Workers raise awareness for DSP Recognition Week

(Rothery Sullivan)
Published: Sep. 11, 2023 at 6:33 PM EDT
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CARIBOU, Maine (WAGM) - Supporters took to the streets of Caribou today to raise awareness for Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.

Direct Support Professionals, or DSPs, are responsible for providing community-based care for individuals with disabilities. They help disabled adults and children integrate in the community, develop skills, and offer any other support they may need.

Governor Janet Mills proclaimed this week to be DSP Recognition Week due to the necessity of direct support workers in Maine communities. In Governor Mills proclamation, she states, “an adequate workforce of high-quality DSPs is necessary for the people of Maine to respond to the needs of people with disabilities, and to avoid more costly institutional care.”

Despite the importance of the DSP job role, many associations across Aroostook County have reported a DSP shortage. Workers stood on Bennett Drive in Caribou to not only raise awareness for the work DSPs do but also for the shortage of DSP staff.

Jason Gillis, a DSP for children’s rehabilitation at Northern Maine General, commented, “There is a significant need for DSPs in this area. Last I looked there was a 160 day waiting list just for the kids who need a DSP . . . that’s a kid that’s running at risk of not being able to stay at school or stay in their home while they’re not getting the services they need to help integrate them . . . so that’s really why we’re out here today.”

Tammy Michaud, a Section 28 Program Coordinator for Northern Maine General, explained why she decided to stand on the side of the road with a sign. “We are trying to bring awareness that adults and children can benefit from anyone’s support,” Michaud said.

The supporters hope that their demonstration will let people in the Caribou community know about the shortage and how important DSPs are to ensuring community growth.