DSP Week Celebrates Often Unrecognized Front Line Heroes
By Doug Beebe, President/CEO, Benchmark Human Services
In March 2020, the world changed in unimaginable ways. Between school closures and lock downs, PPE shortages and adjusting to a new way of life, COVID-19 had people everywhere scrambling to understand our new reality. Throughout the early days of the pandemic, healthcare workers, teachers, and other essential workers were lauded as heroes. One group was often overlooked in the media – direct support professionals (DSPs) serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. DSPs work in homes and community settings with those they care for and provide assistance ranging from the fundamentals (daily living skills) to more complex medical and behavioral needs.
As President/CEO of Benchmark Human Services (Benchmark), a social services organization serving people with disabilities across 15 states, I had the privilege of witnessing our nearly 2,000 DSPs step into the role of hero on more than one occasion, doing everything they could to ensure the health and safety of those in their care. We even had employees quarantine at the homes of individuals they were serving for 14 days at a time, so as to provide consistent, around the clock support and to limit exposure to additional caretakers. What’s more, DSPs had to get creative in their approach to care, since individuals served often are medically fragile or more vulnerable to illness and couldn’t participate in their typical activities in the community, even after lock down restrictions lifted. Staff found unique ways to engage those we serve and ensure they maintained a high quality of life, despite the changes happening around them.
September 12-18 is National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week – a week designated each year to reflect on the amazing and challenging work DSPs do, and to celebrate them. Throughout my nearly 40 year career, I’ve always admired the work of DSPs. In fact, I started my career as a DSP. However, the strength, resiliency, flexibility, and dedication I’ve seen in our DSPs throughout the last 19 months is in a league of its own. I’m proud to work alongside such an incredible group of people, who endlessly strive to put our mission at the forefront.
Thank you to Benchmark DSPs and to all DSPs throughout the world who selflessly give of themselves to help others reach their full potential. May you feel honored and celebrated this week, and always.