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Capitol Correspondence - 05.02.23

Bill to Establish Occupational Classification for DSPs Reintroduced in Congress

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Last Thursday, the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act was reintroduced in the U.S. Congress, aiming to establish a Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) for direct support professionals (DSPs). If passed, this legislation would officially recognize direct support as a profession and address the recruitment and retention crisis that has left far too few professionals to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in home and community-based settings.

ANCOR has been a long-time advocate alongside its coalition partners for the establishment of a SOC for DSPs and applauds the reintroduction of this important legislation. As a result of the workforce crisis in community disability services, turnover and vacancy rates have risen significantly, leaving people with I/DD unable to access critical and often life-saving services. According to the most recent data from National Core Indicators, turnover among DSPs was 43.3% at the end of 2021, while 16.5% of full-time direct support positions and 20.3% of part-time positions remained vacant.

A distinct SOC for DSPs would enable the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to more accurately capture employment and wage data specific to the profession. This would support state and federal agencies in making more informed policy decisions regarding the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services program, including aiding in the development of more precise payment rates, which has negative and long-lasting effects on retention and recruitment within the DSP workforce. Shannon McCracken, ANCOR’s vice president for government relations, said, “When we eventually see the [Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act] become law, we will look back on it as a pivotal moment in the history of our service delivery system—a moment when we made a collective choice to [stop] undervaluing the services that connect people with I/DD to their communities.”

The bill was introduced by Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate, as well as Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Joe Morelle (D-NY) in the House.