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NCDHHS launches Comprehensive Workforce Plan to address direct support professional shortage

RALEIGH — The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services today released a multi-year Direct Support Professional Workforce Plan. This plan aims to address the critical shortage of DSPs who provide in-home and community-based services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in North Carolina. Implementation will begin on July 1.

“We’re building a future where every North Carolinian with an intellectual or developmental disability has the support they need to truly thrive in their communities,” said NC Health and Human Services Secretary Kody H. Kinsley. “By investing in our Direct Support Professionals today, we’re ensuring a strong workforce for tomorrow, one that will empower individuals with I/DD to live fully and inclusively in the communities of their choosing.”

The comprehensive plan is part of NCDHHS’ Inclusion Connects initiative, which is dedicated to connecting people with I/DD to more choices and more access to services and supports. This includes developing a robust, high quality DSP workforce through improved recruitment, retention and training strategies. The comprehensive workforce plan also addresses directives from the recent Consent Order stemming from the Samantha R. et al. vs. NCDHHS and the State of North Carolina Case.

“Direct Support Professionals play a critical role in helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live lives of their choosing in their communities,” said Kelly Crosbie, MSW, LCSW, Director of the NCDHHS Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, and Substance Use Services. “With the projects identified in our plan, we hope to create a workforce pipeline and the tools employers need to recruit and retain a strong, well-qualified DSP workforce.”


The DSP Workforce Plan focuses on several key initiatives during the first year of implementation:

  • Awareness and Recruitment Campaign: Targeting high school and community college students, as well as people who are unemployed or underemployed, to educate and motivate them about careers in human services. The campaign will launch in September 2024.
  • Community College Pilot Program: A partnership with selected community colleges to develop and implement a DSP-specific curriculum and certificate program, including a scholarship component covering tuition and fees for participants.
  • Provider Recruitment and Retention Grants: These grants will support provider agencies in enhancing their support structures to attract and retain DSPs.

Beginning in 2025, NCDHHS plans to expand successful initiatives and explore new strategies to strengthen the DSP workforce, including the creation of a statewide DSP directory and continued partnerships with community colleges. The plan will continue to be refined through ongoing community engagement and stakeholder feedback, including with DMHDDSUS’ Direct Support Professionals Advisory Committee, where individuals with lived experience have provided valuable insights and recommendations that have been instrumental in crafting this plan.

Together, these initiatives aim to create a more accessible and supportive North Carolina, enabling people with I/DD to live more independently and participate fully in the community of their choice. This work is essential to building a comprehensive system of care that promotes inclusion and connectivity.

The DSP Workforce Plan reaffirms NCDHHS’ dedication to enhancing opportunities for North Carolinians with I/DD and responding effectively to the community’s needs through innovative and sustainable solutions.