It was a homecoming of sorts, at a place known to many but visited by few- the Minnesota State Capitol.
Direct support professionals (DSPs) from day program and housing providers filled all floors of the Rotunda along with the people with disabilities they serve and family members. The hot issue at the annual Disability Services Day at the Capitol in March was wages for direct support staff. A recent study revealed that DSP wages are 17 percent lower on average when compared to professions requiring similar levels of preparation and training.
“It made me realize that there are a lot more people in the same boat as me,” said ProAct Eagan classroom instructor Angi Fleury. “There was a lot of energy. It was fun and loud, but a good loud.”
When asked about the importance of staff, participant Michelle Meyer said they treat her with dignity, and help her with boundaries and cognitive skills. “They get me out in the community,” she said. “It’s very important to me to get out in the community, because if I don’t get out in the community, I get sick again because I have a mental illness.”
Participant Nancy Strehlow was struck by the immensity of the building, and spoke about how staff help her in daily life.
Fleury said she felt super appreciated, and was encouraged to get to know her participants better and educate others about her work. “I love what I do- my participants, my coworkers, it just all works.”