The backbone of our services

By Brian W. Green

You may have noticed some billboards or social media posts lately calling attention to Direct Support Professionals who work in the developmental disabilities field, but you may not know what a Direct Support Professional, or DSP as they’re commonly called, is.

DSPs work directly with people with developmental disabilities and empower them to lead self-directed lives and be active members of our community. You may see a DSP supporting a person at your local store, library, entertainment venue and helping someone who may live next door to you.

DSP responsibilities can include in-home services such as helping people keep themselves and their homes clean, administering medications, assistance with shopping, money management, transportation, and much more. Other DSPs provide adult day services through local agencies.

It’s important to note that while DSPs serve the people we support, they are not employees of Riverside/Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities. Federal Medicaid laws separate agencies that coordinate services (like Riverside) from agencies and independent workers that provide direct care services. However, we work hand-in-hand ensuring the people who need services receive the care they deserve. Funding for DSPs is provided approximately 60 percent by Medicaid; 40 percent through local levy dollars (Riverside).

Through the pandemic, all these services are still necessary, and our DSPs have continued to provide this valuable service throughout the crisis. I know from my own personal experience.

My son, Josh, is 25 years old and has autism. He lives in his own apartment in Troy. Even though he has challenges that come with autism, he is supported by DSPs to assist him to succeed on his own. Although the majority of his services involve supervision via cameras in his home to ensure his safety (otherwise known as “remote supports”), DSPs help Josh properly take his medicine, assist him in preparing meals, help him to shop for groceries and help him keep himself and his apartment clean. He would simply not be able to live on his own without his DSP supporting him.

That takes me back to why Riverside, the Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, has been placing billboards and social media posts. All across Ohio and even nationally, there was a shortage of DSPs prior to the current pandemic. Riverside has been working closely with our provider partners to assist in recruitment and retention of DSPs. With the current stay at home orders, our current DSP workforce has been fulfilling this important service. Several DSPs are working overtime due to the increased demand for their services. Their dedication to the people we serve is remarkable. We are humbled and indebted to them as they continue working on the front lines, just like doctors, nurses and first responders.

We need DSPs now more than ever. They serve some of the most vulnerable people who depend on their important help through the pandemic crisis. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the flexible and rewarding career, whether full or part time, please visit our website at www.riversidedd.org/dsp-inquiry, or call us at (937) 440-3090.

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Brian W. Green is the superintendent at the Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, also known as Riverside.