Frontline Initiative Credentialing

New Hampshire DSPs Complete National Apprenticeship Program

In a special ceremony recently held at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center, Jack Jarvis, of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training, congratulated Jan Bevacqua and Jon Dash for becoming the first two individuals in New Hampshire to complete the national apprenticeship program for direct support professionals (DSPs).

DSPs play a vital role in enhancing the daily life of individuals with disabilities by serving as connections to community resources, personal care assistants, and providers of residential, employment, leisure/recreation, and social/interpersonal/behavioral supports. During a typical day, these staff will support those who need help with activities such as getting dressed, personal grooming, preparing meals, and supporting them in the workplace. Beyond these tasks, DSPs model and teach appropriate social behaviors, and build communication skills and support in personal relationships.

According to Director of Residential Services Jon Eriquezzo, Crotched Mountain employs more than 200 DSPs who work either at the rehabilitation center in Greenfield, New Hampshire or in local communities throughout the state. “Within the community human services field, there is a general consensus that DSPs do not always receive proper training,” Eriquezzo explains. He identifies this problem as contributing to a high turnover rate nationwide. “Crotched Mountain,” remarks Jarvis, “is taking the lead here in New Hampshire to address this ongoing concern by investing considerable time and effort to establish a registered apprenticeship program for DSPs. Jan and Jon can be proud of their accomplishments and dedication to the profession. Everyone benefits from this program – especially the individuals who receive support from organizations and DSPs who are committed to quality training and education.”

The apprenticeship program for DSPs is comprised of 144 classroom hours of instruction and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training experience. Upon successful completion of the program, Crotched Mountain rewards its employees with an increase in salary. The criteria to earn certification is based upon the national Community Support Skill Standards that were set forth by the Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Jan Bevacqua, of Antrim, New Hampshire serves as manager of Hawthorn Heights, one of 15 residences for students attending Crotched Mountain School. She joined the organization in 1994 and has dealt extensively with the process of transitioning students from residential care to community settings. Jon Dash, a residential counselor at Dogwood Manor residence, also lives in Antrim. He has been employed by Crotched Mountain since 2002 and serves as an apprenticeship supervisor as well as a mentor for new employees. In June 2006, Bevacqua and Dash travelled to Atlantic City, New Jersey to give a presentation at the Eastern Seaboard Apprenticeship Conference about their experiences.

At present, two more Crotched Mountain employees are working to complete the requirements for the apprenticeship program. “Our goal is to enroll up to 20 DSPs each year,” Eriquezzo states. “The apprenticeship program will greatly improve the quality of life for individuals being supported by providing a career ladder and well-deserved recognition for DSPs. In time, these heroes will no longer be unsung.”

Crotched Mountain is a charitable organization employing more than 900 DSPs. Its mission is to serve individuals with disabilities and their families, embracing personal choice and development, and building communities of mutual support. Crotched Mountain provides specialized education, rehabilitation, community, and residential supports for more than 2,000 individuals with disabilities and the elderly, living in New England and New York.