Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH), members of the Senate Health Committee, introduced bipartisan legislation to address the critical need for more Direct Support Professionals in the workforce. Direct Support Professionals provide vital support to individuals who experience disabilities, like assisting with communication, providing on-the-job coaching, and helping with daily living needs. Unfortunately, home and community based service providers in Maine, New Hampshire, and across the country are struggling to recruit and retain Direct Support Professionals.
To compound this problem, the Bureau of Labor Statistics system that is used to analyze workforce trends classifies Direct Support Professionals under the broader category of “home health care aide,” which makes it impossible to accurately track workforce trends for Direct Support Professionals. The bipartisan Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act would revise the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ classification system, ensuring better data on these pressing workforce challenges. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is also a cosponsor of the legislation.
“Every day, Direct Support Professionals work hard to provide those in need with critical support that leads to more independent living and a better quality of life,” said Senator Collins, the Chairman of the Senate Aging Committee. “As they provide these important services, we face a critical shortage of information on the work they do. Our bipartisan bill addresses this information deficit by requiring OMB to improve data collection to help us better understand and address the challenges Direct Support Professionals experience.”
“As the mother of a son who experiences severe disabilities, I know firsthand what a difference Direct Support Professionals can make in the lives of those that they work with,” Senator Hassan said. “Direct Support Professionals not only help with day-to-day tasks, but they also help ensure that people who experience disabilities are fully included in their communities. Their tireless work can make a world of a difference for people who experience disabilities, their families, and their entire communities, and we need more Direct Support Professionals in the workforce who can provide such critical, high-quality care. Our bipartisan legislation will help address this workforce shortage, and I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that people with disabilities have the support that they need to thrive.”
The bipartisan bill is supported by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR) and other leading advocates for individuals who experience disabilities.
“In Maine we estimate that direct support professionals account for more than 12,000 jobs and $265 million dollars in economic activity but the data needed to fully show our impact is missing,” said Heidi Mansir, executive director of Uplift, a Gardiner-based organization that assists individuals with developmental disabilities, and board member of both ANCOR and Maine Association for Community Service Providers. “I applaud the work Senator Collins is doing in championing this bill which will help illustrate that this workforce is not only important to those we serve, but a vital part of our economy.”
“For years, ANCOR has advocated for better data on our direct support workforce because we fundamentally believe that robust data is a badly needed step toward solving the direct support workforce crisis,” said Barbara Merrill, Chief Executive Officer for ANCOR. “That’s why we’re so grateful for the leadership of Senators Hassan and Collins in introducing the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act, which will propel us forward significantly in our efforts to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities can be supported by qualified professionals who enhance their quality of life.”
The bipartisan bill builds on Senator Collins’ ongoing work to support home health care workers and Direct Support Professionals. Last year, Senator Collins authored a bipartisan resolution designating September 8 through September 14 as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week to honor the contributions of Direct Support Professionals to the nation’s health care system.
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