In The Politics of Autism, I discuss the day-to-day challenges facing autistic people and their families. One is a shortage of caregivers and direct support professionals, which is likely to get worse. And for policymakers, another problem is a lack of data.
U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), both members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, introduced bipartisan legislation today 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 New Hampshire, Maine, 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, and a companion bipartisan bill led by Representative Kathleen Rice (D-NY-04) was introduced today in the House of Representatives.
“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 introduced today builds on Senator Hassan’s ongoing work to support home health care workers and Direct Support Professionals. Senator Hassan recently joined Senator Collins in cosponsoring a bipartisan resolution designating September 8 through September 14 as National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week to recognize the contribution of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) to the nation’s health care system. Last fall, Senator Hassan joined her colleagues in introducing legislation to address the demand for direct care workers by strengthening support for workers who provide daily living assistance to millions of older Americans, people with disabilities, and others with chronic care needs, and she visited Senior Helpers of the Greater Seacoast to discuss the importance of investing in workforce development initiatives to address these sorts of job shortages in the state.