Appreciation and awareness for Direct Support Professionals

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:41 PM EDT
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HOULTON, Maine (WAGM) - Governor Janet Mills proclaimed this week to be Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week to show appreciation for care workers and to raise awareness for the current staffing shortage in Maine.

Rob Moran, the Executive Director at Community Living Association (CLA) explains what DSPs are and why they are important to the community. “DSP stands for Direct Support Professional – that’s the official what it stands for, but what it really means is people who care, people who, I don’t want to use the word love but they really are invested in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities,” says Moran.

Moran says that DSPs have extensive responsibilities. “They might help people get a job, they might help people get through their day-to-day activities, they help people take care of themselves, and they’re just really people who are there lending a hand and making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”

This responsibility may create pressure for workers, Moran says. “Definitely a humungous level of responsibility being a DSP that you might not find in other fields,” explains Moran. “I’m not going to say it’s easy because some days are tough, but a lot of people love this work and the fact that we have multiple people who are 30-40 years really speaks to that, because you can work anywhere now.” Moran says that this appreciation week is necessary to show DSPs that their work is valued.

Angelina Jackman from Living Innovations agrees with Moran. “This week is about them, about saying thank you for their dedication, their hard work, their tenacity because it’s not always easy,” Jackman says. “Very rewarding, always rewarding, but not always easy.”

Lori Ingraham, a DSP who has worked at CLA for nearly 20 years, says she has stayed in her job role for so long because of the way she helps disabled individuals connect to their community. “I really like what I do . . . we do programs, we go out into the community . . . a lot of the community members really enjoy seeing our guys.”

Jackman explains that community integration is an important part of the DSP role, benefitting both individuals with disabilities and community members. “They don’t really get the same opportunities that we get sometimes to just be out and about in the community, so to do that is the first step. Get them out, let them be a part of their community, show everybody what they can contribute because it is a lot.” Jackman also mentioned that the shortage is particularly impacting areas in Northern Aroostook County.

Many individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) in need of this support are unable to get the services they need locally due to the shortage, says Moran. “People with IDD are losing options – people are getting moved, sent to other parts of the state, maybe even out of state sometimes. There’s just a shortage of staff so it’s really important to recognize the great work that they do.”

Both CLA and Living Innovations are hosting appreciation events this week, along with hanging signs to raise awareness within the community about the impacts of the DSP shortage.