Lack of direct support professionals continues in southern Minnesota


ROCHESTER, Minnesota (KTTC) – A staffing crisis continues in the social services arena amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social workers, counselors and other direct support professionals say they are overworked because vacancies are filled.

Bear Creek Services in Rochester says the human services industry has been in a workforce crisis for the past five to seven years.

“So we currently have 60 positions open right now and we urgently need Direct Support Professionals (DSPs),” said Crystal Heim, Public Relations Manager for the Capacity Building Community (ABC).

At Bear Creek Services, there are 28 places available for the same position.

Both organizations say there was a high turnover of DSP positions before the pandemic, but people were still applying.

“We are not able to get people back to their pre-COVID schedules,” Heim said. “So we have people served here in the building and we can’t have them all here if we don’t have these direct support professionals. So some of these people are currently only working 1 to 3 days a week instead. of their 5 day per week program. “

Now both say there are hardly any applications and the current employees are overworked and feeling exhausted.

“I have employees who work an incredible amount of overtime,” said Linda Driessen, General Manager of Bear Creek Services. “You know, 80 hours of overtime, on top of their 80 hours of work. I mean, it’s not completely unheard of.”

This means that those in need are also affected by the understaffing.

“Make sure people have food and take care of themselves, and get the medicine they need and everything, but that’s all we can do and it’s not our mission, ”said Driessen. “Or the mission is to provide personalized community living experiences and being at home all the time does not fulfill that mission.”

The organizations say they go to great lengths to hire people by attending career fairs and creating pathways for high school students.

However, the low salaries of direct support professionals remain a problem.

“But the reality is that we are a nonprofit, we can’t compete with these companies that are willing to pay people $ 16, $ 17, $ 18 an hour,” Heim said.

“Part of the problem is that the pay is not sympathetic with the level of skill and experience the DSP must have to do the job,” Driessen said.

Due to the lack of DSPs at present, organizations are unable to serve individuals as they did before the pandemic, and in some cases cannot take on new clients until other DSPs do. ‘will not have been hired.

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