Moving Mountains Best Practices 2009 Award Winner Two

South Dakota Association of Community Based Services

South Dakota

The South Dakota Association of Community Based Services (SDACBS) is a collaborative effort of 19 agencies that provide community supports to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, encompassing all such organizations in the state of South Dakota. Initiated in 2001, the SDACBS’s Direct Support Workforce: Building a Collaborative Strategy for Recruitment, Retention, Training, and Utilization initiative has been transformative in the improvement of direct support workforce outcomes and practices statewide.

While different agencies have benefited from participation in SDACBS in different ways, all agree that the key to the organization’s success is the collaborative nature of the endeavor. Working within a difficult fiscal environment and facing many workforce challenges, SDACBS made a commitment to finding innovative ways to improve the workforce supporting individuals with IDD in the state without focusing exclusively on increases in wages and benefits, which were difficult to obtain. Instead, the directors of the 19 member agencies met frequently to find solutions that would be sustainable and which would promote the best interests of the majority of members.

The first steps of workforce transformation in South Dakota were driven by a survey of over 2000 direct support professionals (DSPs) statewide to determine what factors were important to them in their training, work environment, and ability to provide quality supports to the people they serve. The results of this initial survey informed a strategic plan that sought to provide high quality, cost effective training opportunities for DSPs and frontline supervisors, and create strategies for marketing and utilization of media to improve recruitment and promote the status of direct support work in local communities. From the initial strategic planning and collaboration, a number of innovative initiatives emerged, each being of particular benefit to selected partner organizations.

Collaborative Competency-Based Online Training

Members of SDACBS made early investments in the College of Direct Support, an online training tool that focuses on building DSP performance by focusing on the competencies identified in the Community Support Skills Standards. SDACBS member agencies began using the College of Direct Support in 2004, and agencies have implemented the tool in various ways. Among the most innovative, one agency has DSPs and individuals with IDD go through CDS training together, in order to open dialogues about how the general practices outlined in the online training apply to the support needs of individuals. This practice has been quite effective in facilitating communication between DSPs and the individuals they support, and in building individualized supports that are grounded in recognized competencies. Statewide use of CDS has also enabled the SDACBS to form a strong cooperative arrangement with the state’s University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities, which manages CCS registration and provides technical assistance to SDACBS members in use of the online training.

Media & Marketing for Recruitment and Retention

Another key feature of the SDACBS efforts in the first 8 years of the collaboration was the development of a media and marketing kit called Put Your Heart In It. This professionally produced set of marketing tools contained materials for radio advertisements, billboards, posters, and newspapers ads, along with a 15-minute video promoting the importance of the DSP profession. Designed to enhance the public image of DSP work, both for recruitment and for status of current DSPs, the media kit was used in different ways by different agencies. One organization used the newspaper ads for target marketing aimed at recruiting university students to DSP work. Another organization used the media kit aggressively, airing radio advertisements and putting up a billboard in the largest city in the state. These efforts are credited, in part, for securing higher quality applications for open DSP positions and for longer retention of DSPs.

Outcomes & Achievements

While the success of SDACBS is measured largely by the milestones of individual SDACBS members in improving direct support workforce outcomes, there are a number of indicators of achievement for the organization as a whole. Among these achievements:

  • The College of Direct Support is in wide use with 3,229 DSPs enrolled in 85,909 lessons as of late 2008. Of these users, 111 are people with IDD and 21 are family members.
  • SDACBS initiatives have been instrumental in preparing a number of member agencies for accreditation through the Council on Quality and Leadership. The entire SDACBS network is moving towards CQL accreditation.
  • The average turnover rate among SDACBS agencies has been reduced by 12%, from 49% in 2001 to 37% in 2007.
  • SDACBS agencies have been leaders in promotion of self-directed service options for people with IDD across South Dakota, increasing support choices in the state.