Shortage of Direct Support Professionals
Picture this: You’re a parent of 3 young children. You and your spouse both work full time jobs outside of the home. You get off of work and you need to go pick your children up from the school’s aftercare program. You have a 10 year old daughter in the 5
grade and an 8 year old son in the 3
Your youngest child is 6 and in kindergarten. He has just been diagnosed with Autism, and you’ve been told he has a mild intellectual disability as well. He has a severe speech delay and does not currently communicate with words, and the school keeps sending you messages about his behaviors, telling you they think he may need a behavior plan. Today when you get to the aftercare program the director tells you he has bitten another child, his third this year, and if it happens again he will no longer be able to attend the program.
As you’re driving home in tears, wondering how in the world you’re possibly going to manage finding yet another daycare provider for your child, you’re also worrying about getting dinner ready, picking up your child’s medication, figuring out how to get him to his therapy the next day, and on and on and on. You remember that you and your Service and Support Administrator had talked about a skilled care provider who can help your son work on some of his daily living skills, possibly in the early evening hours while you try and get dinner ready or do homework with your other kids. They can help implement the skills he is learning in his therapies. You know that they told you that with your budget it can only support 3-5 hours of services per week, and it’s pretty difficult to find a provider who’s willing to work that kind of a shift. At this point, you’d take anyone. You need help. It’s affecting your other kids, your relationship with your spouse, your entire life.
For many of the families being served by DCBDD, this is a pretty typical occurrence. People who are familiar with the DD field know that there is a real shortage of Direct Service Providers, or DSPs, and unfortunately, Delaware County is no different. If these parents/individuals could find someone to work with them even one evening a week, the difference it could make would be life-changing. But finding a person willing to work these short, choppy shifts is difficult and in some cases even impossible.
Many families turn to friends, neighbors and relatives to find a provider. And for some that works very well. For others, it is not an option. Some people don’t have family that lives nearby, some don’t have these options at all. What do they do? These are difficult questions that people in our community face every single day.
Recently, DCBDD hosted Provider Roundtable Discussions in which providers, parents, individuals and staff members from the agency have come together to discuss, among other topics, the DSP shortage to see how to bridge the gap and help both providers and families/individuals through this struggle. First and foremost, having all sides hear each other’s points of view has helped immensely. Agencies and independent providers are able to give individuals and families ideas of how to better find the help they so badly need, and conversely, the people needing served are able to give the providers perspective as well.
In addition, there are incentives available for providers to encourage taking on shorter shifts. One of these is to go through additional trainings, at which point, when you have finished, you may be eligible to make a higher hourly rate. That incentive may make it more feasible for you to travel farther or take a shorter shift. Also, The Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, DODD, is recently under new administration. The new Director, Jeff Davis, has a provider background, and he has already discussed how he plans on focusing on helping to heal the DSP shortage. He is hoping to increase the provider wages, and possibly adding more incentives, making it possible for people to get the help they so badly need.
There is hope out there for the individuals and families in Delaware County. Working closely with your Service and Support Administrator or Service Coordinator is the first step. Do not lose faith in finding a provider that will fit your family’s needs. It may take time and be a process, but eventually, help will be found.