Moving Mountains Best Practices
2008 Award Winner Two

The New York State Association of Community
and Residential Agencies

Albany, New York

The New York State Association of Community and Residential Agencies (NYSACRA) is a coalition of 200 residential provider organizations employing 65,000 DSPs to support more than 55,000 people with developmental disabilities in New York. NYSACRA represents the collective voice of its members in promoting the full participation of persons with developmental disabilities in the communities of New York State. NYSACRA members are voluntary not-for-profit agencies that serve people with developmental disabilities, their families, and the vendors and other affiliated service organizations providing services. Board and workforce development group members represent six geographic regions in New York. 

Since 2000, NYSACRA has partnered with DSPs and organizational representatives to implement various workforce initiatives. It established strong collaborative ties with the New York State Parent to Parent group, the Self Advocacy Association of New York, and a variety of governmental and other stakeholder groups such as the NYS Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (OMRDD) and the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. Since 2006, workforce initiatives have been one of three priority action areas in the NYSACRA strategic action plan. 

Recruitment and awareness initiatives 
NYSACRA was selected as partner in a pilot program in four states to promote networking between provider organizations and local one-stop career centers. They provided information to one-stop center staff and individuals looking for jobs about careers in direct support. Activities included sharing a realistic job preview video with centers, collaborating on career fairs, and helping one-stop centers and local provider organizations to share resources for improving the DSP workforce. 

A Direct Support Workforce Guide was developed in 2006 and revised in 2008 describing DSP job requirements, recruitment and retention challenges, and wage and benefit challenges. This guide was distributed to one-stop centers, legislators, and other state organizations. 

NYSACRA sponsors an annual legislative rally on DSP issues. It also publishes and disseminates a weekly DSP profile to legislators from January to April each year. Each profile include photos and the story of one DSP. Several hundred profiles have now been shared. Profiled DSPs often attend the legislative rally to share their stories in person with their legislators. 

Educational initiatives 
Beginning in 2004, NYSACRA partnered with the State University of New York (SUNY) and their community-based educational opportunity centers to offer a two-year disability studies certificate for DSPs. Participants complete a disability-specific 12 week non-credit bridge to college course that prepares them for the college experience. Those who complete the bridge course are eligible to have 100% of their tuition expenses covered for four disability-related college courses (12-16 credits) to be completed within two years. Certificate students also complete 12 online courses through the College of Direct Support (CDS). 

NYSACRA piloted CDS with 70 DSPs in rural communities. In 2008, OMRDD funded expansion of CDS online training to additional sites through NYSACRA’s administrative license. 

NYSACRA has worked with member agencies to incorporate the Community Support Skill Standards into ongoing training programs 

NYSACRA has sponsored annual DSP conferences for 25 years. Today, nearly 1,000 DSP participants attend five regional conferences each year. Activities include recognition events, listening sessions to hear from DSPs about their issues, and continuing education opportunities for participants. 

NYSACRA is working with members to create local NADSP chapters and to evaluate interest in implementing the NADSP Credentialing program in New York. They have been funded by OMRDD to offer 850 NADSP memberships in 2008. 

Wages and benefits 
NYSACRA collaborated with SUNY to publish the NYS Economic Value Study that identifies the positive economic impact of community-based services for people with developmental disabilities. They collaborated with the John F. Kennedy Jr. Foundation to complete a health insurance study. Then in 2005, the Healthcare Enhancement for Direct Support Professionals in New York legislation was passed resulting in increased access to healthcare for DSPs throughout New York. Finally, NYSACRA and two sponsored DSPs attended the 2007 ANCOR rally in Washington DC to support HR #1279 to improve DSP wages nationally. 

Outcomes

  • More than 200 DSPs have completed the Bridge to College Course.
  • By April 2008, 208 learners in New York had tried CDS, including 113 learners who completed all specified courses. of NADSP chapters, creation of a local realistic job preview video and development of additional promotional materials
  • OMRDD has provided increased funding and attention to DSP challenges and initiatives.
  • NYSACRA worked with a local workforce investment board to identify direct support as a demand profession providing increased access to WIB funding for customized and on-the-job training.
  • NYSACRA obtained two grants from the New York State Department of Health to fund Disability Studies Certificate and College of Direct Support participants
  • NYSACRA obtained a grant in 2008 from OMRDD to support development
  • Quotes from NYSACRA members and DSPs –
    • “Do not underestimate the power of having a statewide organization taking the lead.. I have to focus on my 40 homes. I have trouble breaking away to view the big picture. NYSACRA gives me. information and understanding that I would not get on my own.” (NYSACRA provider)
    • “The Bridge to College class was good.. I did not think I could, but I did well.” (DSP)
    • The Disability Studies Certificate program is “great for morale. People are getting recognition and achieving goals.” (NYSACRA provider)
    • “NYSACRA has great promotional materials.. We love having our staff featured in NYSACRA publications.” (NYSACRA provider)
    • “You learn a lot of things that your work place does not teach you or does not go into great detail. I wish I took this [CDS] before I started working in this field because it could have saved me from getting myself into a few sticky situations and I would have caught on a little faster” (NYSACRA College of Direct Support user).
    • “CFS provided ideas that can be taken literally or molded to fit a specific program. I really like the idea of having the staff feel included in the decision making process. I enjoyed the audio samples of “real life” scenarios” (NYSACRA College of Frontline Supervision participant)

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