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Amid Ongoing Industry Upgrades, Hamaspik of Rockland County Makes Staff Appreciation Part of Holiday

April 6, 2016  

By Mendy Hecht, Hamaspik Gazette


Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) are the front-line staffers whose critical and vital contributions form the backbone of every disability-services agency like Hamaspik—and that of the entire New York State Office of People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD).

The DSPs are the hands and feet, eyes and ears, heart and mind of an entire industry—a collective symbol of the imperative to support society’s most vulnerable.

The men and women who work across New York State as DSPs, some for decades, do the work that so many others will not.

That’s at least partially why the OPWDD has been working in recent years to upgrade and enhance the DSP workforce, and on several fronts.

Sharing the OPWDD’s mission of respecting these valued professionals is Hamaspik of Rockland County, which spent virtually the entire Wednesday, March 23 in the person of Director of Residential Services Moshe Sabel to personally delivering a unique message of respect to over 100 Hamaspik DSPs.

GEARing up for industry improvement

Direct support staff who work with individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disability comprise one of the four sectors of the long term services and supports (LTSS) industry.

With an eye towards the long-term countering of the field’s several drawbacks, including low pay and high turnover, Albany authorized the funding of a study to look at solutions.

That study was created and conducted by the University of Minnesota, with critical leadership and input from the New York State Rehabilitation Association (NYSRA) and New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA).

The result?  Career GEAR Up, the OPWDD’s DSP credential pilot program.

An acronym for growth, education, advancement, and respect, Career GEAR Up submitted a list of recommendations to the OPWDD—and their implementation is already under way.

Central to the credentialing program is the granting of DSPs the dignity and professionalism of organized career education and training, not unlike therapy or even nursing.

In contrast to the recent past, in which non-profit providers and public-sector entities alike trained their new DSPs independently, the OPWDD is in the initial stages of rolling out GEAR Up’s credentialing model.

The model calls for three percent of DSPs statewide to be enrolled in the credentialing program in its first year and second years, with a goal of enrolling 20 percent of all statewide DSPs by Year Six.

That “First Class” of credentialed DSPs will earn the official title of DSP after putting in the requisite hours of training.

Outpouring of appreciation

Against all that background, Hamaspik of Rockland County sought to make a complimentary addition to it.

With the approach of Purim, the holiday marked, among other things, by the delivery of food servings as a religious requirement, Hamaspik leadership sought to put a holiday spin to upgrading its corner of the DSP industry.

At their regular meeting, Hamaspik of Rockland County Executive Director (and agency founder) Meyer Wertheimer and Mr. Sabel discussed a desire to show the dozens of DSPs across Hamaspik of Rockland County’s group homes that “they are appreciated,” as Sabel later told the Gazette, “and that their families are appreciated.”

The packages, at once the discharge of a Purim rite and acknowledgement of front-line staff and their dedicated work, were painstakingly planned by Hamaspik Special Events Coordinator Mrs. Brenda Katina.

Once purchased, the items were personally assembled into presentable packages by Mr. Sabel and Hamaspik of Rockland County Director of Quality Assurance Eliezer Appel, who remains instrumental in bringing Hamaspik up to speed with the state Core Competencies credentialing.

The item itself was a simple but tasteful hand-washing cup—a ritual item of which you’ll find several in every Orthodox Jewish household.

As presented by Hamaspik, each cup also contained some Purim goodies, and lettered with permanent best wishes from Hamaspik leader Mr. Wertheimer himself.

Hamaspik “wanted it to be something they would see and use around the house all year,” explains Mr. Sabel—thus remembering year-round that they have an employer that appreciates and honors them for the critical work that they do.