NYACH submitted comments to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) encouraging the inclusion of peer service providers, care managers, and direct support professionals in the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system for federal and state data on the labor market. These comments were based on a careful review of the current codes, a labor market analysis, and input from various industry groups and employers across different sub-sectors of healthcare.
The SOC system defines the occupations used for data collection on the workforce. These codes are used across federal and state agencies and initiatives for statistics on the labor market, including the OMB, US Department of Labor, the New York State Department of Labor, the American Community Survey, the Current Population Survey and others. Inclusion of these codes can have a profound impact not only on the labor market data that are made available and widely utilized by local and national educators, industry policy makers, job seekers, and other workforce professionals, but also, in many cases on the application of Federal resources to support the training and connection of eligible individuals to employment. In July 2016, the OMB released a proposed revision of the SOC for 2018 and opened a public comment period through September 20th. OMB plans to continue to revise these codes every 10 years after 2018.
A brief summary of the occupations that NYACH recommended for inclusion is below:
Peer Service Providers: While mental health and substance abuse counselors as well as the generic human and social service assistants are included occupations in the SOC system, peer service providers, such as Certified Recovery Peer Advocates, Certified Peer Specialists, HIV Peer Workers, and others, are not. Peer service providers are unique in that they have both special skills and lived experience with the chronic or acute illness(es) of their clients and provide non-clinical social and emotional support and assistance with the effective management of health, mental health, and/or substance use disorders. Over 34 states offer Medicaid reimbursement for peer support services and this occupation is expected to grow as health care reform places greater emphasis on behavioral health and provides increased support for the self-management of chronic diseases.
Care Managers: Care coordination and care management have emerged as key strategies to achieve the triple aim of improved population health, improved patient experience and lower costs in new models of care. Care managers engage and maintain engagement with difficult to reach patients, assess patient needs, connect patients with social services and other resources, assist and coach patients in overcoming barriers to care, coordinate between healthcare providers and settings, participate in the development of care plans, and track adherence and changes to care plans over time. While care and case management are currently included in the definition of healthcare social workers within the SOC system, there is no separate occupation for care managers, care coordinators, or case managers, who might not be licensed social workers.
Direct Support Professionals: Direct support professionals form the backbone of the workforce serving the developmentally disabled population, yet they are not listed as an occupation within the SOC system. They are often categorized into occupations such as home health aide, personal care aide, or healthcare support worker, despite numerous distinctions between these occupations and the direct support professional, who focuses on the specific needs of individuals with developmental disabilities. DSPs support individuals in their daily lives, promote their independence and integration into the community, and advocate for their needs and goals. They teach life skills such as homecare activities, money management, social management, and personal care management, are trained to deal with combative behaviors, and administer medication under the supervision of a licensed nurse.