Providers Have New Options to Recruit Qualified Employees to Provide Direct Supports

From Jeff Davis, Director, Department of Developmental Disabilities

The current workforce crisis is impacting the daily lives of many Ohioans. People with developmental disabilities and their families are particularly affected, as their daily living is supported by the work of direct support professionals (DSPs), the foundation of DODD’s service delivery system.

DODD is taking two actions to increase the number of people eligible to be hired as a DSP across the state and ensure that providers can hire every person capable of providing quality services to people with developmental disabilities. We believe these steps will assist providers immediately by increasing the number of eligible applicants while we continue to work on the long-term sustainably of the workforce.

First, DODD will temporarily waive the requirement that DSPs must have a high school diploma or GED. This waiver will be effective from September 17, 2021, through September 30, 2022. Employees without a high school diploma or GED cannot be certified to administer medications.

Second, through a similar waiver, DODD is allowing the temporary use of direct support assistants. People aged 16 and 17 can be hired to perform more limited duties as direct support assistants. This will enable agencies to hire applicants who are passionate about supporting people with developmental disabilities but who were previously unable to work in the field due to the age requirement. As the direct support assistants enter the workforce as adults, they will already have the knowledge and skills necessary to continue to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Direct support assistants cannot provide intimate personal care or administer medications and must always work with a DSP that meets all requirements in the rule.

Both waivers will be effective through September of 2022. This provides us time to assess the success of these actions and determine if they should be continued or modified. Providers will be required to report information regarding DSPs employed under either of these options to determine long-term effectiveness. All service providers can begin using the provisions of these waivers, and all DSPs previously granted waivers for these purposes are automatically a part of this process as well. Click here for additional guidance on these waivers.

We recognize this is an unprecedented time for our entire system, especially for people with developmental disabilities and their families. These measures are designed to better assist them by attracting more DSP applicants to fill the many vacancies stretching our system thin.

I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the providers and especially the DSPs who are working unbelievably hard throughout Ohio. They have provided consistent and vital supports through the incredible circumstances we have all faced. They are working longer hours and have truly put the needs of each person they are supporting above their own, and for that, I cannot thank them enough. We hope these measures will do some part to bring you the relief you need and deserve for all your hard work.

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