My family really enjoys superhero movies – Captain America, The Incredibles, The Avengers, Black Panther, Batman, Wonder Woman…you get the point. We’ve seen them all and own most of the movies so we can watch them again whenever the mood strikes.

I finally had a chance to see Avengers: Endgame last week. Great movie!! My husband and kids, who had all seen the movie at least once, were relieved they could finally talk about it without spoiling it for me. I love these conversations: favorite scenes, plot twists, quality of the special effects, and more. Inevitably, someone mentions their hope for the superheroes that deserve a feature movie but have not yet been recognized.

In the field of disabilities services, there are many unsung heroes who go unrecognized. Direct support professionals (DSPs) have a passion for walking alongside people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. DSPs provide personal supports, promote skill development that leads to greater independence, and ensure individuals with disabilities can lead active, dignified lives.

However, we are currently facing a DSP crisis. Due to significant funding challenges, these unsung heroes:

  • Work for wages that fall below the federal poverty level for a family of four,
  • Work multiple jobs just to make ends meet, or
  • Rely on government assistance to provide for their own basic needs

Despite their passion to serve, many DSPs must choose between a job they love and providing for self and family. Across the nation service providers are struggling to maintain a qualified work force. Staff turnover rates are approximately 50%, resulting in both staffing shortages and an inexperienced workforce.

In Missouri this year, the developmental disability community asked the legislature for $76.5 million to help rectify this situation and provide pay increases for direct support professionals. The Missouri budget committee and Governor Parson ultimately approved $20.1 million.

LifeBridge Partnership and the rest of the service provider community will continue the fight to provide better wages for DSPs. I challenge you to be an unsung hero. Join us in our efforts – contribute, volunteer, advocate! Contact your legislators and ask them to support increased funding for services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Missouri Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, MARF, has great resources regarding legislative priorities for this community at https://marf.cc/priorities/

Together we can make a difference!

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