Impact Feature Issue on Direct Support Workforce Development

DSP Fairness and Security Act: ANCOR’s “You Need to Know Me” Campaign


Renee Pietrangelo is  CEO of American Network of Community Options and Resources, Alexandria, Virginia.

When the 109th Congress closed in 2006, 86 legislators had signed on as co-sponsors of the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act (H.R. 1264), a historic first for the developmental disabilities community. Born of an arduous effort championed by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) since 2001, its goal is passage of federal legislation that would bring fairness to compensation levels that work to discourage people from seeking employment as Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). The legislation received unparalleled attention last year thanks to more than 30,000 advocates who sent more than 45,000 letters to Capitol Hill. To draw additional attention to the plight of the DSP workforce, ANCOR held briefings and constituent meetings with legislators, and put the Internet to creative use. A cartoon centered on the need for increased DSP wages was released through e-networks, drawing an audience of more than 50,000 viewers.

The January 2007 arrival of the new 110th Congress brought a dramatic turnover in legislators, promising new opportunities and challenges for the reintroduction of the Direct Support Professionals Fairness and Security Act. In cooperation with ANCOR, Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Lee Terry (R-NE) have reintroduced the legislation (H.R. 1279). ANCOR and its campaign partners, The Arc of the U.S., United Cerebral Palsy, and Lutheran Services of America, are once again mobilizing their grassroots to garner sponsorship from legislators. The bill currently has 106 co-sponsors, and we are hoping that the 110th Congress will bring a hearing on the bill. We are also actively working on the Senate side to raise awareness of the issue with Senate staff.

This second wave of activity affords a new opportunity to address the lack of public awareness of who a DSP is and provides the impetus behind ANCOR’s new campaign slogan, “You Need to Know Me. I’m a Direct Support Professional.” The slogan’s benefits are twofold: It raises awareness of the importance of DSPs, while providing flexibility for strong advocacy messages. “You Need to Know Me. I’m a Direct Support Professional. You need to know that the current disability support system doesn’t work without me. You need to know that my job isn’t easy.” The potential for creative and hard-hitting messages is abundant.

ANCOR remains dedicated to its advocacy goals to obtain wage and benefit enhancements, advance a national policy to address the DSP workforce shortage, demonstrate the critical role of DSPs in enhancing the lives of Americans with disabilities, secure incentives for solidifying a career path for DSPs, and build public awareness of the depth of private provider services. Simply put, you need to know that ANCOR is hard at work for you.