October 2023
Richard Chevrette, pictured at right with the person he supports.

Richard Chevrette (pictured at right with the person he supports) is a retired heavy construction foreman who now works as a direct support professional (DSP). In a pubic service announcement, Chevrette tells his fellow DSPs to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Amid worries about a fall surge in COVID-19 cases, the Institute on Community Integration has created a series of new public service announcements encouraging caregivers to get vaccinated. It will also distribute about 500 kits with information about COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, pain-relief devices for people with needle fears, and other items at upcoming fall events.

“Some people with disabilities, as well as older people, have an elevated risk of serious disease and hospitalization, and it can be debilitating,” said Lynda Lahti Anderson, an ICI research associate. “Meanwhile, direct support professionals (DSPs) may be working in multiple locations with people who are vulnerable, so making sure their vaccines are up to date is very important.”

The free kits will be available at the Special Olympics Inclusive Community Health Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 29 at the Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington. They include a multi-pronged soft plastic device that can be applied during a shot to minimize pain sensation; a stress ball; and other items, including vaccine information. ICI is also distributing them to several area physical, occupational, and other healthcare clinics that work with children with disabilities.

The work is part of an ongoing partnership with the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) to assist the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with public health messaging about vaccines.

Meanwhile, the Institute recently released several new public service announcements in the “It’s up to you” series. The PSAs encourage DSPs to get their COVID-19 vaccines and to encourage the people they support to get them, too.

“COVID-19 remains a significant threat, especially to those with disabilities,” said Joseph Macbeth, president and chief executive officer for the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). “We’ve come too far over nearly four years to let down our guard.”

The new video announcements, produced in partnership with NADSP and with funding from AUCD, feature real-life DSPs talking about the importance of staying vigilant about regular vaccinations.

“I understand some apprehension, and all of it is scary, but [you’ve chosen] to enter a field of with people who require assistance, and if you’re not going to protect yourself, you’re not going to be able to help anybody,” Nikeeta Smith shares.

Another video shares the story of Richard Chevrette (pictured at right with the person he supports), a retired heavy construction foreman who, looking for meaningful work in retirement, became a DSP.

“I was on the fence at first (about getting a vaccine), until I saw first-hand that Covid is very dangerous” Chevrette says. “The primary concern is the health, safety, and good life of the people you’re taking care of. It’s not you we’re talking about. It’s the people you support we’re talking about.”

DSPs’ experiences over the last few years have made them very aware of the dangers that COVID-19 presents, Macbeth said.

“Despite all of the other challenges of working during a pandemic, maintaining health remains at the forefront of direct support practice,” he said. “These public service announcements clearly illustrate the importance of taking precautions and being vaccinated.”