An Appreciation Of DSPs

A good portion of Chimes’ senior executives, including our CEO Terence Blackwell, started their careers by working as direct-support professionals (DSPs): the folks who do the day-to-day work at group homes and day treatment programs. The same is true of dozens of members of Chimes mid-level management teams, clinical practitioners and consultants.

Many of the ex-DSPs at Chimes entered the field at its infancy. They were there when the laws changed and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities were freed from the prison-like institutions where they had been warehoused. That history gives the entire Chimes family a particular appreciation for the work done by DSPs.

Here’s why:

Many of us know firsthand how difficult it is to make ends meet on a DSP salary. Medicaid reimbursements determine how much a DSP is paid; and tight federal and state budgets keep those wages low. Despite that, many of us also know how rewarding it can be to work as a DSP. We remember the joy that the people we serve first felt when they were freed to live, work and dream like anyone else.

Of course many of us know too just how challenging it is to be a DSP. We remember the struggle of trying to help people with troubling and perplexing behavioral problems, and yet we know just how important this work is … because many of us remember the dark days of institutionalization that came before.

Sept. 9-15 is Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, a five-day celebration of the work that DSPs do across the nation. DSP Week is run by ANCOR, the American Network of Community Options and Resources, which advocates on behalf of DSPs before Congress and federal agencies.

We support all of ANCOR’s efforts. They’re doing great work. But we are particularly thrilled by DSP Recognition Week. Because it isn’t just a week for lobbying for better funding. It’s also a time to share the joy of working as a DSP. So let us share a little joy now:

What all of us who have worked as DSPs know is that the job changes you. You learn to use your heart as a tool. You practice kindness because the job calls for it, and find that you’ve become kinder at home too. You develop patience at work because you can’t work otherwise, and you find you’ve become more patient no matter where you are. You spend your days with the most vulnerable members of society, and you become stronger. You open yourself to the love and the suffering of others, and somehow you become whole. You enter the lives of people who seem to have so little, only to find that both you and they are rich.

So if you’re a DSP, were a DSP, or know a DSP, take a moment this week to recognize both the gifts that DSPs bring and the rewards they reap. Take a moment to appreciate the people who take on an impossible job and then become the people who do it well.