I’m writing in response toMs. Young’s letter to the editor published in September’s Access Press titled “Need for PCA Oversight.”
I’ve had many experiences similar to Ms. Young (e.g. disrespect, abuse, theft, fear of not finding DSP/PCA replacements,fear of retaliation) and have tried many of the same “solutions” (e.g. informing the agency, requesting Department of Health or Department of Human Services investigations, initiating law enforcement interventions). I suspect many of us have experienced at least a few undesirable DSPs/PCAs, and those experiences have been hurtful and impactful. What can we do if we encounter such situations? Document why we feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or disrespected, discuss the situation and appropriate behavior with that particular DSPs/PCA (if you feel comfortable), and let that particular DSPs/PCA go if the problem continues. Remember, it is your life and you are allowed to choose. You do not need to provide a two-week notice, especially if you feel threatened, unsafe, disrespected, or abused either physically, sexually, verbally, culturally or spiritually.
Acknowledging there are always “a few bad pennies in the bunch.” I believe there are also many tremendously compassionate and genuine DSPs/PCAs out there. Which brings me to your question: What are the best places to find DSPs/PCAs who share common goals? That is a good question, which I don’t have a fantastic answer for… at least yet.
For now, there are usually bulletin boards in neighborhood coffee shops and grocery stores. There’s Craigslist. Many local colleges accept job postings for students. I’ve been recruiting DSPs/PCAs from a college near me for several years and it has worked very well for me—that just my experience and everyone has different preferences.
I’m currently working on a program to offer quick, safe, and individualized matching of direct support consumers and high-quality in-home professionals. Hopefully, it will be available to the public in a year. At some point down the road, we may explore adding a rating system for clients and DSPs/PCAs—if an individual’s rating gets too low or they are accused of abuse or fraud, we would remove them from our listings until they are cleared of those charges. Perhaps we could put together a mediation program to help resolve problems between clients and DSPs/PCAs? If you’re interested in providing input on that project, feel free to contact me.
I think the answer to the challenges we’re experiencing today lie in helping each other more easily find compatible and trustworthy DSPs/PCAs. I don’t think the answer lies in more DSP/PCA oversight. Unfortunately, we’ve tried using DSP/PCA oversight in the past, and while it’s helped to eliminate some of the “bad seeds”, it seems that eventually people find the loopholes. Plus, as you pointed out, it’s difficult to gather enough proof that a crime occurred. Therefore, I think we have as much oversight as we can have while being effective. I believe if we add additional oversight, we’ll begin to experience more challenges— the many costs to us and our freedom will outweigh the benefits of netting a few more bad apples.
As far as encouraging and empowering you to advocate for yourself and others, I would say get involved to help develop solutions. Get involved with the Ombudsman’s Office. Get involved with the Department of Human Services. Get involved with the project we’re working on. I believe there’s power in numbers.
Lance Hegland, Minneapolis,
(612-378-7028 or firstname.lastname@example.org)