By Teresa Anderson, Arc of California, Director of Public Policy
Each year, since 2008, we have celebrated the Direct Support Profession (DSP) by recognizing how important and central DSPs are to ensuring that the human and civil rights of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are honored, respected, and met. This year, Direct Support Professional Recognition week is September 12 to 18, 2021. So many great organizations will share their celebrations and honor their staff in very meaningful ways. However, we have still yet to professionalize the DSP profession as it still lacks a specific occupational category under the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It lacks a livable wage, and it lacks a well-defined career ladder. There is very limited data on the DSP workforce, which makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to develop a strong state workforce plan to address the high demand for entry level, skilled, and supervisory level DSPs.
Along with all the meaningful celebrations, recognitions, incentives, and efforts that recognize the importance of the DSP profession, recognition also includes advocating at the state and federal level to make sure that the profession is categorically recognized as its own independent profession. Recent state and federal efforts include Assembly Member Chris Holden’s Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 41 (ACR 41)– Relative to COVID-19 Direct Support Professionals. ACR 41 recognizes, in part, the appreciation felt by the State of California and acknowledges that DSPs are essential to carrying out the state’s responsibility to support individuals with IDD in the community. The Resolution can be found here: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220ACR41
The California 2021-22 State Budget includes funding for DSP training and development. The summary can be found here: https://thearcca.org/advocacy/state-budget/ Stakeholders in CA have also asked the Department of Developmental Services to conduct a Staff Stability Survey.
In addition, at the federal level, legislation has been re-introduced to create a Standard Occupational Code for Direct Support Professionals. For more information about the federal legislation visit: https://www.hassan.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/RecognizingtheRoleofDirectSupportProfessionalsAct-Onepager.210427.pdf
Thank you to all the AMAZING DSPs who truly are the backbone of the Developmental Services System in CA. DSPs deserve to be recognized for the hard work they do. We encourage everyone to engage in advocacy efforts, at all levels, to show support and recognition of the DSP workforce.