Logo of the DSP Week virtual event.

Joe Macbeth, president and chief executive officer of the National Alliance for Director Support Professionals (NADSP), describes his relationship with DSP Recognition Week as love/hate.

“Direct support professionals (DSPs) need to be recognized 52 weeks a year, not just one,” he said, explaining the desire to honor the professionals who work as allies to people with disabilities, but also the frustration with crisis-level personnel shortages, low pay, and high turnover that continue long after the well-intentioned spotlight fades.

This year’s celebration runs from September 13–19, with several national and regional organizations planning events. Most of them will be virtual due to the pandemic, and many will stress the importance of year-round recruitment and retention efforts.

The Institute on Community Integration, for example, is partnering with NADSP to host From Praise to Promise, a virtual lineup of sponsored events that are free to online participants.

One highlight of the event will be discussion of NADSP-TV, a repository of virtual trainings, products, online forums, and other events, which is expected to be unveiled early in 2021.

“We had to cancel our annual conference in Milwaukee due to COVID-19, but we didn’t want this week to go by without saying, ‘We haven’t forgotten you. Let us give you some tools and virtual recognition,’” Macbeth said. “We wanted to make it something that would truly last beyond the week of the event itself.”

Another session will feature a panel of DSPs and ICI’s Jerry Smith screening and discussing Invaluable: The Unrecognized Profession of Direct Support, Smith’s film documenting the value and challenges of the DSP workforce.

And Ann Hardiman will be honored as the recipient of the 2020 John F. Kennedy Jr. Award for Direct Support Workforce Advocacy & Leadership. Hardiman, chief innovation officer for the New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation, led the New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies for more than 20 years. She mentored Macbeth, NADSP’s first employee, and provided office space to the organization in its early days.

The American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), meanwhile, is offering recognition items, logos, and social media resources for provider agencies, families, and community organizations to recognize the DSPs in their lives.

Finally, NADSP is partnering with The Council on Quality and Leadership to extend DSP initiatives beyond the confines of the September week in other ways. The organizations are collecting and sharing organization-wide programs that can lift up DSPs throughout the year through a survey. In one recent submission, an organization shared how it ties DSP skills and competencies to pay increases and career development.

“DSPs are creative, resourceful, and available, all the while exposing themselves and their families to COVID. So, this year we’re kicking it up a notch,” Macbeth said. “We have to promise them that they are our heroes, in and out of the pandemic, and that we will fight for them to achieve living wages and meaningful career ladders.”