Mary Anne Wisell, MDS Director of OperationsMarch 31, 2020: A Message from Mary Anne Wisell, MDS Director of Operations

They are our unsung heroes - DSPs (Direct Support Professionals) who support people with developmental disabilities. Their commitment is even more apparent now. The media has provided coverage of emergency personnel, medical staff (and sometimes nursing home staff), but there has been little said about community-based, front-line direct care workers -- DSPs, Program Managers, Home Providers, and families.Their work, each and every day, is critical to the lives of nearly 1,000 people in the Monadnock Region and their families. It's even more crucial now.

If you ask a Direct Support Professional or Program Manager if they anticipated anything like this Coronavirus situation, they would shrug and shake their heads.

"Never, in their wildest dreams (or mine) did they ever think they would experience something like this," sighs Mary Anne Wisell, MDS Director of Operations. "Most DSPs make about $12 an hour for this essential work, and that's after a recent pay increase."

With social/physical distancing in place, most of the community activities for individuals have been shut down.

"Many of the people we serve have compromised immune systems and complex health issues, making them even more vulnerable to the virus. They need to live in a safe environment, and they need our help in doing that," explains Mary Anne. "If a DSP were to become sick or be exposed to someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, we can't use that staff member. And we're already short-staffed, so this is extraordinarily challenging for all of us."

Right now, DSPs are being asked to work longer shifts or support multiple people at the same time due to the increased staffing shortage. Most of the agencies contracting with MDS are looking for additional staff.

"Our team of DSPs are some of the most dedicated, hard-working caregivers around. We would welcome anyone who is a caring, committed person to join our team of great people!"

Of particular importance is that we recognize that these DSPs are "essential workers" in our healthcare system, given that our population has many people with compromised health issues. Both our direct care staff and our vulnerable individuals must be included when prioritizing Coronavirus testing for essential workers and at risk populations.

We thank our front-line workers - DSPs, program managers, home providers, and families - for all they are doing to pitch in wherever needed while keeping everyone safe. Our team has some of the most dedicated, hard-working caregivers around. Let's all be sure we recognize the impact of their work. We cannot thank you enough for your work!

See also:  April 5, 2020: Essential Direct Care Staff Remain Hard at Work An Op Ed Piece in the Keene Sentinel by Alan Greene, Executive Director