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Access Press - Minnesota's Disability Community Newspaper

Direct support providers work with honor, need a raise

by // January 10th, 2017

Well, here we are again as a state with another surprising budget surplus forecast that exceeds one billion dollars for 2017!

The question is, will the workforce crisis be addressed or ignored again?

For the two years previous in 2015 and 2016, the state of Minnesota had a budget surplus that exceeded one billion dollars. The governor and the legislative leadership did not pass on any money, any cost of living adjustments to the lowest paid workers (our direct service professionals or DSPs) who work honorably, tirelessly, selflessly, and with dedication for people with disabilities each and every day.

Knowing full well that there are currently 9,000 unfilled positions and record turnover rates of people doing direct care work with our elderly, people recovering from devastating medical setbacks, and people with disabilities, some of our elected officials once again ignored and again relegated our invaluable direct care workers to the lowest priority level.

Confusing yes, disrespectful yes, and short-sighted yes.

“Life’s most urgent question is: what are you doing for others?” said Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

DSPs dedicate their lives to doing for others every day. They promote choice and integration. They are the reason someone is cleaned, fed and dressed for the day. They are the reason individuals are able to attend their doctor appointments. They are the reason individuals are able to work, pay taxes, contribute to our economy, and get out into our amazing community. They are the reason people are not stuck in their homes, not feeling all alone, and devalued. They bring joy, respect, dignity and happiness to those who may need help through no fault of their own.

We know as a society that anything can happen to anyone, at any time and that the true greatness of any society is how we support and take care of each during periods of need. Additionally, we dedicate ourselves to making sure that our loved ones are given the opportunity to reach their highest potential no matter what the setback or disability.

It is the DSP, this low paid worker, this invaluable individual, that dedicates him or herself every day to improving all of our lives.

Governor and legislative leaders, please address the workforce crisis and the direct service crisis as your top priority in 2017. Listen to the many elected officials who worked tirelessly and champion our cause. Do the right thing! Show the world how Minnesota values our workers who are the backbone and foundation for caring for all of us.

-Norm Munk is the chief executive officer of Partnership Resources, Inc., St. Louis Park.



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10 Responses to “Direct support providers work with honor, need a raise”

  1. Michael Kraines says:

    Of all the people working to support vulnerable adults, from the Department of Human Services on through county social workers to program administrators and provider direct service workers, it is the direct service professional that matters most to the people receiving Home and Community Based Services. All the plans being made and all the effort put forth to support Olmstead, Employment First, and numerous other initiatives may one day be tossed in the waste basket if the State of Minnesota fails to recognize the value of the direct service professional and address the very real staffing crisis that has marred this field. Without qualified and quality direct service professionals there is no quality services.

  2. Jeanne Ottman says:

    DSP’s have the valuable role of ensuring health and safety of our state’s most vulnerable individuals. They help provide fulfillment and joy to the lives of others. There have been amazing DSP’s that did not want to leave their jobs, but had to leave due to low wages and not being able to make a livable wage. Any one of us is a brain injury away from needing these critical services. Shame on the state decision makers for not seeing the value of these selfless workers!

  3. Mike Burke says:

    It is time to recognize Direct Service Professionals as the real backbone of services provided in MN. All State agencies, providers, and programs are useless with caregivers. When our well trained caring staff are leaving to work in fast food because they pay more, we have a problem. It is embarrassing to be associated with a system that does not value people more than “french fries”. All of us are a moment from needing a caregiver and I hope I don’t have to go to a drive thru to get help. Please make caregivers (DSP’s) a priority now.

  4. Tom Weaver says:

    What an excellent letter in support of direct support providers! Every day I have the privilege of seeing the compassion, care and commitment of DSPs as they provide essential services to Minnesota’s most vulnerable population. And without question, the quality of care is directly related to the quality of DSPs. It is time for the state to place the appropriate value on this critical work!!

  5. Steve Howard says:

    Well said Norm. It is important that we all remember that many of the DSP’s we support, will be the same ones that will be supporting us or one of our family members some day. We are all on the road to being disabled. We just get there at different times. My fear is that many of our political leaders won’t make this a priority until it hits their lives personally. Then, who will be there for them? Tragic and unacceptable.

  6. Dawn Wambeke says:

    In the words of one of the thousands of caring and compassionate Direct Support Professionals in Minnesota (who we are privileged to have working at Advance Opportunities in Marshall):
    “I am inspired to come to work, to do better for the greater good of another’s life. I love my job for one reason that could be described a million different ways. THE PEOPLE. Being a job coach for these individuals is unbelievably rewarding. My job is honest, respected. Always the same but always different. My co-workers and I are not just DSP’s but counselors, teachers, nurses, coaches, advocates and friends to the people we serve. We get to end our days knowing we helped someone, whether by teaching a new job skill, giving a medication, doing first aid or just lending an ear. I absolutely love my job because it is not a job, but a way of life.
    My family and I have made huge sacrifices due to lack of financial stability…missing appointments, not being home with a sick child (or staying home and missing out on pay), deciding to either buy groceries or pay a bill. It’s not even living paycheck to paycheck, but living paycheck to the next day. Despite the numerous sacrifices we all make, in the end it’s all okay when you know you are making a difference in someone else’s life. Whether we as DSP’s get raises or not, we will continue to come to work because our clients need us.”
    Come on MN – let’s show her that her job is “honest and respected”. Let’s make sure our direct support professionals do not have to continue to make a choice between doing a job they love, providing an invaluable service to one of our most vulnerable populations, or sacrificing their family’s financial well being.

  7. Providing quality care to those who need it most requires quality employees. Minnesota prides itself in being a leader in the quality OF care our employees provide to all who need it. What Minnesota does not lead in is the fact that providers have been footing the bill for the increase in cost while still providing quality care. We have foregone our other needs and postponed growth initiatives in order to put our resources towards hiring quality personnel.
    The need for services is growing – the qualified workforce is not.
    If we are to continue providing these quality of life services, we need to be able to hire qualified employees which requires us to provide a living wage.
    Providers want to take care of their own – Minnesota wants to take care of their own – we have the funds – let’s take care of our citizens in a manner in which they have not only earned, they deserve through quality services and a living wage.

  8. Chris Salter says:

    Thank you for your inspirational words, Norm. 2017 must be the year in which the Governor and our legislative leaders act to address the DSP workforce crisis. Such selfless and essential work needs to be rewarded with livable wages.

  9. Holly Pounds says:

    It has been said that the measure of a society is found in how it treats it’s most vulnerable citizens. This could be extended to how it treats those who care for the most vulnerable as well. It’s time for our state and nation to recognize care-giving as the profession it is. The demand for skilled and competent Direct Support Professionals is currently high and predicted to increase. Wages MUST match the hard work and qualifications these employees put forth and possess.

  10. Lisa Olson says:

    I agree.
    As a person who is responsible to recruit and hire direct support professionals, I am finding it difficult to find people to hire and to stay in this type of position. People deserve to be paid a living wage for the hard work they perform; they need a raise! Please support this worthwhile cause.



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