Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The DSP Problem

The DSP Problem

It has been a long while since my last post.  In fact, the last blog created a wonderful stir among the little community that reads my stuff.  I am about to make another potential stir.  I am ready. Hope you are as well…

For the past few months I have heard a few leaders of human services organizations that employ direct support professionals refer to something called, “The DSP Problem.” The theory behind the DSP Problem is that because direct support professionals are unqualified, undertrained, apathetic, unreliable and overall entry level pawns in a game that the issue of turnover, morale, abuse and neglect rests on the shoulders of the lackluster workforce.  Human service leaders are looking to correct the DSP Problem by increasing pay, improving training and finding “better” direct support professionals? The problem can be solved simply.  Right?

I believe NOTHING is further from the truth.   I do not feel that there is a “DSP Problem”. The 4 million people who currently provide direct support in the United States are very committed and professional people doing their great work, unspectacularly, everyday.  They help make the idea and notion of community living possible for many vulnerable and alienated fellow citizens.  The direct support professionals, aside from a scant few, are not the problem.

There is a “Leadership Problem”.   There are some wonderful and amazing leaders in our field.  I know many of them personally, and likely if you are reading this, you are probably a leader with whom I agree and respect.  The leaders in our field that refer to a “DSP Problem”, in my opinion, are finally beginning to see the vital role that direct support professionals have in the lives of the people they support.  States, municipalities, and organizations are now putting direct support professionals in a slightly more positive light and subsequently addressing the emerging profession of direct support by raising the expectations of the field.  Competencies for direct support professionals are being recognized and created.  Direct support professionals are beginning to be developed, educated and recognized as PROFESSIONAL.  This is a new day for DSPs but we should not view the situation as a “DSP Problem”.

I think the best solution for the “Leadership Problem” is to let the evolution of direct support take it's course!   Everyday, I have a great privilege to meet and work with direct support professionals.  I see their talent and skill.  I see the passion they have for their craft.  Most importantly, I see first hand what they do to improve the outcomes for people they support.  As managed care organizations and accreditation bodies like CQL (Council on Quality and Leadership) and NADSP (The National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals) continue to raise a bar for direct support, and as personal outcomes become the primary focus of our work, the leadership in our field will have to follow suit. On that note,  I work with closely several organizations throughout the country that are helping direct support professionals achieve a national credential.  (By the way they never referred to the "DSP Problem")!

Yes, there is a direct support workforce crisis (that was predicted 25 years ago by researchers and scholars) but the warnings were not listened to.  We will need 1 million direct support workers by 2022.  That said, with all the developing educational opportunities and career ladder options that are being established by progressive leadership in this country, we will see the “Leadership Problem” improve.  Thanks to direct support professionals and what they do each day to improve the lives of the people they support, leaders in the field (including me) will be humbled, will be inspired and most of all see there was never a “DSP Problem”.  We will learn from the DSPs who help create a world we everyone belongs. They will lead us. 

Happy Thanksgiving.  This year please make sure to thank a direct support professional.

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