Many industries across the country and in Ohio have felt the impact of staffing shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic. The disability service industry has certainly felt this impact, as many provider Agencies are struggling to hire and retain Direct Service Professional (DSP) staff. Read the letter from many statewide partners about the impact of this workforce shortage across the state.
Summit County is feeling the impact of the DSP shortage as well. Many of our valued providers are experiencing staffing shortages, as well as burn out and fatigue among DSP staff. This staffing shortage impacts day programs, transportation, employment support and, most importantly, residential support.
Although not everyone who receives services in Summit County has been personally impacted by this crisis yet, we feel it is important to make you aware of the current situation, let you know what Summit DD is doing to help, and provide information you need to make the right choices for you and your family moving forward.
Most DSPs in Summit County are employed by private provider Agencies. Summit DD is responsible for coordinating and funding the services that are provided by these agencies. We have been working alongside our provider community to preserve continuity of services and to ensure the health and welfare of those we serve. Our providers in Summit County have been making extraordinary efforts to minimize the impact of the staffing crisis on services you receive such as increased overtime, managers covering shifts, consolidating locations, to name a few.
What we know is that most providers can maintain the current level of services they provide now, however expanding to serve additional people is not possible for most providers. This may make it harder to serve additional people or for you to find a new provider. This also means that if providers continue to lose staff or if staff become ill, they may not be able to maintain the health and safety of those they currently serve. This is particularly true for individuals who receive residential support, but impacts day programs and transportation as well.
What Summit DD is Doing to Help
There is not one solution for the current staffing crisis. We have been working alongside our valued provider community to help address immediate needs and continue to look towards the future. We will continue to address this situation through our long-range planning process. Our efforts to help our providers include:
- COVID Response team, providing PPE, testing, vaccine resources and other COVID-related support to minimize staff needing to quarantine.
- Increased local funding to support DSP wage increases.
- Grants in local funding to support DSP recruitment and retention efforts.
- Assistance with recruitment
We will continue to partner with our provider community, other county boards, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities, and statewide trade associations as we develop long-term solutions to this crisis.
What You Can Do
You can be a part of the team as we face this crisis together. Most importantly, you can reach out to the DSPs in your life and let them know how much you appreciate them. Remember that the DSPs in your life may be covering multiple shifts and working overtime on a regular basis to ensure services are not interrupted. Let them know their efforts are not going unnoticed.
Begin to think about your future options. Providers, SSAs, RSSs, and other members of your team may need to consider different types of service options for the future because the staff needed to maintain current services may not exist. Consider what natural supports may be available or if remote supports and assistive technology may be able to assist you with some of the tasks that a DSP currently does. We will continue to work alongside you and address the unique needs of each person we serve, one person at a time.
You can also help us fill in the DSP staffing gap. Are you or someone you know a good fit to make a difference for those we serve. There are many ways to fill this gap, such as becoming a shared living provider. Anyone interested can email DSP@summitdd.org.
How to Stay Current
It’s important that we remain connected during this ever-changing crisis. Your SSA or RSS will stay in contact with you about your individual situations. You can find more information about programs and initiatives at SummitDD.org and on social media.
We will continue to work together to find short and long-term solutions, keeping the individual needs of those we serve as our main priority as we move forward.
John Trunk, Summit DD Superintendent