Labor Secretary Solis
Direct support professionals − nurse aides, home health aides, and personal and home care aides − are the primary providers of paid hands-on care for millions of individuals with disabilities.
They assist individuals with a broad range of personal assistance including preparation of meals, helping with medications, bathing, dressing, mobility; and getting to planned activities, on a daily basis.
The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Labor are proud that the United States Senate has bestowed this recognition honoring direct support professionals and the tremendous impact they make everyday in communities across the country.
Their service and dedication is exemplary and their role in enhancing the lives of individuals with disabilities of all ages is vital.
We are grateful that direct support professionals are always there on the front lines when we need them.
The 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, celebrated earlier this year, provides another reason to celebrate the contributions of direct support professionals.
Without the services and supports provided by these professionals, it would be far more difficult to realize the important contributions made by people with disabilities in our society today.
The often unheralded efforts of direct support professionals make it possible for millions of Americans with disabilities to lead meaningful lives as valued members of their communities and connected to their families.
Today, more than 3 million professionals are employed in direct care occupations and demand for these workers is projected to increase by 34 percent over the next decade, mainly because of the aging of the population.
By 2016, there are expected to be 1 million new positions. At 4 million, the size of this workforce will exceed other occupational categories such as K-12 teachers, cashiers, fast food workers, registered nurses, and waiters and waitresses.
Although direct support professionals constitute one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the workforce, there is a documented critical and growing shortage of these workers in every community throughout the United States.
To attract future direct support professionals, HHS and Labor are coordinating to help workers acquire the skills and credentials needed to obtain good, sustainable health care jobs and advance their careers.
HHS and Labor are working together to improve the quality of direct support professional jobs and stabilize this workforce on a number of fronts.
Many direct support professionals are without health insurance coverage and lack the necessary training and development to do their jobs well.
With the Affordable Care Act, that’s changing. Many provisions will benefit direct support professionals by providing numerous opportunities to access more affordable health care and to enhance their training and development.
Strategies like these will not only improve the quality of direct support professional jobs, but they will help to promote economic recovery and expand the middle class.
That is why it is important to take time out during National Direct Support Professionals Week to thank direct support professionals for all they do and to remind the public just how vital our nation’s direct support professionals are to the health and well-being of society.
So, as you celebrate National Direct Support Professionals Week this year, we hope you will also take a few moments to reflect on some of the challenges that also face direct care work today.
Direct support professionals are often familiar with what persons with disabilities and elderly individuals want and need, and respond to both. That’s the power of direct care work.
We commend their work and the difference they make each and every day.
For more information on federal, state and local government programs and services for people with disabilities, their family members and caregivers, please visit www.disability.gov and the HHS Office on Disability’s website at http://www.hhs.gov/od/.