The State of America’s Direct Support Workforce Crisis 2022
Thank you for your interest in supporting As a DSP It’s Up to Me, a campaign designed to ensure that direct support professionals (DSPs) and everyone supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get vaccinated against COVID-19.
About the Campaign
Developed by ANCOR with funding from the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD), “As a DSP It’s Up to Me” recognizes that people with I/DD should be able to live and thrive in their communities. We want them to live where they want to live, with whom they want to live. We want them to have jobs that are fulfilling to them. And we recognize achieving these goals requires providers who employ a qualified workforce to deliver high-quality supports and services that meet people where they are.
Reaching these goals is threatened by the risk posed by COVID-19, however. Research has demonstrated that people with I/DD—though they may not be likelier than anyone else to contract COVID-19—are two or more times likelier than members of the general population to die from COVID-19 if they contract it.
For people with I/DD to live a life of independence and self-determination, we must all be as healthy as possible. And that means being fully up to date on our COVID-19 vaccinations.
COVID-19 & Vaccination Efforts
Most all of us remember when the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the United States and the uncertainty we later felt when we began hearing in March 2020 about lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. Since then, there have been nearly 85 million cases and we have mourned over one million deaths nationally as of mid-July 2022.
At the same time, most of us also remember the sense of hopefulness we felt when, in December 2020, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued its first emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 vaccine.
We now have multiple highly effective vaccines that have received full or emergency-use FDA approval. Approximately 260 million people in the US have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, for a national vaccination rate of 78.4 percent.
For community providers of I/DD services, efforts to encourage vaccine uptake have been pronounced. However, a May 2021 survey of ANCOR members found that less than one-fifth (16.3%) of provider agencies indicated that at least 80% of the DSPs employed by them had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine.
Although we know this number has increased substantially since the initial survey was fielded, we also know that uncertainties persist—both in the general population and among DSPs. In our conversations with DSPs, ANCOR has found several common reasons cited for vaccine hesitancy, including:
- Lack of faith in the vaccine development process and effectiveness.
- Unease that vaccination doesn’t prevent breakthrough infections.
- Health concerns that vaccines could cause negative side effects, long-term effects or allergic reactions.
- Belief that natural immunity, especially from having already had COVID-19, protects against future infection.
According to a 2020 study by FAIR Health, people with I/DD are “more likely to get very sick from COVID-19,” and if they do get sick, they are “more likely to be hospitalized, need intensive care, require a ventilator to help them breathe and die.” Given these risks, it is critical that DSPs get vaccinated against COVID-19 to protect themselves and the people they support.
About This Toolkit
With a goal of keeping people with I/DD and the people around them safe and healthy, we designed this toolkit with ANCOR members and other community providers in mind. You are an essential partner for this initiative, and these tools were designed for you—to make it as easy as possible for you to engage with your colleagues on the frontlines to get vaccinated.
Here’s what’s included in the As a DSP It’s Up to Me Campaign Toolkit:
- Tool 1: Key Messages. This tool is designed to help you get comfortable talking about how COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective, and how to approach your DSPs in conversations about getting vaccinated.
- Tool 2: Videos & PSAs. This tool includes videos, including three public service announcement-style messages regarding key vaccine-related messaging, as well as several shorter ones for social media and a longer video featuring voices of DSPs, people supported and a medical expert sharing their important perspectives.
- Tool 3: Shareable Digital Content. This tool includes content that you can copy and paste to use as-is or customize with your organization’s branding for social media, emails and newsletters, blogs and other articles, and more.
- Tool 4: Tracking Results. This tool offers guidance regarding what metrics to track and how, so you can know—and share—how your content is engaging DSPs and other audiences.
- Tool 5: Conversation Tips & FAQs. This tool offers tips for how to engage in conversations about getting vaccinated, as well as suggested responses to the questions DSPs ask most frequently.
- Tool 6: Resource Library. This tool offers resources developed by trusted sources to help you educate yourself, combat misinformation, amplify your messaging and more.
If you have questions about how to use this toolkit, or if you have information to share about how you have used this toolkit, please send an email to [email protected].
Thank you for joining us to share the message: As a DSP It’s Up to Me!