These essential health workers are a lifeline for vulnerable people with developmental disabilities. Congress must extend resources to assist them during the COVID-19 crisis.
Milwaukee – As the U.S.
acts with speed and scale to support frontline health worker heroes during the
COVID-19 crisis, a key group of heroes is in danger of being left behind.
Direct Support Professionals, also
known as DSPs, are health workers who provide essential supports to people with
developmental disabilities. They, along with their employers and supporters, are
advocating for their inclusion in pending legislation and program
are motivated by professionalism and their love for the people they support,”
said Mike Thirtle, Ph.D., president and CEO of Bethesda, a leading nonprofit
organization employing nearly 2,000 DSPs across the country. “Their work is
complex: they administer medications, perform tube feedings when needed and
respond to urgent medical situations. They are also working 24/7 in homes with
people known or suspected to have COVID-19.”
DSPs are saving lives by diligently doing the infection control work,
maintaining separation where needed, and keeping homes clean and people healthy.
Many DSPs are working extra hours to cover shifts lost to sick or unavailable
co-workers. They are also helping people with disabilities cope with feeling
the loss of beloved family members or friends who can no longer come to visit.
supported DSPs as much as possible through emergency actions that are both
necessary and costly. Like hospitals, Bethesda has needed to purchase personal
protective equipment for frontline teams. Critical staffing needs have
necessarily led to significant labor cost increases. These emergency costs will
continue until this pandemic abates.
the situation, Bethesda is strongly recommending that:
- Congress pass the proposed
“Heroes Bill” legislation that helps frontline health workers and, critically,
include DSP health workers in its scope;
- Congress expand the CARES
Act Paycheck Protection Program to include help for all not-for-profit organizations
that provide community-level supports for the most vulnerable people, like
those with developmental disabilities; and
- Finally, when reliable, widespread
and rapid-cycle testing is made available, DSPs and people with developmental
disabilities should be given some priority, as knowing those infected and those
with immunity would empower organizations like Bethesda to best protect people
with developmental disabilities, who are inherently at greater risk for the
ravages of severe COVID-19.
government’s temporary measures can make all the difference for people with
developmental disabilities and the people who love them,” Thirtle said. “As we
work through this crisis together as a nation, I urge you to please remember
the six million Americans with developmental disabilities and their families,
the organizations that help them, and the brave DSPs who are there for them
urges everyone to contact their Congressional representatives on behalf of
DSPs. To do so, visit the Bethesda Advocacy Center by using this link: https://www.votervoice.net/BLC/campaigns/73261/respond.
Headquartered in Watertown, Wis., Bethesda is a national organization providing homes and other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and celebrated its 115th anniversary in 2019. Bethesda strives to become a central point of connection that unites people who have disabilities with communities and provides essential resources to help them live their lives to the fullest. The organization offers more than 300 programs across the country, provided 4 million hours of support across all programs in the most recent fiscal year, and is guided by Christian faith. Visit http://www.bethesdalc.org, like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.