Direct Support Professionals (DSP) work with clients with intellectual and physical developmental disabilities (DD). They represent the core and vast majority of the DD workforce. They may work in a community residence or a day program, at a facility or outside in the community. The responsibilities of a DSP are substantial and the job is increasingly complex as a result of a transformation in the field. At both the national and state level, there have been new recommendations for the core competencies of this workforce and the NYS Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) will now require an assessment of the DSP workforce on these new competencies and standards. This position is also in large demand in NYC and continues to grow and many DD organizations struggle to find suitable candidates. A 2015 brief from the NYC Labor Market Information Services that highlights the substantial challenges and opportunities for direct support workforce can be found on NYACH’s website.
As a result of these industry changes and challenges and in an effort to build the pipeline of qualified DSP’s, NYACH partnered with CUNY and the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) to redesign and enhance its credit-bearing DSP program to align with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and NYS OPWDD recommendations, in addition to the feedback of a large human services agency who served as an employer partner. NYACH conducted a cross-walk of the curriculum to the CMS and OPWDD competencies and BMCC made curriculum enhancements in the identified gap areas in order to ensure a future workforce prepared with the critical skills required to care for this population.
The first cohort of this program launched in November 2015 and the second cohort began in February 2016. The curriculum focuses on topics such as human growth and anatomy, developmental disabilities, treatment services, and professional writing for DSP’s. The course also helps students obtain certifications in CPR, Strategies for Crisis Intervention and Prevention, Approved Medication Administration, Nutrition and Choking Prevention, as well as their New York State Driver’s License, and includes a focus on professional development.
Every student that completed the course was offered full-time employment at one of the program’s two employer partners- HeartShare Human Services and AHRC New York City. Both employers participated in the program due to the challenge they faced in recruiting qualified DSPs and felt that the program produced dedicated, well-trained and mature candidates. HeartShare Human Services reported that they were particularly impressed with the program graduates’ understanding of the core competencies and the large majority of the graduates felt that the training prepared them well for the job and provided them with necessary skills such as professional writing and communication. Both employers will remain as partners for the third cohort of the program at BMCC which launches January 2017.
Due to the success of the first two cohorts, NYACH, CUNY, and BMCC held the first of a series of One CUNY: Healthcare Education Consortium workshops on the DSP training program. The goal of these workshops is to share best practices and program models of newly developed or redesigned education programs that aim to address an industry workforce need, and scale and replicate these models within CUNY as needed to align to demand. The DSP workshop focused on the workforce landscape in the DD field and the redesigned DSP program model. Through a solicitation to all CUNY schools, NYACH presented the opportunity to adopt BMCC’s enhanced DSP training program in an effort to meet the large industry demand and enhanced skills needed for this occupation. In the coming year, BMCC will provide a “train-the-trainer” and technical assistance support to New York City College of Technology as the selected CUNY school in this capacity building effort. Additional employer partners have signed on to partner for this Brooklyn-based cohort.