The DSP Shortage: A New Solution Available Now

by | Nov 1, 2023

Do you know about a crisis that’s entering it’s third decade and still needs a solution? It’s the shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). This is an on-going problem, still seeking a solution.

Imagine being on a super-long waiting list. It’s like being in line for your favorite rollercoaster, but the line never moves. Many states have waiting lists.  One of those lists is for people with a waiver, waiting for services.  Why? It’s because there aren’t enough DSPs to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).  It’s also constrained by traditional beliefs of the kind of support people need.

In this blog, we’ll explore the DSP worker shortage and it’s impacts on community members.  We will also explore how a different provider service model like Remote Supports Services can help fill the gap.

Let’s delve more into this important issue.

Is Hiring More DSPs the Singular Answer?

The DSP shortage has been a known issue for over 30 years. It’s a big problem that’s been around for a while. And, in recent years, things have gotten even tougher. Over 40% of workers left the industry in 2019, making the shortage worse. The pandemic only added to the challenges.

One big issue is that the state reimbursement rates to providers are not enough. It’s like paying someone just a tiny bit for a lot of hard work.

Now Hiring Sign in Store window

In states where reimbursement rates have remained stagnant, providers are unable to offer competitive wages to those industries that are also experiencing shortages in labor supply.

This results in high DSP turnover in an economy where the cost of living has increased tremendously.  Workers have to pay the rent to keep a roof over their heads.  They can’t pay the rent.  So, even though there’s a higher demand for services, the economic realities of our society exacerbate the shortage.

Now, here’s a big question: Is there a different way to provide services to address the need?

But first, let’s think about the impact of the DSP shortage. It affects families who need support, case workers who have a lot of work to do, and providers who are struggling to find and keep good employees. We’ll also look at an alternative provider service model that might be able to provide support to some people with I/DD who need help. Let’s keep digging into this important topic.

The DSP Worker Shortage: The Impact on Individuals with I/DD

The DSP worker shortage hits people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) hard. It’s like trying to take part in a game, but without all the right equipment.

In North Carolina, over fifteen thousand people with I/DD are on a waiting list for services. They have to wait, and that’s not easy. Even when they become eligible for case management services, they can’t get them because there just aren’t enough workers.

And think about Oklahoma—they had an application waitlist that lasted about 13 years. That’s more than a decade of waiting for help! Over 5,000 individuals were just hoping to qualify for support services.  Now, more than likely, the vast majority, after qualifying, are still waiting for services.

But there’s more to it, the shortage causes a lot of problems. People with I/DD can get hurt and end up in the hospital more often when support services are not available.  Without connection, some people with I/DD become lonely and isolated. They’re also more likely to experience abuse or be taken advantage of by others.

Without support services, people with I/DD may experience negative health outcomes. People with I/DD deserve support so they can maintain their well-being.

The Impact on Parents and Families of People with I/DD: A Heavy Burden

The shortage of DSPs doesn’t just affect individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). It also has a big impact on their families.

Families are often the main caregivers when there aren’t enough DSPs.  Responsibilities can involve helping with personal stuff, driving, handling money, and other jobs. All these things can be really tough for even the most dedicated caregivers.

The shortage also makes it tough for parents and families to find balance in their lives. They want the

Caregiver and young woman with down syndrome sitting on the couch. Caregiver has remote in her hand

best for their loved ones, but they also need time for their own jobs, other family members, and their own interests.  So, the DSP worker shortage affects not just the person with I/DD, but their families as well.

Case Managers’ Struggle: Rising Shortage, Unmet Needs

Case managers are like superheroes behind the scenes. They work hard to make sure people with I/DD get the support they need. But these heroes are facing some big challenges because of the DSP worker shortage.

Their job is to help find the support individuals with I/DD need. But, did you know that 71% of case managers struggle to find available providers? They work hard to connect families with services in a environment where 83% of providers turn away new referrals – their struggle is quite real.

So, case managers are doing their best.  The DSP worker shortage isn’t just affecting the individuals with I/DD; it’s also putting extra pressure on the heroes working behind the scenes.

Service Providers: Struggling to Keep the Lights On

Service providers are crucial for helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). However, the shortage of DSPs is making their work really tough. One big problem is that it’s hard to keep trained staff.

The low reimbursement rates from Medicaid make things even harder. It’s like running a business on the same budget year after year while expenses go up.  That makes it tough to keep skilled workers.

Imagine this: more than 8 out of 10 service providers have had to turn away new people who need help because they don’t have enough staff. This means people will have to do without support services. This situation makes things risky for them.

Even more concerning, 63% of service providers had

Female Provider Agency Owner

to stop some of their programs and services because of the worker shortage.

So, service providers are trying hard. The DSP worker shortage is making providing support really difficult.  It’s not just affecting them – it’s affecting the people who rely on their support. We need to find solutions to make things better for everyone.

Using Remote Supports Services can help bridge the gap in providing care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). This means it helps solve the problem of not having enough workers to take care of them. Here’s how it helps different community members:

Using Remote Supports Services Can Help Bridge the Gap

For Providers:  

  • Remote Supports Services can effectively cover staffing shortages for traditional providers, ensuring continuous support.
  • Providers can use a mix of in-person and remote supports to maximize coverage

For People with I/DD and their Families:

  • If someone with I/DD wants more independence and privacy, Remote Supports Services is a suitable option to meet their desires.
  • These services follow certain rules that give people with I/DD more choices in their care.
  • They also give peace of mind to family caregivers, allowing them to have a better balance in their own lives

For Case Managers:

  • Case managers can more easily facilitate support services for the individuals in their caseload.

In short, Remote Supports Services act like a bridge, connecting people with I/DD, their families, and the support they need. They fill gaps, respect people’s choices, follow the rules, and help caregivers, making care more personal and efficient.

Related Posts:

Unlocking I/DD Support: A Guide to Funding

Unlocking I/DD Support: A Guide to Funding

For people with disabilities, support services make life better. They help people become more independent and give parents and caregivers a break. But there is a barrier to accessing these services: funding.

Caregiver Respite Tips: Beat Burnout & Maximize Breaks

Caregiver Respite Tips: Beat Burnout & Maximize Breaks

Services like Remote Supports can be used to carve out a time for respite from duties, allowing caregivers to rest. This article will look into the power of respite care and tips for caregivers to make the most of their breaks.