WASHINGTON – 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.”
“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 DSPs experience.”
The bipartisan bill is supported by the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), Advocates Building Lasting Equality (ABLE) NH, and other leading advocates for individuals who experience disabilities.
“Granite Staters impacted by disabilities face significant workforce shortages,” said Isadora Rodriguez-Legendre, Executive Director of the NH Council on Developmental Disabilities. “Senators Hassan and Collins’ bill will help recognize Direct Support Professionals as a distinct classification of workers in the healthcare support occupations and will identify important workforce trends that impact quality of services for individuals who experience disabilities throughout New Hampshire and Maine. Direct Support Professionals have a very important job in supporting our most vulnerable citizens and we need to respect them and the work they do as separate from other health care aides.”
“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.”
“Families and individuals impacted by disability devote countless hours trying to recruit, hire, train and retain Direct Support Professionals-the workforce shortage harms an individual’s right to community participation and drains families," said Lisa D. Beaudoin, Executive Director of ABLE NH. "ABLE NH is very grateful to Senator Hassan for championing this important legislation which is simply looking to make a distinction in workforce data collection so that the disability community, service providers and public agencies can accurately address the DSP workforce challenges we face.”
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.