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Readers' view: Direct support professionals deserve better pay

Those who serve our community members with intellectual and developmental disabilities — called direct support professionals, or DSPs — are dedicated, talented, and committed to helping the people they work with achieve their goals and be as independent as possible. They need to earn and deserve a salary that allows them to support their families, save for retirement, and send their children to college.

With an estimated 8,700 unfilled positions in the state of Minnesota for direct support professionals, this situation has reached a crisis level. The employee turnover rate can range between 30 percent and 65 percent across the state. Many hours of training and education are needed to gain the skills required to be responsible for the care of people with disabilities. Turnover disrupts the continuity of relationship that is important to attaining goals and providing quality support for individuals with disabilities. It may cause significant stress to those whose care is continuously disrupted by change.

The Legislature has a bill that would provide for a 4 percent raise to DSPs whose starting salary often is lower than the salaries at convenience stores, fast-food restaurants and other entry-level positions. The bill would allow direct support professionals to stay in their roles and continue to support the people who count on them each day for such things as access to our community, personal-care needs, assistance with meals, and basic support to fulfill daily needs. A salary increase would help retain and attract talented people to our field.

Please contact your state legislators and ask them to support the Best Life Alliance Bill to Raise Wages for Direct Support Professionals (HF 873 and SF 669).

Karen D. Herman, Ann Dahl, Heather Trieschmann, and Heather Opsahl