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A workforce in crisis: Disability services are seeing a shortage of direct support staff

Direct support professionals are a lifeline to people with disabilities, but the turnover rate has reached a crisis level.

YORK COUNTY, Pa. — Disability services are chronically underfunded, and the problem has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Nationwide, the health care industry is seeing a shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSP).  Service providers are now doing what they can to recruit and retain employees amidst a workforce crisis.

The work of a DSP is expansive. They build relationships and provide around the clock care for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. However, the turnover rate has reached a crisis level and the workforce has plateaued.

“Direct support professionals are some of the most underpaid, undervalued professionals in our community,” said Greg miller, Penn-mar Human Services’ President & CEO.

On average, DSP’s make a little more than $11 an hour nationwide—wages bound by state and federal funding. Some service providers are now shuffling finances to create a pay bump and hire workers, instead of waiting for government support.

Penn-Mar is investing more than $2 million in their workforce, raising the starting hourly wage to $15.50 an hour.

“Retention is about valuing people in the workplace,” added Miller. “It’s about making sure that their concerns are heard, that they are communicated with in a respectful way and feeling like they are part of what we do here as a mission.”

DSP’s are a lifeline for people living with IDD. They not only give them a seat at the table, but a voice, and a chance, to pursue their dreams.

“Maybe, just maybe, some of us have had a little bit of a taste of what it feels like to be isolated and not to be able to go do what you want to do, when you want to do it. Welcome to the world of being a person with a disability and that’s been for a lifetime,” said Miller. “I just encourage folks that have not considered a career in this field to consider the opportunity give away the best thing you have, which is yourself, each day to another person.”

To learn more about the career of a direct support professional, click here.

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