‘Information deficit’ on direct support professionals addressed under Collins bill

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) recently offered new legislation that would improve workforce data collection on America’s direct support professionals, who assist with communication, provide on-the-job coaching, and help with the daily living needs for individuals with disabilities.

“Every day, direct support professionals work hard to provide critical support to individuals with disabilities that leads to more independent living and a better quality of life,” Sen. Collins said. “We face a considerable shortage of information on the work they do and the important services they provide. 

“Our bipartisan bill would address this information deficit by requiring OMB to improve data collection to help us better understand and address the challenges direct support professionals experience,” the congresswoman added.

Sen. Collins on April 28 signed on as the lead original cosponsor of the Recognizing the Role of Direct Support Professionals Act, S. 1437, which would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to revise the Standard Occupational Classification system to establish a separate code for direct support professionals, according to the text of the bill. 

U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) and bill sponsor U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are among the lawmakers who joined Sen. Collins in introducing S. 1437 to address the workforce needs for more direct support professionals.

According to information provided by Sen. Collins’ office, home- and community-based service providers across the country are struggling to recruit and retain direct support professionals, partly because the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes them under the broader category of “home healthcare aides,” which impacts the accurate tracking of workforce trends.

The legislation would revise the bureau’s classification system to ensure better data is collected.

The bill is supported by the American Network of Community Options and Resources, also known as ANCOR.