Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are a lifeline for people living with disabilities

AVON PARK – A crisis is upon us in Avon Park. Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) who serve people with disabilities are leaving their jobs for better pay. As a result, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities – and their families – are facing devastating consequences.

Ridge Area Arc is reaching out on behalf of these individuals with disabilities to seek your help with addressing this problem.  It is a unique time because everyone who cares about services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities need to be on the same page – and that page can be found at the website.

The message is that direct support professionals are a lifeline for people with developmental disabilities and policy makers need to hear from you.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the staff who bathe, cook, feed, dress, clean, transport, and keep individuals with disabilities safe in their own home, a group home, or the home of their family.  These workers care for adults and children, providing the functions the individuals cannot do for themselves.  This enables the parents and family members of these individuals the ability to work and support their families.  DSPs provide support so that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities can live in the community, a less expensive option for taxpayers compared to institutions.  They are woefully underpaid for their work and their commitment to better lives for people with disabilities.  They are leaving the field in droves for easier and better-paying jobs.

Betty Rowland is a single parent of a 23-year-old woman on the Medicaid waiver waiting list.

There are about 25,000 people with developmental disabilities in Florida waiting for Medicaid waiver services. The Medicaid waiver program ensures that persons with disabilities are afforded rights to participate in society without barriers, live in their least restrictive environment, and receive services in their community to avoid institutionalization.

Bethany has Down syndrome and several health issues and in order care for Bethany, Rowland relies on direct support professionals. Rowland’s goals are not much different than yours – she wants her daughter to be a person who can function to the best of her ability in society, be productive, contribute, form meaningful relationships, and remain safe and healthy. In order to accomplish this, she needs help. Bethany is in danger of being isolated because she is not able to participate in society without the assistance of other people. These are not just people who “babysit” her. Aside from supervision for safety purposes, these are people who are instrumental in the achievement of her goals as a person with a disability.

Rowland works full time at Ridge Area Arc and privately pays for Bethany to attend Arc’s Adult Day Training program one day a week. For 34 hours a week, Bethany spends time with a support professional paid for through a medical trust.

In order to ensure her daughter’s health, safety, community inclusion, and participation in activities to achieve goals, Rowland relies on support professionals. Rowland would not be able to go to work and without them, Bethany would be unable to go out of her home, to work on her goals, to socialize, participate in the community, stay clean and healthy, and remain safe.  These are not small things. Bethany’s quality of life depends upon having a support professional.

When direct support professionals are not paid fairly, not only it is an insult to them, but it literally puts Bethany’s life in jeopardy. We all know that when someone is paid properly, they feel valued. When they feel valued, they perform better. With the extremely low wages currently in place, the agencies who hire these professionals are in crisis.  These jobs are extremely important, and as such, they should be compensated accordingly.

Group homes and agencies serving people with disabilities like Ridge Area Arc are facing staffing shortages, as well as higher costs for personal protective equipment, gas, and groceries.  Staff is spread thin and some other providers have had to close their group homes. Those trying to live on their own are also finding themselves in desperate situations.

There are a lot of hurting people out there, including the caregivers.  As the legislature meets this month, will you take the time to let your state representative and senator know how important it is that we increase the Medicaid payment rate for Direct Support Professionals serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities?  It’s a good investment for Highlands County.


Direct Support Professionals are leaving the profession in large numbers due to a lack of pay increases and sustainable wages.


Nationwide, the health care industry is seeing a shortage of Direct Support Professionals (DSP). Service providers are now doing what they can to recruit and retain employees amidst a workforce crisis. In Florida, DSP wages have not been substantially increased for years.


DSPs fulfill many critical roles. They build relationships and oftentimes provide around-the-clock care for people with I/DD. However, the annual turnover rate has reached a crisis level of over 50% and the workforce has diminished.

DSPs are some of the most underpaid, undervalued professionals in our state. On average, DSPs make a little more than $11 an hour nationwide—wages bound by state and federal funding.


DSPs are a lifeline for people living with I/DD. They not only give them a seat at the table but a chance to survive and thrive. Without the availability of these services, individuals with I/DD cannot be included in their communities and may have to seek more costly institutional care to survive.



Florida Senate District 26:

Senator Ben Albritton: District Office

150 North Central Avenue

Bartow, FL 33830

(863) 534-0073


US House of Representatives: Greg Stuebe:
Lake Placid Office

1069 US 27 North Room 116

Lake Placid, FL 33852

(941) 499-3214


Florida House of Representatives:

 Kaylee Tuck: 205 South Commerce Avenue, Suite B

Sebring, FL 33870-3626

(863) 386-6000

(863) 386-6000