Collins, Cardin Lead 2016 Senate Recognition of Direct Support Professionals

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced a Senate resolution celebrating "National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week.” The resolution recognizes the hard work of direct support professionals during the week of September 12th.

Direct support professionals provide an invaluable service by caring for the most vulnerable among us, including seniors, people living with disabilities, and the chronically ill. Through the efforts of this essential health care workforce, these individuals are able to live, work, and fully participate in their communities. There is a critical and increasing shortage of direct support professionals throughout the United States.

“Direct Support Professionals truly help strengthen our communities by providing those in need with critical support that leads to more independent living and a better quality of life. These professionals deserve our thanks and recognition, and I was pleased to join Senator Cardin in co-authoring the ‘National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week’ Resolution,” said Senator Collins.

Direct support professional job titles vary, and include in-home support worker, personal assistant, home health aide, job coach, direct support worker, and independent living skills instructor. These supports are essential across the lifespan to ensure that people who rely on supports can live healthy, safe lives as contributing members of their communities. However, low wages, limited training, and little recognition of the skilled work they do leads to high turnover among direct support professionals.

In addition to Cardin and Collins, cosponsors of the resolution include: Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Angus King (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.).

The resolution language follows:

Title: Designating the week of September 12, 2016, as ``National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week''.

Whereas direct support professionals, including direct care workers, personal assistants, personal attendants, in-home support workers, and paraprofessionals, are key to providing publicly funded, long-term support and services for millions of individuals with disabilities;
Whereas direct support professionals provide essential support to help keep individuals with disabilities connected to their families, friends, and communities so as to avoid more costly institutional care;
Whereas direct support professionals support individuals with disabilities by helping those individuals make person-centered choices that lead to meaningful, productive lives;
Whereas direct support professionals must build close, respectful, and trusted relationships with individuals with disabilities;
Whereas direct support professionals provide a broad range of individualized support to individuals with disabilities, including—
(1) assisting with the preparation of meals;
(2) helping with medication;
(3) assisting with bathing, dressing, and other aspects of daily living;
(4) assisting with access to their environment;
(5) providing transportation to school, work, religious, and recreational activities; and
(6) helping with general daily affairs, such as assisting with financial matters, medical appointments, and personal interests;
Whereas the participation of direct support professionals in medical care planning is critical to the successful transition of individuals from medical events to post-acute care and long-term support and services;
Whereas there is a documented critical and increasing shortage of direct support professionals throughout the United States;
Whereas direct support professionals are a critical element in supporting individuals who are receiving health care services for severe chronic health conditions and individuals with functional limitations;
Whereas many direct support professionals are the primary financial providers for their families;
Whereas direct support professionals are hardworking, taxpaying citizens who provide an important service to people with disabilities in the United States, yet many continue to earn low wages, receive inadequate benefits, and have limited opportunities for advancement, resulting in high turnover and vacancy rates that adversely affect the quality of support, safety, and health of individuals with disabilities;
Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States, in Olmstead v. L.C. by Zimring, 527 U.S. 581 (June 22, 1999)—
(1) recognized the importance of the deinstitutionalization of, and community-based services for, individuals with disabilities; and
(2) held that, under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (42 U.S. 12101 et seq.), a State must provide community-based services to persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities if—
(A) the community-based services are appropriate;
(B) the affected person does not oppose receiving the community-based services; and
(C) the community-based services can be reasonably accommodated after the community has taken into account the resources available to the State and the needs of other individuals with disabilities in the State; and
Whereas, in 2016, the majority of direct support professionals are employed in home- and community-based settings and that trend will increase over the next decade: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) designates the week of September 12, 2016, as “National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week”;
(2) recognizes and appreciates the contribution, dedication, and vital role of direct support professionals in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities of all ages;
(3) commends direct support professionals for being integral to the provision of long-term support and services for individuals with disabilities; and
(4) finds that the successful implementation of the public policies affecting individuals with disabilities in the United States depends on the dedication of direct support professionals.