April 28, 2021

Senators Hassan, Collins Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Improve Data on Direct Support Workforce

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 to address the critical need for more Direct Support Professionals in the workforce. Direct Support Professionals assist with communication, provide on-the-job coaching, and help with daily living needs for individuals who experience disabilities. Unfortunately, home- and community-based service providers in New Hampshire, Maine, and across the country are struggling to recruit and retain Direct Support Professionals.

 

One challenge in addressing the problem is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes Direct Support Professionals under the broader category of “home health care aides,” which makes it impossible to accurately track workforce trends. The bipartisan Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act would revise the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ classification system, ensuring better data on this pressing workforce challenge.

 

“As a mother of a son who experiences severe disabilities, I have seen day after day the vital role that Direct Support Professionals play for individuals with disabilities and their families,” said Senator Hassan. “Not only do they assist with daily tasks, but they also help people who experience disabilities participate fully in their communities. Their work profoundly touches the lives of the individuals and families that they work with, and we must ensure that there are enough Direct Support Professionals in the workforce to provide this crucial support. This bipartisan bill would update the way the federal government tracks workforce data on Direct Support Professionals in order to inform better policies and provide more support to individuals who experience disabilities.”

 

“Every day, Direct Support Professionals work hard to provide critical support to individuals with disabilities that leads to more independent living and a better quality of life,” said Senator Collins. “We face a considerable shortage of information on the work they do and the important services they provide. Our bipartisan bill would address this information deficit by requiring OMB to improve data collection to help us better understand and address the challenges Direct Support Professionals experience.”

 

Senators Bob Casey (D-PA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) are also cosponsors of the legislation.

 

The bipartisan bill is supported by the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), Advocates Building Lasting Equality (ABLE) NH, and other leading advocates for individuals who experience disabilities.

 

“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.”

 

“COVID’s negative impact on the disability community both highlighted the important role Direct Support Professionals play in the lives of people with disabilities as well as exacerbated the existing workforce shortage.  Individuals impacted by disability devote countless hours trying to recruit, hire, train and retain DSPs--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 reintroducing 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.”

 

This bipartisan bill builds on Senator Hassan’s ongoing work to support home health care workers and Direct Support Professionals. Senator Hassan and colleagues secured more than $12.6 billion in dedicated emergency funding for State Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) in the American Rescue Plan.

 

For a one-pager on Senator Hassan and Collins’ bill, click here. For text of the legislation, click here.

 

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