The Resource Center's efforts to enhance career opportunities for its direct support workforce has earned the organization a national award.
The Resource Center officials recently received word that its People Achieving Certification Together prototype was selected a winner of a 2014 Moving Mountains Best Practice Award. The competition was sponsored by the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and the Research and Training Center at the University of Minnesota's Institute on Community Integration.
Direct support professionals provide one-on-one support to individuals with disabilities. Supporting people with special needs to enjoy a great life is rewarding work, but it is also demanding - direct support professionals need to understand a range of disabling conditions; they provide care to people with complex physical and behavioral challenges; and they are responsible for adhering to a high level of administrative oversight that comes from dealing with the welfare of a vulnerable population.
The Resource Center employees pictured at a ceremony celebrating The Resource Center’s receipt of a Moving Mountains Award are, from left, Don Traynor, staff development specialist; Katrina Gibson and Kathy Cornelius, direct support professionals; Josh Miller, assistant site supervisor; Lisa Belk, direct service professional trainer; Debbie Rapp, site supervisor; Brigitte Hodnett, direct service professional trainer; Jessica Riquer, supported living specialist; Carla Hall, medical aide; Jennifer Dawson, residence manager; and Michele Albaugh, assistant director of staff training.
To provide recognition for the contributions and competence of direct support professionals and to establish a career path for people in the profession, the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals created a national credentialing program. The Resource Center developed its PACT program to support employees as they seek to obtain certification through the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals. The PACT prototype consisted of assigning educational modules through the College of Direct Support to those direct support professionals interested in achieving national certification. At the end of each two-week module, direct service professionals met with a facilitator to discuss the material learned and review the employees' efforts at implementing their new skills in their jobs.
The PACT prototype lasted 18 months. During that time, the participating direct service professionals engaged in peer mentoring and shared their experiences with other colleagues in their departments. Facilitation and peer mentoring were critical, as TRC administrators had learned that it is unreasonable to expect direct service professionals to pursue certification by themselves.
Initially, four TRC employees achieved direct service professional certification; others currently are going through the process. The success of the PACT program can be seen in the ways the certified direct service professionals now view themselves, their profession and the people they support.
The PACT prototype "has been a catalyst to enable direct service professionals to successfully develop professional skills, greatly enhance the positive impact they have on the people they support and validate them as a leader in the promotion of a profession on a national level," TRC stated in its award nomination.
"This thoughtfully planned and well-implemented, system-change effort is truly impressive. We are pleased to be recognizing this program of excellence with the 2014 Moving Mountains Award," the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals and University of Minnesota officials wrote in their letter notifying The Resource Center of its award.
The Resource Center was one of two organizations to receive a 2014 Moving Mountains Best Practice Award. TRC will receive its award at the NADSP's Reinventing Quality Conference in Baltimore in August.
"The award is an affirmative national recognition if The Resource Center's excellent work in developing a high-quality direct-support workforce," wrote Dr. Renee Pietrangelo, the chief executive officer of the American Network of Community Options and Resources. "Please extend our congratulations to all on The Resource Center staff who have contributed to this distinguished and effective program (PACT). As one of the selection committee members, I found the program innovative and effective, worthy of emulation by others."
Paul Cesana, The Resource Center's executive director, said PACT is just one aspect of TRC's commitment to supporting direct service professionals in their jobs, jobs that can be overwhelming. He said that many people don't appreciate the complexities and demands involved in providing direct support to individuals with disabilities.
"We've understood that and made a commitment not to take DSPs for granted," Cesana said.
While the national recognition of its efforts is wonderful, he said TRC will continue to develop initiatives aimed at supporting direct service professionals in their jobs.
"This is far from being over," Cesana said of TRC's commitment to its direct service professionals. "If you move one mountain, there are 10 other mountains to move."