DSP in New York: What You Need to Know

11 Jan 2022
Discover what is DSP in New York, its impact, and how it unlocks opportunities for community integration.

Direct Support Professionals in New York

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) play a significant role in supporting individuals with disabilities in New York. From providing daily assistance to advocating for personal choice and community integration, their work is vital in ensuring individuals with disabilities have a high quality of life.

Role and Responsibilities

Direct Support Professionals in New York, particularly at the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), have a diverse range of responsibilities. They help individuals with personal needs, life skills, and ensure a safe environment. A significant part of their work involves advocating for personal choice and promoting community integration.

In New York City, the role of DSP caregivers has evolved over the years to include on-the-job support, coaching, and fostering community integration for their clients, primarily people with developmental disabilities or intellectual disabilities.

The services they provide include:

  • Administering medications
  • Transportation
  • Personal care
  • Assistance with daily tasks
  • Employment support
  • Job coaching
  • Advocacy for accessibility needs in the workplace
  • Emotional support
  • Community integration

These services are essential in supporting clients to live fulfilling and independent lives.

Career Development Opportunities

For those interested in a career as a DSP in New York, there are numerous career development opportunities available. At OPWDD, DSPs have the opportunity to grow in their roles, take exams for promotions, and explore different avenues for advancement. This is backed by testimonials from current staff members who have successfully developed their careers at OPWDD.

These development opportunities are a testament to the importance of DSPs in the lives of individuals with disabilities in New York. By investing in the growth and development of DSPs, New York is ensuring a high-quality workforce that is equipped to provide the best support possible for individuals with disabilities.

Eligibility for Developmental Disability Services

Determining the eligibility for developmental disability services in New York is a crucial step in accessing support and services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The process is managed by the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) and involves several steps and criteria.

Determining Eligibility Process

The OPWDD has established a three-step eligibility review process to determine if an individual qualifies for developmental disability services, according to their official site.

  1. Initial assessments by medical professionals
  2. Additional steps including enrolling in Medicaid
  3. Review by an independent Eligibility Review Committee

The independent Eligibility Review Committee is comprised of licensed practitioners. After their review, their recommendations are considered by the OPWDD Regional Office director or designee before informing the individual of the determination.

In cases of ineligibility, individuals have the option to request a meeting to discuss the decision. They may also request a third-step review or a Medicaid Fair Hearing. A request for a Medicaid Fair Hearing automatically leads to a 3rd-Step Review.

Diagnostic Evaluation and Criteria

The diagnostic evaluation is a critical component in determining eligibility for OPWDD services. This evaluation assesses the nature and significance of an individual's developmental disability, providing crucial data for the eligibility determination.

Eligibility for OPWDD services requires acceptable measures of intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior. These evaluations are expected to be based on the most recent editions of standardized instruments, ensuring that the most up-to-date and accurate methods are utilized.

The diagnostic evaluation and subsequent reviews are designed to ensure that only those who meet specific criteria are deemed eligible for services. This rigorous process helps to guarantee that resources are allocated appropriately and those who need services most are prioritized.

In understanding what is DSP in New York, it's important to recognize the process of eligibility determination and the criteria used for assessments. These factors play a crucial role in ensuring that individuals with developmental disabilities receive the support they need.

Core Competencies for DSPs in New York

To ensure quality care and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), New York State has established a set of core competencies for Direct Support Professionals (DSPs). These competencies serve as the foundation for person-centered supports and are mandatory for all DSPs across the state, irrespective of whether they operate at state-operated or voluntary programs. These competencies do not constitute a training program but are meant to reflect the skills and values DSPs need to enhance the quality of life for people with I/DD.

NYS DSP Core Competencies

The New York State DSP Core Competencies were developed in 2014, and they apply to all DSPs across the state. The competencies guide the DSPs in their role of supporting individuals with I/DD. These competencies are founded on the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) Code of Ethics, which, in conjunction with values-based competencies and skills, forms the basis for person-centered supports for individuals with I/DD in New York.

Key areas of competencies include:

  • Putting people first
  • Building and maintaining positive relationships
  • Demonstrating professionalism
  • Communication
  • Assessment
  • Community and service networking
  • Facilitation of services
  • Community living skills and supports
  • Education, training, and self-development

NYS Frontline Supervisor Core Competencies

New York State has also developed a set of Frontline Supervisor Core Competencies. Modeled on the National Frontline Supervisor Competencies developed by the University of Minnesota in 2014, these competencies prepare DSPs and others for the position of Frontline Supervisor [4].

The competencies for Frontline Supervisors were adjusted by New York State to reflect the state's prioritized thinking about the Frontline Supervisor's role in its service system. The list of core competencies for Frontline Supervisors includes:

  • Developing oneself
  • Facilitating training and learning
  • Supporting and developing others
  • Building and maintaining relationships
  • Advocacy
  • Organizational participation
  • Providing services
  • Utilizing resources
  • Leading others
  • Managing change

These core competencies serve as a roadmap for DSPs and Frontline Supervisors, guiding them in their roles and responsibilities. By mastering these competencies, professionals can ensure they are delivering the highest quality of support to individuals with I/DD.

Supporting and Strengthening DSP Workforce

The workforce of Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) in New York plays a crucial role in providing assistance to over 100,000 individuals with disabilities across the state. In recognition of their contributions and to address challenges in the industry, several initiatives have been launched to support and strengthen the DSP workforce.

Recognition and Support Initiatives

The Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has committed approximately 76 percent of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to initiatives designed to recognize the work of DSPs. These initiatives aim to support recruitment and retention, as well as enhance workforce skills and capacity.

One of these initiatives is the Heroes Fund, which grants $1,000 per full-time DSP or Family Care Provider who worked during a 90-day period from 3/17/2020 to 9/1/2021 and continues to be employed by the provider agency. An additional $500 bonus is available for those vaccinated against COVID-19.

Moreover, to address workforce vacancies and turnover rates, OPWDD will provide Longevity and Retention Bonuses equivalent to a 20% increase in reported DSP payroll costs.

Challenges and Retention Strategies

Despite these initiatives, the DSP industry in New York has faced challenges in retaining staff due to insufficient funding to pay workers a competitive wage. This has resulted in high turnover rates, impacting the quality of care provided to individuals with disabilities.

To address these challenges, OPWDD is investing in grants to support the professional development, capacity, and tenure of the direct support workforce. These include NADSP Credentialing Grants, High School DSP Training and Certification, SUNY Partnerships, Workforce Innovation Grants, and a Statewide DSP Marketing, Recruitment, & Retention Campaign [5].

Furthermore, OPWDD will issue grants to organizations implementing innovative strategies for DSP recruitment and retention to improve workforce competency throughout the service system.

While these strategies aim to improve the situation, more initiatives are needed to ensure fair compensation for DSPs in New York. This includes continuing and expanding Cost of Living Adjustments, which were previously included in the New York state budget, with increases of 5.4% in 2022 and 4% in the previous year.

With these supportive measures in place, it is hoped that the challenges facing DSPs in New York can be effectively addressed, ensuring that individuals with disabilities continue to receive the high quality of care they deserve.

Impact of DSPs in Community Integration

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) play a crucial role in integrating individuals with disabilities into the community. Their role has been further solidified with the introduction of the Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) Settings Rule.

HCBS Settings Rule Overview

Over the last several decades, more people with disabilities are living in the community rather than in institutions. This shift has led to an expansion of states’ Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) programs. In 2014, the federal government issued a new rule, known as the HCBS Settings Rule. This rule, for the first time, defines "community" for all Medicaid-funded HCBS programs.

The Rule ensures that people receive services in HCBS settings that help them integrate into the community. It promotes best practices developed by states, providers, and DSPs over years of working with and learning from people receiving services. Furthermore, the Rule helps states meet their requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C.

The goal of the rule is to enhance the quality and availability of HCBS and ensure that all people receiving these services have full access to the benefits of community living. This includes opportunities to live, work, and receive services in integrated, community settings.

Implementation and Public Involvement

The Rule requires states to develop and fully implement a "State Transition Plan" (STP) by March 2022. It also stipulates that the public must have an opportunity to provide input into these STPs. This public input is a critical opportunity for DSPs, people with disabilities and their families, providers, and advocates to influence how their state will implement this new Rule in their service system. A number of states have already received approval for their plans.

The HCBS Settings Rule is an essential step towards ensuring that people with disabilities can fully participate in their communities, achieve greater independence, and engage in social, recreational, and employment opportunities that are meaningful to them. However, the integration and inclusion envisioned by the Rule cannot be fully realized without the hard work, dedication, and leadership of DSPs.

The goals of the HCBS Settings Rule—choice, independence, and inclusion—align with the mission of many home and community-based provider agencies. Along with DSPs’ role in reaching these goals, it is critical that agencies’ leadership support these goals. They can do this through trainings, supervision, and the professional culture they create. Meaningful integration is made possible through the day-to-day work of DSPs. DSPs make a significant difference when they empower individuals with disabilities to be part of their communities, make their own choices, and lead more independent lives.


[1]: https://opwdd.ny.gov/career-opportunities/direct-support

[2]: https://friendsfamilyhomecare.com/caregiving/what-is-a-dsp-caregiver-in-new-york-city/

[3]: https://opwdd.ny.gov/eligibility

[4]: https://opwdd.ny.gov/providers/core-competencies

[5]: https://opwdd.ny.gov/supporting-and-strengthening-direct-support-workforce

[6]: https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nys/central-ny/news/2024/04/02/calls-for-more-cost-of-living-adjustments-for-direct-support-professionals-in-state-budget

[7]: https://publications.ici.umn.edu/frontline-initiative/15-1/DSP-Role-HCBS-Rule

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