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 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 new brief from the NYC Labor Market Information Services on the challenges and opportunities for direct support workforce was recently released and can be found on NYACH’s website.
As a result of these industry changes and challenges, NYACH partnered with CUNY and the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) to redesign and enhance its credit-bearing DSP program to align the curriculum with the national Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and NYS OPWDD recommendations, in addition to the feedback of a large DD agency who served as an employer partner. NYACH conducted a cross-walk of the curriculum to the CMS and NYS OPWDD competencies and BMCC made curriculum enhancements in the identified gap areas in order to ensure alignment and a future workforce prepared with the critical skills required to care for this population.
The first cohort of this program launched in November 2015 with 13 individuals with funding support from NYC SBS. The curriculum focuses on topics such as human growth and anatomy, developmental disabilities, treatment services, and professional writing for DSPs. The course also helped 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 included a focus on professional development.
There was great success with the first cohort. One hundred percent of the enrolled class completed the course and every student was offered full-time employment at HeartShare Human Services within the month following graduation (one of the 13 students choose a part-time schedule due to personal preference). The second cohort of the program began in February 2016 with 14 students enrolled. Due to the success of the first cohort, a second employer has signed on to partner in this cohort and there has been additional interest from employers in the field.
NYACH plans to work with BMCC to scale the program model at CUNY in order to meet the industry’s large demand for qualified DSPs and in anticipation of a new DSP credential in NYS.