The Licking County Board of Developmental Disabilities shared the following letter on July 21, 2021
To the people we support, their families and guardians,
It feels like an understatement to say that the past 16 months have been challenging for the people and families we support. We have seen families make incredible sacrifices and people come together with compassion and creativity to make the best of what was often a no-win situation.
We understand that for many of you, after years of striving for more independence and involvement in the community, the isolation that came during COVID felt like a step backward.
Although it feels like many aspects of life are returning to normal, the impacts of the pandemic are still being felt severely in our state’s DD system. Not only have Ohio’s provider agencies been on the frontlines of this pandemic, but they are now facing one of the largest staffing crises in recent history. Some of you may have already noticed changes in the services you receive because of this situation.
While receiving this letter in no way guarantees that your services will change, we want to make you aware that your Service Coordinator could reach out to you in the coming weeks to discuss the impact staffing shortages could have on the services you receive.
We hope that this letter can provide some information and context about why this might occur. Although staffing levels have been strained even further in the aftermath of the pandemic, the shortage of direct support professionals (DSPs) is not new. It has been a topic of discussion in our system for at least the past 20 years. We understand that many local employers are facing the same difficulties recruiting and retaining staff. But we also know that serious DSP shortages directly affect the people we support and their families. It is our obligation to be open and honest with you about what is happening, and share what we are doing to find solutions.
If your service coordinator contacts you, the next step is to consider other ways of meeting your needs. That might look like assistive technology, shared services, considering roommate options or something “out of the box.” As always, our staff members are looking to have open conversations with you and your provider. We will be as person-centered as possible in considering options.
Like any situation that has been ongoing for many years, there are no quick fixes and these DSP shortages will take time to stabilize. We ask for your patience and your understanding as we work through each situation. It is our goal that any changes in services will be for the short term and will be communicated clearly with you. LCBDD has also committed staff time and financial resources to doing everything in our power to help our providers and DSPs— which ultimately benefits the people we support.
From the early days of the pandemic, it was clear that the DSPs— both agency employees and independent providers — in our county were in the trenches alongside people we support and their families, helping them get through each day. They were a lifeline for the many people dependent on residential services to stay safe and physically and emotionally healthy. As a county board, we are doing everything we can to help them get through this staffing crisis.
We don’t have all the answers, but we are in regular communication with our providers about what they need or how we can help. If you have other suggestions for how we can become part of the solution, please reach out and share your ideas.
If you have any questions related to this letter, we ask that you call or email your Service Coordinator. They have also received a copy of this message and will be prepared to talk with you. You can also reach out to either of us, using the information below.
We cannot express our gratitude for all you have done and our appreciation for all you will continue to do during this uncertain time. We know that we are stronger when we all work together and firmly believe that is the best way to get through this and continue to fulfill our mission.
Jason L. Umstot
Director of Service Coordination