ICI Co-hosts National Direct Support Professional Workforce Summit in St. Louis

Publication date: 
July 14, 2018

On June 27-28, ICI's Research and Training Center on Community Living (RTC-CL) co-hosted a national summit on the challenges facing the Direct Support Professional (DSP) workforce in this country. The summit brought together 79 key leaders/stakeholders to identify and prioritize strategies for addressing the challenges at organizational, state, and national levels, with the goal of creating recommendations for action steps. The event was organized by the RTC-CL, American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (AAIDD), National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), The Arc, and Association of University Centers on Disability (AUCD). Participants included DSPs, self-advocates and family members, advocates and national advocacy organizations, service providers and provider associations, University Centers for Excellence in Disabilities (UCEDDs), state and federal agency personnel, and technology experts.

The summit opened with an evening preview of an upcoming film that ICI's Jerry Smith (who helped organize the summit) is making about DSPs, followed by a panel discussion in response to the film that set the stage for the next day. The following morning plenary (pictured above, with co-moderator Amy Hewitt at far left) was followed by Breakout sessions to further dialogue on five strand topics related to the DSP workforce: Recruitment, Retention, Professional Development, Technology, and Public Policy. Each strand group discussed the same set of questions as they related to strand topics: 

  • What we can learn from other industries/sectors

  • Threats and opportunities

  • Strategies for increasing public awareness and support for the DSP workforce

  • Strategies for decreasing turnover and vacancy rates

  • Meeting the demand and improving the quality of the workforce

  • What supports are needed by the industry. 

The breakout leaders summarized their participants' work and identified key takeaways to address the current and future challenges of the DSP workforce. The RTC-CL is compiling the information captured during these sessions and summarizing the key actions identified by each strand area. 

"There is no single solution to the direct support workforce crisis," says ICI's Barb Kleist, who along with Hewitt, Smith, Julie Kramme, and Susan O'Nell were among the RTC-CL staff who participated in the summit. "Collaboration and partnership are needed and DSPs must be involved at every level. At RTC-CL, we will continue to research new strategies that will stabilize the DSP workforce such as recruitment, selection, and retention of Direct Support Professionals."

This summit grew out of the Workforce strand from the 2015 National Goals Conference. To learn more about the DSP workforce in the U.S., see ICI's just-released publication, Impact: Feature Issue on the Direct Support Workforce and People with Intellectual, Developmental, and Other Disabilities.