It's Direct Support Professional (DSP) Recognition Week! Governor Wolf recently signed a proclamation declaring the week of September 12th through September 17th of 2022 DSP Recognition week. In honor of the occasion, ODP reached out to providers from across the Commonwealth to find out what they have in store.
Amy Nielsen of Croyle-Nielsen Therapeutic Associates, Inc. in Johnstown says her agency plans on gifting mums to direct support staff and highlighting individual DSPs on their social media accounts. "DSPs mean everything in the work we do," says Amy, "From an administrative level we build the framework and vision for what we want our Residential Program to be, but we rely on our DSPs to carry that vision out into our homes, to make it a reality. Their love and compassion for our folks, the way they carry themselves in their work every day, their genuine desire to give our folks the best life is what makes the difference."
Amy shared a story highlighting the superb work her team performs. Recently her team went above and beyond to ensure an individual had an amazing 50th birthday party. The team worked together to plan the party, bake cupcakes and decorate the house. One of Nielsen's Behavioral Specialists said, "They put on one of the greatest birthday parties/events I've seen at this company (and we love to have fun events!) and every single DSP that was there gave our people the best life they could have had. They had them smiling, singing, dancing. Best Birthday I've been to since the 80s!"
Bridget Pugh of UCP Central PA in Camp Hill shared the details of her agencies plan to thank DSPs for their work. During the week, the leadership of UCP Central PA will deliver thank you cards and gifts throughout shifts. The UCP team is also holding a gift card drawing to encourage DSPs to share a memorable moment in their work. UCP is sharing these stories throughout the week on their social media channels.
Alenia McAnulty-Brown is a UCP DSP who has been in the job for over 33 years. When asked to tell stories, her response is "I don't have stories to tell, I only have memories to share." Her guiding principle is the individual comes first. When she is asked why she stays in such a physically and emotionally demanding job all these years, her response is "I love watching individuals grow, and I especially love to be a part of their achievements. Over time, they become like family and that is why I've stayed so long."
Judy Dotzman of SPIN Inc. in Philadelphia lists off a variety of activities planned when asked about DSP recognition week at SPIN. Video messages will be relayed to staff, daily raffle prizes will be gifted, visits from executives to thank staff, and even visits from state senators!
Judy shared this anecdote about the excellent work of DSP Nick Smith: "Quentin mentioned to his Direct Support Professional, Nick Smith, that he had never been on a vacation to the Jersey Shore, so Nick made it happen! Quentin started his trip in Atlantic City where he went to the beach, enjoyed the casinos and even met The Honorable Kaleem Shabazz, the President of the Atlantic City New Jersey Branch of the NAACP. Before returning home, Nick and Quentin made their way to Wildwood where they enjoyed the boardwalk. During this trip, Nick encouraged Quentin to make choices on what they would enjoy each day allowing him to live a Life of Possibilities to the fullest!"
Ian Lupey of Applied Consulting Services in Morgantown emphasized the unique traits DSPs exhibit in their everyday work, "As we know, this job can be difficult," says Ian, "Qualities such as patience, kindness, and knowing when to help and when to allow our learners to independently grow are so important and are common among our staff. We have found with our specific staff that they also possess a strong will to teach and build skills, to be a servant to their learners' needs and able to meet the learner where their strengths lie."
Each agency expressed the same sentiment when asked about the importance of DSPs: Direct Support Professionals are the heart of our efforts. This rings true for the disability services throughout the Commonwealth. DSPs are essential to creating meaningful difference in the lives of Pennsylvanians with disabilities and The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services and Office of Developmental Programs thanks all direct support professionals for their incredible efforts.