In this time of Thanksgiving throughout our nation, we want to pause to thank and express appreciation for the direct support professionals (DSPs) working daily with people with intellectual disabilities in the community.

These essential personnel work day in and day out in group homes, employment programs and with people in their own homes. The time of COVID has been difficult for all and especially challenging for those with intellectual disabilities who we all serve and support. Despite the stress and worry of keeping themselves and their own families safe, these professionals have risen to the challenge again and again. For this we are grateful.

However, these staff cannot provide this care without the resources to do so. While the state and federal government initially sent relief funds to assist agencies in meeting the COVID crisis, that assistance has come to an end. The need to provide resources to the essential workers has not ended. Private nonprofit providers still must access appropriate and abundant PPE, N95 fit testing, COVID testing and adequate relief staffing to preserve staff health and wellbeing. There was a staffing shortage before COVID that has quickly reached the crisis level in the face of the pandemic. COVID is stressing a service delivery system that was not adequately resourced before the virus struck. There has not been a contractual increase for us since 2007.

Connecticut needs to recognize these workers as essential personnel and help agencies support them in ways that ensure their health and safety as they care for the most vulnerable of our citizens. We stand ready to continue advocating for this while protecting those people in our care. We ask that Connecticut’s policy makers and citizens also express their thanks by helping us provide what is needed to support the work of the DSPs. They have truly been unsung heroes.

Donna Hollis is Executive Director of MARCH, Inc.  Susan Pearson is Executive Director of Network Human Services. Tracey Walker is CEO  and President of Journey Found, Inc., and Kevin Zingler is President & CEO of  MARC, Inc

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