Frontline Initiative State Chapter Development

Bridging the gap from state chapters to National


 Tony Thomas is President of the Ohio Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (OADSP) and is a former NADSP Trustee.

NADSP has been presented with an interesting opportunity as a part of its growth. State chapters, a long-time source of support and leadership for NADSP, are faced with differing positions on issues that affect their DSP constituents. What does it mean when a state chapter and the national organization have different views on critical issues? State chapters are immersed in the day-to-day work of supporting people in the community and promoting workforce development initiatives on a grassroots level while the national organization surveys the big picture. This can be a challenge or an opportunity. How can we most effectively work together to bridge this gap? 

We have been on a growth curve at NADSP, especially when it comes to encouraging the growth of state chapters. If you think about it, there is no other place for NADSP to gain members. As a national leader on DSP issues, the national organization must be fueled and eventually sustained by state chapter development. 

We now have over 20 state chapters or state affiliations. Some state chapters have become incorporated and have their own policies and procedures that make them unique and distinct state organizations. At the national level, NADSP must be aware of and respect these differences that make each chapter unique. As the national level strengthens its policies and practices, it is important to recognize not only the commonalities but also the distinctions across chapters. Naturally, the context of each chapter will look different, yet the driving force is the creation of a common voice of DSPs in this country to work toward building a well-trained, competent, recognized direct support professional workforce.

At the NADSP Board level, a great mix of national leaders, DSPs, and self-advocates are listening and considering the various issues that arise. We have all committed to working with state chapters to encourage their growth and development. Some of the issues that the NADSP and state chapters must deal with are a natural by-product of growth. This is to be celebrated, for it is only through this growth that our voice will be recognized in important places like the statehouse committee meetings and the halls of Congress in Washington D.C.

As national and state chapters of NADSP all work toward our common goal, we are committed to partnering with state chapters in the following ways —

  • On a communication level.- Always be aware that certain issues will influence our respective directions. Discuss these differences openly and honestly and try to reach consensus on those issues.

  • On a critical issue level. - Work towards a common agenda on critical issues that DSPs face daily, like wages and benefits.

  • On a practical level. - Invite the leadership groups of the state chapters to NADSP national meetings.

  • On a contact level. - Have NADSP board members “reach out and touch” the contacts at the state level through conference calls and participation in state meetings.

  • On a policy level. - NADSP recommends policy and practice to states but does not dictate their actions. NADSP encourages state chapters to consider the national policy agenda in its effort to promote the DSP workforce as a whole. 

  • On an involvement level. - NADSP encourages all state chapters to gain members and DSP experience on their boards at the state level. From these ranks our future NADSP leaders will emerge.