The caregiver industry for direct support professionals is at a crisis point. DSP’s are care professionals for the elderly, the developmentally or physically disabled, or patients in rehabilitation programs. Being a direct support professional is not easy.

Besides the physical and emotional demands on these professionals, the compensation levels are not reflective of peer professionals. The U.S. hourly wage rate is $7.25/hour, and the average hourly wage is $24.57, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average DSP wage is $11.26/hour, reflecting of the wage gap among qualified professionals.



More than 3.5 million Americans live with an ASD, with an estimated 1 in 68 diagnosed at birth. The prevalence of ASD related diagnoses increased by 6-15 percent each year from 2002 to 2010.

In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled on the Olmstead Case that “unjustified discrimination of persons with disabilities constitutes discrimination in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.” This ruling enforced the civil rights of Americans with disabilities placing more responsibility on the states to provide access to support. The court case raises the rights of Americans with disabilities to live their lives like individuals without disabilities. What this means to the industry is that there is a greater demand on hiring qualified and committed staff than state and federal governments can currently fund. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 35,000 DSP’s according to PAR.net, a state advocacy group. Of those 35,000 workers, there are 4,200 job openings and an estimated 9,500 leaving their current job this year.

My name is Dennis Dicker, the founder of Optonome (op-ton-uh-mee). I experienced this DSP crisis firsthand while running my home health agency supporting adults with autism and intellectual disabilities. My mission is to help providers everywhere save time and money on DSP’s before hire. Why? Because once you receive the referral or have someone who needs services, you must match them with the right trained worker and focus on their everyday needs. Not only do DSPs need to be trained properly on state regulations, but they must also be trained on the individual support plan and other policies to reduce allegations of abuse and neglect. While supporting individuals with behavioral supports this can be very time-consuming. This process, if managed by administrative staff, could take hours and days to manage. Industry experts say this cost amounts to over $2000 per new staff person. With the current state demands, providers in Pennsylvania and everywhere will be wasting more than $28,500,000 this year alone.

Optonome was built with this in mind. With DSP123 a free training curriculum to become a certified DSP, home health providers are now able to automate the finding, matching, onboarding, and training process saving time and money on administrative costs before and after hire. Knowing DSP’s are providing quality healthcare services based on the ISP at all times and locations,  money can be saved and possibly increase wages or mission objectives.

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  1. Ostrum, N., 2014, Autism costs may top $2 million over patient’s life, study finds, © Bloomberg News / http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-09/autism-costs-more-than-2-million-over-patient-s-life.html
  2. CDC, 2014, https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html
  3. Ancor, Addressing the Disability Services Workforce Crisis of the 21st Century, American Network of Community Options and Resources 2017, https://cqrcengage.com/ancor/file/ZuL1zlyZ3mE/Workforce White Paper – Final – hyperlinked version.pdf

Preventing Caregiver Turnover, HomeCare magazine http://www.homecaremag.com/operations-management/february-2016/preventing-caregiver-turnover.