Posted on September 12, 2022
I noticed that this year’s DSP Recognition Week (Sept. 11-17) did not include a theme so I came up with one of my own: “We’re Still Standing.”
This in itself is quite an achievement as evidenced by this excerpt from a recent article in Politico pinpointing one of the main reasons human services organizations continue to grapple with the post-pandemic workforce crisis:
“Most agencies rely on state and federal Medicaid money to pay employees and can’t increase salaries to compete with the retail or food-services industries because Medicaid rates are set by the state. Though that’s always been a challenge, it’s exacerbated during periods of high inflation when wages in other sectors rise and the cost of living increases…”
But at Penn-Mar, “We’re Still Standing” in spite of all these challenges because we are continually creating our own innovative solutions to reward the contributions of our DSPs and attract others to our organization.
The DSP profession is not for everyone. But it is a good place to be for the right person in it for the right reasons.
You will never hear a DSP say they chose this career for the money. So much of their work is a calling rather than a job.
The men and women who choose this vocation are doing honorable work every day and very few careers can compete with the knowledge they have that what they do improves the value of people’s lives.
During DSP Recognition Week, we will be celebrating the amazing accomplishments of our team members. But there is nothing we can say or do to adequately thank our DSPs enough for their tireless work and the extraordinary contributions.
What we can and are doing, though, is continually advocating on their behalf to improve their wages and enhance their training. We are also recognizing their value to Penn-Mar by promoting their successes and nominating them for achievement awards in the local and national media and in the appropriate business and trade communities.
All of us at Penn-Mar hold our DSPs in the highest esteem — from the Board, to leadership, to team members and families. We appreciate and respect the work they do with such great dignity and we are committed to creating more opportunities for them to advance their careers and compensation.
In 2016, we launched a Direct Support Professional Career Ladders initiative, a DSP credentialing program designed to improve employee recruitment and retention efforts. We started with a class of 26 qualified and deserving DSPs and today we have 100 Certified DSPs working with us.
State governments are starting to look at programs such as these as a way to increase wages to qualified DSPs. Should that result in new pay scales in Maryland and Pennsylvania, Penn-Mar will be way ahead of the curve on offering and improving credentialing programs for its workforce.
Every day we are competing against hundreds of good causes as we advocate for more resources for Penn-Mar’s DSPs. My goal, and our mission, is to keep us at the top of the list by passionately educating our legislators about the depth of our professionalism and our reputation for finding new and innovative ways to improve the lives of people with disabilities.
Thank you to all of our DSPs for standing by us during these difficult past few years and for bringing your best selves to work each day to help those you support have a better life.