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Nonprofit View: Direct support professionals going to work throughout pandemic are heroes

I have been seeing and hearing a lot about “heroes” in the news lately. I am not talking about my friends in law enforcement or those who are firefighters and EMT’s. Yes, doctors and nurses are heroes, too, and I know what they go through to keep us safe, healthy, and alive. I am married to a nurse who worked in the ICU for many years and I have a better understanding than most, Lately, I’ve been hearing that grocery store workers and truck drivers are heroes, too, as they go to work to keep us fed and provisioned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group of folks that I don’t hear mentioned — ever — are the direct support professionals (DSPs) working across Carroll County and the entire country.

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The DSPs who go to work every day, every night, and every weekend are essential employees, too! They provide hands-on care and support to some of our most vulnerable citizens: our friends, family members, and neighbors with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The DSPs go to work during snowstorms, hurricanes, and yes … the COVID-19 pandemic! While many businesses have come to a screeching halt, “Group Homes” and other assisted living facilities have remained open.

The direct support professionals at Flying Colors of Success, Inc., are my heroes!

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If you read the newspaper, you know that we are caring for the first group home resident who tested positive for COVID-19 in Carroll County. We also have an employee who has tested positive. My heroes keep coming to work every day and night, wearing their personal protective equipment (PPE) and trying to make the lives of the citizens they support as normal as possible. They continue to show their flexibility, creativity and have also given us great ideas and suggestions on ways to quarantine in their group homes.

During this pandemic, we have temporarily boosted the pay of these dedicated DSPs in recognition of their commitment to the individuals we serve. I only wish we were able to sustain the crisis pay rates, but that is nearly impossible in Maryland’s chronically underfunded developmental disability service system. Once again, we are begging the governor not to cut the 4% budget increase the legislature approved for disability providers. It seems we are always expected to do more with less funding, even amid a pandemic.

While you are thinking about how your life has changed during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, don’t forget to think about your friends and neighbors who are direct support professionals. There are many heroes here in Carroll County and they go to work every day for agencies like Flying Colors of Success, ARC, Target, and Change/Penn-Mar. If you know one of these committed professionals, please tell them thanks for what they do!

C. Michael Hardesty is the president and CEO of Flying Colors of Success, Inc. Reach him at cmhardesty@flyingcolorsofsuccess.org.

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Each Monday, the Carroll County Times publishes a column from a local nonprofit, allowing them to share information about their organization and the issues facing it, as our editorial. To be considered, email cctnews@carrollcountytimes.com with the subject line “Nonprofit View.”

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