PIQUA — While there’s a current shortage of help for those with disabilities, Bobby Pritchard and Jason McCabe don’t seem to notice.
“Things are good. She’s been checking up on us almost every day,” Pritchard said. “She’s helping us out very good.”
“She” is Joan Haney, Pritchard and McCabe’s primary direct support professional (DSP), who has been working with them for 10 years and 16 years respectively. As a DSP, Haney helps the two with tasks such as grocery shopping, laundry, cooking and paying their bills. Currently, Haney is on medical leave and while she does still check in on the two, her husband has been helping with some of the tasks she normally does. Pritchard and McCabe’s families have also stepped in to help with things such as making sure they both have food to eat.
“My mom’s been helping out with all the food and stuff; she’s been bringing in food for us to eat and stuff. Joan could not do that, and that’s why my family’s been helping us out with food and everything,” McCabe said.
While this is a small bump in the road for Pritchard and McCabe, it ties into a larger problem regarding a shortage of DSPs in the area. Because of the shortage of DSPs to help those who need it with anything from basic household tasks to around-the-clock care, there’s nobody to fill in for DSPs like Haney who need some time off for medical or other reasons. The pandemic is only a small factor in play; the shortage of DSPs was present long before March.
“We have enough people to coordinate those services, and we have the funds to pay for those, but when we don’t have the bodies to actually deliver the amount of services (needed), that’s really what hits us hard,” Brian Green, superintendent for Riverside/Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, said. “When that happens, we may not have the amount of staffing that we really need in some of the settings that we have, or people may only be getting essential drop-in type services, because there just isn’t the manpower to do that.”
Champaign Residential Services Inc. Program Administrator Nicole Williams oversees services for individuals served by CRSI in Miami, Preble, Darke and Shelby Counties. The DSP shortage has heavily impacted CRSI — as Williams puts it, it has become extremely difficult to give their current staff a break, and as such, CRSI can’t take on new clients because they don’t want to promise services that they may not be able to provide.
“We do have, unfortunately, some homes where we provide services 24/7 and we have three, maybe four staff (members) that kind of work those shifts throughout the month, and it’s hard for them to kind of balance all that they’re being asked to do,” Williams said. “I am in awe of our staff. They go in every day with a positive attitude and a good outlook, and they are truly there to help the individuals the best that they can, and they’re doing great at it. We just need more to add to the mix of the staff that we do have.”
Melissa Nichols, community awareness and opportunities director for Riverside/Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, says that the big issue at hand is DSPs are an invisible profession that many people aren’t aware of.
“I use the term ‘invisible’ a lot because it’s not a job where you drive to a building that has a sign on it, where the workers have a uniform and wear a name tag. They’re really showing up in peoples’ homes, and if you see them at the grocery store doing their jobs, you think, maybe that’s just a family member helping somebody with their groceries, but really, they’re a paid worker assisting someone with an essential need,” Nichols said. “Because it’s not something that has a lot of signage and labels and a brick-and-mortar location, it makes it harder to define and harder for people to really see.”
To be a DSP, many organizations require a high school diploma and that applicants be 18 years of age or older. Provider agencies will provide training to applicants before they are matched with someone in need of services; training includes CPR and first-aid training, as well as training with administering medication a person may need.
Anyone interested in exploring jobs as a DSP in Miami County can contact Jan Wintrow at Riverside/Miami County Board of Developmental Disabilities, who can help navigate the process. She can be reached at 937-440-3090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Shelby County, anyone interested in working as a DSP can apply online at https://shelbydd.org/employment/ or reach out to Lisa Brady at the Shelby County Board of Developmental Disabilities at 937-658-6705.
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