Frontline Initiative State Chapter Development

Direct Support Alliance of New York State:
The beginnings


 Sean Delaney is a DSP and founding member of DSPANYS.

Joe Macbeth works for NYSACRA.

The Direct Support Professional Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS) exemplifies the strength of partnerships. This partnership among DSPs, organization leadership, and a dedicated statewide provider association offers an opportunity for DSPs to have a powerful voice.

For many years, the New York State Association of Community & Residential Agencies (NYSACRA) has been committed to promoting the direct support profession. In 2007, the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities announced a three-year grant focusing on workforce issues. Former board president of NYSACRA, Regis Obijiski, encouraged NYSACRA to take its commitment to DSPs a step further. In response, NYSACRA applied for a grant to develop a New York State Chapter of NADSP. In spring 2008, NYSACRA was awarded the grant. It provides funding to enroll 800 DSPs in NADSP and DSPANYS. It also offsets some of the start-up costs associated with starting a non-profit organization.

A core group of committed DSPs were nominated as the founding members of our new state chapter. Administrators and directors from these organizations also showed their support. NYSACRA provided staff support. With these partners, we were able to meet regularly during 2008 and early 2009. The early steps were definitely the hardest. Our group struggled with differing views on how to move forward. Ultimately, we broke the development activities into a series of steps.

The first step was to identify our purpose and the NADSP goals that we will endorse. We also created the membership structure of our organization. Over the course of six months, we drafted, amended, and agreed upon our organization’s name, mission and vision statements, and by-laws. We then began developing promotional materials, including a membership brochure, logo, and letterhead. NADSP provided technical assistance to develop promotional materials and support on how to structure membership.

Next, we defined our mission and vision statements. We defined a two-fold priority for 2009: giving DSPs a public voice and strengthening that voice through NADSP membership. 

Things were not always easy. We had our challenges. DSPs are often busy working more than one job or have other responsibilities at home. It is not easy to travel from across the state to meetings in Albany. But with the support of the agencies we work for, we were able to meet with each other and build a solid foundation for success.

Public voice: Reaching out to policymakers

In our debut as a statewide advocacy organization, DSPANYS presented its position on the proposed New York State budget, addressing direct support workforce issues. More than 300 self-advocates, family members, legislators, and policymakers attended Legislative Day. Two days later, Theresa Laws, a DSPANYS founder, testified on the same issues before a joint hearing of legislative finance committees. This was an exciting opportunity for DSPANYS to have our voice heard. To our surprise, Governor Paterson’s office requested a copy of our testimony. This led to a meeting in February with Executive Chamber staff where DSPANYS was introduced. We showed our commitment to advise on policy matters relating to people with disabilities and those who support them. 

Membership: Reaching out to other DSPs 

DSPANYS also mailed over 700 membership brochures and applications to DSPs.  

DSPANYS plans for 2009 include —

  • Incorporating as a non-profit association in order to pursue grant funding;

  • U Participating in NYSACRAsponsored training programs for DSPs on NADSP’s Code of Ethics and the Community Support Skill Standards;

  • Convening six regional conferences for DSPs; and

  • Continuing outreach efforts for ongoing chapter development.

Building a state chapter takes hard work, a lot of time, and the commitment of all partners. But together we have made a difference. Our ideas are in action!