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The Arc of Mississippi wants to recognize the importance of Direct Support Professionals in the lives of people with disabilities

This Thanksgiving let's seize the spirit of gratitude and send a strong message to Congress: We must support professionalizing our workforce and encourage the federal government to formally recognize direct support professionals (DSPs)! 


Frontline Initiative

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Ongoing Staff Development in Disability Services

The impact on organizations, staff, and people with disabilities

A lack of direct support professional (DSP) training and preparation directly impacts the lives of people with disabilities. For example, research has found that one of the leading reasons people with disabilities are not supported to participate in the life of the community is due to a fear that staff are not prepared to mitigate risks. Drawing attention to these workforce issues, this webinar is comprised of two parts.

In the first part of this webinar, we describe our recent research about the impact ongoing staff development has on the health and safety of people with IDD. The findings suggest that by offering ongoing staff development, agencies can improve their service provision, and the health and safety of the people they support. For this reason, the second part of this webinar discusses best practices in implementing and promoting ongoing staff development at your organization.

We Get It Done: Working as a Direct Support Professional

We Get It Done: Working as a Direct Support Professional

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Up to 40% of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) experience

co-occurring mental illness.

Support Needs of People with I/DD and Co-Occurring Mental Health Challenges and their Families

Become Certified


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The Arc of Mississippi, in partnership with the Mississippi Council on Developmental Disabilities, and the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals, announce a national credentialing opportunity for 50 Mississippi Direct Support Professionals (DSPs).


The purpose of the opportunity is to demonstrate the value of credentialed, highly trained DSPs to providers, policy makers, and people using supports.


Enrollment and credentialing fees are covered by this project, but dedication and hard work are expected. The attainment of DSP-I, DSP-II and/or DSP-III depends upon the pace and discipline of the Direct Support Professional. This is a  one-year project and will conclude September 30th, 2021.


We invite you to attend 1 of 2 ZOOM meetings for further information and an explanation of the process. There is no obligation required to attend a meeting and providers are encouraged to attend. If you are not familiar with how to attend ZOOM meetings you are encouraged to call in advance of the meeting you plan to attend and we will assist you.


The Arc of Mississippi is a private, non-profit organization that for over 60 years has promoted the dignity, respect, and quality of life for people who use supports in their daily life. For more information please contact Lisa Burck, .

Want to know more about national credentialing?

If you missed the live Zoom meetings you can view the webinar here

Learn More About National Credentialing

from NADSP

What prompted you to speak up?

by Nicole Dama | Jul 7, 2020 |

In June, Ryene Fenner, a direct support professional, sent a letter to the management team at the agency she works with, New Horizons Resources Inc.  which sparked an important discussion about racism in the direct support workforce. NADSP reached out to her to contribute to a blog/video series which shares interview clips each week.

Below is Ryene’s reflection on “What prompted you to speak up?”

Oftentimes when we witness injustice happening around us we either turn a blind eye or secretly root for change. Neither of those options is beneficial to me or my community. The only way to actively make a change is to be vocal, even when it’s uncomfortable. As nerve-wracking as it may be to await a response, it’s even more important unsettling to watch nothing be done or acknowledged. I spend a lot of time at work as do other DSPs of color. I knew I wasn’t the only one feeling as though we should be acknowledged but I know people fear repercussions and that unfortunately equates to silence. I decided to take a leap of faith and speak up.

words of encouragement


A well-trained, fairly compensated, and respected direct support professional (DSP) workforce is essential to providing the necessary supports and services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) where they live and work.

DSPs are an integral part of life in the community for people with I/DD. They work directly with people with I/DD to support them to participate in their communities.

The quality and effectiveness of Medicaid-funded long term supports and services for persons with I/DD depend upon qualified providers of supports and services with necessary skills and training and a fair wage for this important work.

You can learn more about The Arc’s position on DSPs by reading our position statement.



Why It Matters

Our direct support workforce is in crisis. With an average annual turnover rate of 45 percent, an average wage of $10.72 an hour, and an average vacancy rate of 9 percent, the needs of people with disabilities, their families, and the workers themselves are not being met.

Medicaid is the primary source of funding for the programs employing these workers. The current Medicaid reimbursement system, cost cutting actions by state legislatures and Medicaid officials, and recent strides to raise the minimum wage in several cities and states have exacerbated the workforce crisis already hampered by low wages, a lack of affordable health insurance, high turnover, and a shortage of staff. Demand for these workers from private industry and other human services sectors is also high, leading to competition among industries for workers. These problems have been compounded over three decades, leading to a crisis that presents a grave threat to the lives of our constituents and their families. Ensuring adequate funding so that direct support professionals are paid a living wage, including appropriate benefits, is vital to attracting and retaining the workforce needed to fully support people living in the community.


Training must be available to DSPs that covers the essential knowledge, ethical principles and practices, and skills necessary to provide direct support to individuals. DSPs must receive training in the philosophy of self-determination and the value of full inclusion and community participation of individuals.

Federal and state quality assurance programs must assess and monitor DSP recruitment, retention, and competence as part of licensure in order to recognize and address positive performance and to assist programs with unacceptable performance. Additionally, states must utilize a system for criminal background checks for all public and private DSPs and make available a list of individuals for whom abuse and neglect charges have been substantiated for the purpose of increased safety.

Our nation’s immigration laws must also take into account this workforce need. We support pursuing appropriate waivers of, or changes in, immigration law to allow for the active recruitment of qualified immigrants in order to bolster the direct support and other professional workforce.

Become a member of the DSP listserve to stay up-to-date on the latest news for Direct Support Professionals

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Ever wonder about the best way you can

support someone in the workplace?

Be sure to review the Mississippi Job Skills Trainer Manual

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Keep up with Dave Hingsburger @OpenFutureLearning

Read the latest from the International Journal for Direct Support Professionals

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