What is a Direct Support Professional and how are they different from Caregivers?
DSPs are no longer being trained as Caregivers
A Direct Support Professional (DSP) is someone who works directly with people who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. DSPs aim to assist people in realizing their full potential. They help people become integrated and engaged in their community.
In the past, DSPs were trained as caregivers. But over the past few decades, the needs of those being served changed. Therefore, the roles of DSPs began to change. Now, DSPs take on different aspects and roles than caregiving. It is no longer about doing things for people. It is about helping them learn how to do things for themselves.
DSPs are a very Distinct Workforce
DSPs perform some of the functions of clinicians, service coordinators, administrators, managers, maintenance, and clerical personnel. DSPs are distinct in that they are trained in a variety of methods. They are held to a high, nationally validated Code of Ethics and set of Core Competencies.
Thousands of New Yorkers with developmental disabilities rely on DSPs every day for help with life’s essential activities. These include getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, finding a job, getting to work, etc.
The Main Difference
Throughout the field of developmental disabilities in New York State, the role of DSPs is to provide support. Providing support is different than caregiving. A caregiver will do things for someone (e.g. pick out groceries). In contrast, a DSP will work with someone to enable them to do things independently (e.g. help them to pick out their own groceries). In this way, DSPs teach people how to do things for themselves and how to live independently.
Memo from OPWDD
The Administration Memorandum issued by the OPWDD states that the term Direct Support Professional is:
“An umbrella term that includes many different titles and functions; for example: direct care, direct support worker/specialist/assistant/counselor, habilitation specialist, residential counselor, activities of daily living specialist, relief staff, apartment worker, developmental disabilities specialist, job coach, employment specialist, community bridge-builder, paid friend/neighbor, family support services aid, community companion, personal assistant, etc. A person who performs one of these or similar functions for a salary, stipend, or payment for services rendered is considered a DSP.”
The New York State Consolidated Fiscal Reporting (CFR) defines DSPs under “Direct Care Staff” with the following Code numbers: 201, 207, 254, and 290. For information on the definitions of these code numbers, please visit OPWDD’s Regulations & Guidance web page.