Frontline Initiative Workforce Development

DSPAT at the AFT Summit:
Validation and Respect for DSPs


Danyetta Najoli was Chair of the Direct Support Professionals Association of Tennessee, Inc. (DSPAT). Since writing this article, Danyetta has moved with her family to Nebraska.

I had the privilege of attending the Alliance for Full Participation (AFP) Summit along with Direct Support Professional Association of Tennessee (DSPAT) Director Earl Foxx, Jr. During these pivotal days we were able to hear the collective voices of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities speak on issues that most concern them. The town hall meeting, led by CNN’s Frank Sesno, was most impressive because it put real faces, real challenges and real success stories in a position of relevance and meaning.

While there we were also able to meet with the leaders of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), who were more than thrilled to hear of DSPAT’s progress. One of the main goals of our meeting with NADSP was to discuss ways we can incorporate their membership benefits into DSPAT’s membership benefit, so that when people join DSPAT they are also given the chance to join NADSP. We were able to come up with some great ideas and we are looking forward to hearing feedback as they are rolled out. Yes, it may mean that DSPAT’s membership will increase by a few dollars, but as members of DSPAT you will have the opportunity to join a national association. Membership will be open to individuals, associates and organizations.

There are still many states that long for an association like DSPAT. One of the sessions at the Summit was entitled, “From the Inside: Stories, Reflections, and Predictions About the Status of the Direct Support Workforce: What Works and What Doesn’t.” According to Amy Hewitt, PhD, there would need to be 900,000 new DSPs entering the fi eld by the year 2020 in order to keep pace with the current 52% turnover rate and the increasing need for DSP services. I shared with the session what we are doing in Tennessee, and the great support we have from so many stakeholders like families, self-advocates, the state government, and agencies. It was very exciting to stand with a group of people who understand why we do what we do. It felt like our role as DSPs was validated and respected. DSPAT is a great example for other states to follow. Our best work lies ahead!

As a member of the State Team for NADSP, DSPAT is committed to seeing changes in the three key areas the AFP Summit addressed: Leadership, Community Membership, and Enhancing Services. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. We hope you will join this national movement.