EXPERT UPDATE - The Direct Support Professional Workforce Crisis
by Carol Britton Laws, PhD, MSW, FAAIDD
One of the most concerning issues affecting people with developmental disabilities, their families and communities right now is the state of the direct support professional (DSP) workforce, commonly called “the DSP crisis.” The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is committed to providing solutions for the problems that most impact these communities.
To that end, GCDD contracted with expert Dr. Carol Britton Laws of the Institute on Human Development & Disability (IHDD) at the University of Georgia (UGA) to investigate and advise us on the state of the DSP crisis in Georgia and across the country.
Dr. Laws wrote a white paper titled The Direct Support Professional Workforce Crisis: Challenges, State Approaches, and Opportunities for Georgia, that outlines the crisis and the approach Georgia and other states are taking to serve the disability community.
An excerpt from her white paper:
There is a growing demand for DSPs to support citizens with disabilities in home and community settings. DSPs are staff who are employed to provide a wide range of support services to individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) on a day-to-day basis, including habilitation, health needs, personal care, employment, transportation, recreation, housekeeping and other home management supports, so that these individuals can live and work in their communities and lead self-directed, community and social lives.
The direct support workforce is one of the fastest growing in America due to population growth, the increased life expectancy among persons with disabilities, the aging of family caregivers, and the mandated movement from institutional to community-based services.
This demand is outpacing the supply of available workers. Vacancy rates and voluntary turnover is high. Low wages and limited benefits, minimal training, ineffective supervision, and few opportunities for career growth, combined with the growing complexity of work, are barriers to creating a stable workforce. The crisis of care in home and community-based service settings is of high concern in Georgia. The annual turnover rate of direct support professionals is 45%. Only 64% of staff stays in their positions for more than one year. The average hourly wage is $10.30 (below the national average of $11.76 and far below the living wage for Georgia for one adult and one child of $22.52). Only 16.3% receive any kind of paid time off, and health insurance is only offered to 43.9%.
The DSP crisis is extremely costly to the service system and to the individuals who need assistance. The DSP crisis puts people with I/DD who need assistance at great risk of harm, contributes to unreasonably long waiting lists for services, and is leading many people to reconsider more expensive institutional models of segregated care outside their home.
Read Dr. Law’s white paper and learn about the solutions Georgia and other states hope to implement.
Dr. Carol Britton Laws, Associate Clinical Professor in Disability Studies, IHDD/UCEDD, College of Family and Consumer Sciences, UGA coordinates the disability studies certificate program at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She also directs Destination Dawgs, UGA’s first inclusive post-secondary education program for youth with I/DD.
Through the Living Well Georgia project, Dr. Laws leads efforts to enhance quality in home and community-based services and supports for adults with disabilities. She has worked in the disability field, in roles that range from direct support professional to state-level program design, for almost 20 years. She lives in Athens, GA with her husband, Jason. Visit Dr. Laws’ webpage for additional information.