What is a DSP?
People with developmental needs and autism have every right to live a happy, productive life and be involved in the community. Sometimes this isn’t possible without the help of a Direct Support Professional. DSPs help individuals on a daily basis with anything they need, from tying their shoes, to making dinner, to helping them catch the bus. DSPs spend anywhere from a few hours a week to 24/7 with the individuals they support.
DSPs are one of the most essential roles here at Excentia, making up more than 75% of our staff. They are the embodiment of our mission to enable people with developmental needs to live as independently and fully as they desire within the community.
What is the DSP Crisis?
The role of a DSP is one of the most important, but not always the easiest. There are 55,000 DSPs in Pennsylvania, which clearly illustrates the high demand for their services. However, in 2018 alone, 13,000 of these positions were left unfilled, and 20,000 turned over.
This high turnover rate and so many unfilled positions can lead to individuals not getting the level of care they deserve. This deficit means the DSPs who are employed must work longer hours, provide more care, and get burned out more easily. When new employees are hired, they may get thrown into the field too quickly without proper training, work long hours, or be paired with an individual whose needs they are unable to meet. All these factors can contribute to improper care of individuals, no matter the intention.
Excentia is committed to doing our part to fix the national DSP crisis. As DSPs have one of the most important roles at Excentia, we do our best to ensure they are satisfied with their job. We take the necessary steps to keep our employees happy and healthy, so they can provide the best support and care possible to the individuals we serve. According to a recent employee satisfaction survey, 90% of Excentia employees feel that their work is valued, and would like to work at Excentia for a long time.
Part of the reason our satisfaction rate is so high is because we are constantly working hard to ensure all DSP positions are filled with knowledgeable and compassionate people. In addition to phone screens and background checks, potential DSPs are taken on site visits to where they will be working to ensure they are prepared for their new role.
Employees receive comprehensive paid training on the best care practices, the history of how individuals with developmental needs and autism have been treated in the past, and the values of Excentia so they are able to provide care to the best of their abilities. DSPs are also offered benefits, higher weekend pay, a retention bonus, and employee appreciation events. Excentia offers competitive pay based on position, schedule, and experience because we believe that DSPs deserve competitive compensation for the important work they do. This also ensures that the best possible supports are provided to the people we serve.
What You Can Do
The most important thing you can do is educate yourself and others, and advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves. Pennsylvania Advocacy and Resources for Autism and Intellectual Disability (PAR) offers an advocacy toolkit including many helpful resources to help with the DSP crisis. They offer a letter you can ask your legislator to sign requesting their support for more funds to be allocated for Direct Support Professionals, and many other resources.
The DSP Crisis is one that Excentia is working hard to eliminate, and you can too. People with developmental disabilities have every right to all the supports they need, and we will continue to work towards achieving this goal. If you’re interested in becoming a DSP, apply at ourexcentia.org. We offer a variety of full-time and part-time positions available that allow you to make a positive impact each and every day.