Sens. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, plan to introduce a bill Monday to aid in hiring more direct-support professionals (DSPs) who work with people with disabilities.

What's Working
Maggie Hassan

Sen. Maggie Hassan

“Our bipartisan legislation will help address this workforce shortage, and I will continue working across the aisle to ensure that people with disabilities have the support that they need to thrive,” Hassan said in a statement.

The bill calls for a better way to count the number of people serving in such roles. That will help identify where to start targeted workforce training programs to help tackle workforce shortages, according to Hassan’s office.

Hassan pointed out she is “the mother of a son who experiences severe disabilities,” and she knows how much such professionals can help people with disabilities.

Local service providers applauded the measure.

“This bill would help to provide DSPs with some well deserved recognition, help professionalize the role and hopefully shine a light on the invaluable and necessary services they provide every day,” Michelle Donovan said in an email Friday. Donovan is president of the Private Provider Network, a group of private agencies that provide support and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities through contracts with the 10 area agencies.

“Direct support professionals are the most essential part of the service system for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” said Donovan, who also is state director for Living Innovations, which assists people who have disabilities.

“Due to the extreme shortage of people providing these valuable services, many of our most vulnerable citizens go without adequate and vital support — real people who are able to work and participate in the life of their communities but are not able to do so without the support of a DSP,” Donovan said.

The bill would change the way the Bureau of Labor Statistics system classifies direct-support professionals to better count and track those workers.

The bipartisan bill is supported by the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities and the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), according to the statement.

“Granite Staters impacted by disabilities face significant workforce shortages,” Isadora Rodriguez-Legendre, executive director of the New Hampshire Council on Developmental Disabilities, said in a statement. “Senators Hassan and Collins’ bill will help recognize direct support professionals as a distinct classification of workers in the health care support occupations and will identify important workforce trends that impact quality of services for individuals who experience disabilities throughout New Hampshire and Maine.”

The ANCOR group has pushed for years for better ways to collect information on professionals “because we fundamentally believe that robust data is a badly needed step toward solving the direct support workforce crisis,” Barbara Merrill, chief executive officer for ANCOR, said in a statement.

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.

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