By Gregory Miller
President/CEO Penn-Mar Human Services
From September 10–16, much needed attention will be focused on Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and their critical role supporting people in need, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
At Penn-Mar, we would literally cease to function without them. And that’s a fact.
DSPs have often been described as an “invisible workforce” stemming from their work many years ago in public institutions hidden from public view. As the care settings transformed into smaller integrated communities, their environment – and that of those they supported – was vastly improved but their daily contributions remained largely unrecognized by all but those with a direct connection to their services.
But that is changing, slowly, but for the better.
Advocates are arming legislators with the facts about DSPs. In Pennsylvania, government officials were invited to serve as a “DSP for the Day” to better grasp the enormity of their role and the critical bonds they form with the individuals they support and their families.
And while DSP compensation can vary from state-to-state, the constant is that their income is at 25-50% below a living wage with most of them struggling from paycheck-to-paycheck and holding down multiple jobs to support their families.
Providers and advocates are turning up the volume to promote the role of the DSP with events such as Direct Support Professionals Week in September.
Personal stories, family testimonials, videos and support gatherings in the public square are all being utilized to educate the public about the impact dedicated DSPs have on so many lives and the need to professionalize the career in order to elevate its value and compensation.
At Penn-Mar we will honoring our DSP staff during Direct Support Professionals Week with messages of appreciation from our leadership, DSP Spotlight Profiles on our social sites, tickets to York Revolution games, chair massages, gift cards giveaways, raffle prizes and Chick-fil-A treats.
We will also be announcing our DSP Career Class of 2018, where qualified and deserving DSPs will now become the second cohort at Penn-Mar to participate in our DSP Credentialing Program.
Transforming life into living at Penn-Mar depends on the commitment and professionalism of our DSPs. But the skills needed to provide exceptional support require far more than basic mandated training. Our Credentialing program will give our DSPs enhanced critical thinking, problem solving and advocacy skills.
The need for such a program is great when you consider:
- There are 2 million DSPs in the nation serving individuals with developmental disabilities.
- Less than 250 DSPs have received training to achieve Certification.
I am willing to bet that 1.5 million DSP don’t even know this Certification program is available. That is why it is so important for Penn-Mar to lead. When we consider that our first class in the credentialing process consists of 26 individuals and our second class is soon to follow, it is only inevitable that a large percentage of all certified DSP’s in the country will work for one organization and that organization is Penn-Mar Human Services!
That’s why our advocacy and the DSP workforce needs to become even more visible in the coming weeks. We can’t over-communicate their value in the life of person they are supporting. That daily experience has a direct impact on the success of our mission and vision of transformation:
…for our Dedicated Support Professionals.
…the individuals we support.
…the families who entrust their loved ones in our care.
…and our generous supporters who help us to provide the tools to achieve significant, measureable change in people’s lives.
My personal, heartfelt thanks to all our Penn-Mar DSPs. Enjoy the spotlight! You have earned it!
Gregory T. Miller is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Penn-Mar Human Services, serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Pennsylvania and Maryland. He is also the CEO of the Penn-Mar Foundation.