors is now receiving the attention, discussion, and opportunity needed to begin the systemic change that finally addresses the shortcomings of our workforce. These discussions are happening at the highest levels of government, and we do have reason to hope they may lead to better wages, professional development, and career growth, all of which has been seriously lacking for decades. Despite the positive attention and discussion, this is not the time to sit back and wait for things to happen. In fact, we at the NADSP believe now is the time to advocate even stronger and louder than ever before.
The results of the 24-month direct support workforce and COVID-19 survey that was led by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration were released in September. Some of these results make us very concerned about the mental health and well-being of our direct support workforce. Survey respondents were asked about their health and wellness, and if they had experienced specific issues due to COVID-19. Respondents reported:
- 56% anxiety,
- 55% physical and/or emotional burnout,
- 43% sleep difficulties,
- 40% depression,
- 25% loss of a loved one,
- 21% physical health complications
My impression from the data is that direct support professionals are being stretched to the point where we have added another layer to this workforce crisis – a mental health crisis.
Things are clearly not ok. Direct support professionals are really struggling to establish a healthy work-life balance. This is very serious. The findings show that 36% of our respondents said their work-life balance was worse than before the pandemic, and 11% said it was much worse. Nearly 60% said they feel pressured to work additional shifts due to worker shortages. My impression from the data is that direct support professionals are being stretched to the point where we have added another layer to this workforce crisis – a mental health crisis.
States are using short-term funding from the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) to address workforce issues, such as providing bonuses for staff who worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic. ARPA money has enabled states to offer sign-on and longevity bonuses, and funded career-ladder and credentialing programs that provide financial incentives. These are very good ideas, but they are only short-term solutions. In my opinion, short-term solutions do not fix a long-term systemic failure.
In March 2023, the NADSP will host our second National Advocacy Symposium where direct support professionals and other advocates can meet, virtually, with their elected members of Congress.
So, what can we do? As I said earlier, while we have the attention of policymakers, it’s time for direct support professionals to advocate even louder and stronger. In March 2023, the NADSP will host our second National Advocacy Symposium where direct support professionals and other advocates can meet, virtually, with their elected members of Congress. The NADSP will coordinate with other national advocacy groups to rally around meaningful legislation that provides long-term solutions, like professional identity, living wages, and career pathways.
When you join us in March, we will provide all the resources, training, and talking points – we will even schedule your congressional appointments for you. We just ask that you spread the word and get involved, and bring as many direct support professionals as you can, because it’s their voices that need to be heard. We’ll be sharing much more information on our website . If you have not already, please visit our website to sign up to receive our notifications.