The Direct Support Professionals of Indiana (DSPIN) kicked off DSP Recognition Week by hosting the DSPIN Annual Conference on September 9. With a theme of "Walk in Our Shoes," the DSPIN Board of Directors designed a daylong conference focused on advocacy and the need to educate policymakers about the vital services delivered by DSPs.
DSPIN was pleased to host Nicole Norvell, Director of the Division of Disability & Rehabilitative Services (DDRS), who opened the meeting with a message of collaboration and partnership. DSPIN was honored to host a sitting DDRS Director for the first time in the organization's history. Ms. Norvell commended DSPs for their hard work and dedication, and spoke to the ways that providers, self-advocates, families and DSPs come together to make Indiana's system of services and supports one that works.
Perennial favorite Joe MacBeth, Executive Director of the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP), returned to Indiana to serve as the keynote speaker for the second year in a row. Mr. MacBeth, himself a veteran DSP, spoke to common issues faced on the job and the need for DSPs to think outside the box and advance their profession with friends, colleagues and policymakers. With an emphasis on ethics and awareness, Mr. MacBeth went through key aspects of a profession and explained how the NADSP and DSPIN provide valuable opportunities and resources for members and provider agencies. He challenged DSPs to take on negative media portrayals of their profession and pursue professional development and leadership opportunities.
DSPIN didn't take long to heed Joe's call to action to engage policymakers, with Senator Pete Miller (R-Brownsburg) already in attendance as a special guest speaker. As a newly elected legislator, Senator Miller shared his perspective on citizen involvement in the policymaking process. He encouraged DSPs to reach out to legislators, invite them to agencies, and demonstrate the hard work that they do every day.
Continuing on the theme of advocacy and empowerment, the Conference closed with presentations from John Dickerson, Executive Director of The Arc of Indiana and INARF President/CEO Kim Opsahl. They delved into the ways in which grassroots advocacy can impact the policymaking process in Indiana, offering ideas and inspiration for DSPs to own their message to policymakers, the media and the public. DSPs ended the day by taking action; writing letters of thanks to Governor Pence for his support of DSP Recognition Week.