Dear Friends and Colleagues,
Each year, beginning on the Sunday after Labor Day, we observe national Direct Support Professional Recognition Week. This year’s recognition week runs from September 11-17. It’s a time for all of us to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible work our DSPs across New York State are doing every day to keep the people we support safe, healthy and engaged in their own lives and in their communities.
Many of you have heard me say before that our DSPs are the backbone of our service system and that we couldn’t carry out our mission without them. It’s a message I can’t deliver frequently enough because it’s so crucial for all of us to remember and equally important for our DSPs to hear consistently.
Our DSPs are vital to our mission, and the more caring and dedicated professionals we can attract and retain, the better we will be at achieving our vision of ensuring that people with developmental disabilities enjoy meaningful relationships in their lives, experience personal health and growth, live in the homes of their choice and fully participate in their communities. DSPs support people with developmental disabilities to live rich lives every day.
Each day our DSPs support and encourage people to achieve their highest potential, stretching the limits of what they themselves think they can accomplish in their lives. DSPs are coaches, teachers and cheerleaders ─ as well as caregivers and friends. And as I’ve observed their work out in the field, I’m convinced there is no higher calling.
Over the next few weeks, I will travel across the state to celebrate our DSPs who work directly for OPWDD’s state operations at our annual “DSP of the Year” events. Many of our provider agencies will also celebrate their DSPs this week. At the same time, people self-directing their services may have smaller celebrations with their DSPs, those who show up daily for them and support them to live as independently as possible.
No matter how you are involved in our OPWDD system, whether you are a person with a developmental disability, a family member, a provider or a staff person, I can say without a doubt that your life has been enhanced and your load lightened because of the work DSPs do. So, if you see a DSP this week, please take a moment to thank them for all they do. And please keep an eye on our OPWDD website and social media pages over the next few weeks to learn more about our DSPs of the Year.
Finally, if you know a person you think would make a great DSP, please tell them about the opportunities in this rewarding field of work, our tremendous need for more DSPs, and the many opportunities for growth and advancement. There’s no better way to help our DSPs with their workload than to add to their ranks. OPWDD and our provider partners are hiring in every corner of the state and will be glad to speak with you about direct support employment.
Kerri E. Neifeld