Sep. 18—PLATTSBURGH — Direct support professionals (DSPs) are the backbone of the Advocacy and Resource Center, Executive Director Robin Pierce says.
In acknowledgment of Direct Support Professional Recognition Week, celebrated this past week, Pierce first pointed to how, in regular times, these employees are hardworking, dedicated and compassionate people who are essential to the individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) they support.
"During the past two years, they have become our superheroes," she continued. "They are the ones keeping the people with IDD safe and engaged. They were the ones who showed up to work."
ARC Director of Public Relations Jared West credited DSPs' dedication and care with how the ARC is one of just two The Arc New York chapters in the state to keep all individuals in its programs COVID-free.
West said the ARC is one of the largest employers in Clinton County, with more than 700 employees who provide supports to more than 700 people in the North Country.
"We're a $25 million agency and 80% of our money goes right back into the North Country," he added.
The ARC's offerings include residential and day services programs as well as an employment services program that helps train people for jobs, get them hired and support them in their work.
West also noted a community pre-vocational program through which participants who might not be ready for the workforce yet volunteer in the community.
"Our mission is to support people to live their best lives," he said. "There's a whole range of ways we can do that and it's really that we have to identify what that person needs and the best way to provide those supports.
"We really want to help them achieve their goals, achieve their dreams."
For example, if someone wants to go to Disneyland, DSPs work with them to figure out how to save money and prepare for the trip, West said. Other goals might include getting a job, achieving some sort of independence or getting published.
JOB CODE BILL
West pointed to an ongoing push centered around getting the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act passed.
Currently in committees in both houses of Congress, the legislation, which is cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), would classify DSP as an official job code.
West said that would allow for more national recognition and help achieve a better living wage for ARC employees, which Pierce said they deserve.
"We will continue to celebrate the importance of this profession and advocate for our government to recognize them for what they are: essential," she added.
West said the ARC is always hiring. Information about the organization, including how to apply, is available at cviarc.org.
The Arc New York and its chapters will hold a virtual statewide job fair, accessible at discovertherewards.org, on Thursday, Sept. 23.
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