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National direct support professionals week important

Daily News - 9/3/2017

National Direct Support Professionals Recognition Week celebrates the contributions of more than 3.6 million direct support professionals, direct care workers, personal care assistants, personal attendants, in-home support workers and paraprofessionals throughout our country who provide quality support to individuals with disabilities.

These "unsung heroes" are frequently in the background ? often the hands, feet and heart of the direct service industry. They work in people's homes, residential facilities, day training centers and the community. They assist people with personal and medical care, daily living skills, participating in the community, pursuing employment, developing relationships and more.

Tracy Butterfield, director of LifeSkills Supports for Community Living, said DSPs are the backbone of LifeSkills.

"They walk beside and partner with our participants through all phases of their lives. They wear many hats ? they mentor, coach, support, care for, teach, encourage and advocate for individuals. They help people lead meaningful lives in the community and often make valuable connections that can lead to the fulfillment of their dreams," Butterfield said.

No two cases are the same.

"We have individuals that require vastly different levels of support," Butterfield said. "Ranging from someone who needs total assistance ? including personal hygiene care ? to someone who is very independent and just needs a person beside them to guide and reassure them."

Brad Schneider, vice president of LifeSkills Developmental Services Division, said: "DSPs do the most important work and are critical to our vision/mission. They are skilled, dedicated and extremely passionate. Unfortunately, because DSP work is frequently of a private nature, they often go unrecognized. We don't tell them nearly enough just how much we value and appreciate them for their ongoing and selfless contributions on behalf of the people we support."

One LifeSkills DSP, Michael Matlock, was recently nominated by a group of his colleagues to receive the Kentucky Association of Private Providers recognition award. Vocational Development Manager Amy Mason has worked closely with Matlock for more than 20 years.

"He is one of the nicest, most genuine people you will ever meet," Mason said. "He has developed significant, long-term relationships with many of our individuals. Sincerity, respect, love, compassion and a positive attitude are just some of the words people have used to describe traits he brings to his job each and every day. He has a unique way of making everyone feel important. And, even in the most stressful of situations, Mike remains gentle, calm, kind and supportive."

The winner will be announced Sept. 29 at the KAPP annual conference and will become eligible to compete for the National DSP Award in May 2018.

LifeSkills has direct support professionals working in many different capacities. Some of these are:

Community Living Associates: Employees who provide residential supports to people living in apartments and homes owned by LifeSkills.Adult Foster Care and Respite Providers: Independent contractors who open up their own homes to people.Vocational Associates: Employees who provide vocational skills training to people attending LifeSkills Industries/Adult Day Training Center.Supported Employment Specialists: Employees who assist people with finding and maintaining community employment.PASRR Specialized Service Associates: Employees who assist people with developmental disabilities living in nursing facilities.

Sadly, turnover for these positions is extremely high (upwards of 60 percent), and because of the aging baby boomer generation, the available workforce needed to provide these supports is rapidly diminishing.

Anyone interested in viewing available DSP positions with LifeSkills should visit www.lifeskills.com. You may fill out an online application or call Angela Clemmons at 901-5000 for more information about job opportunities.

? Maureen Mahaney coordinates public information for LifeSkills Inc., a nonprofit behavioral health care corporation that plans for and serves the people of southcentral Kentucky in three main areas: mental health, addiction and intellectual disabilities. Her column appears monthly.

 
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