I want to share the story of essential healthcare workers who are directly supporting citizens both young and old with intellectual and developmental disabilities during this crisis. They are a frontline, essential workforce that should no longer be invisible and cannot be forgotten.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work 24/7, often in people’s homes or in various types of facilities where based on their job duties, they are unable to practice appropriate social distancing, even with the use of PPE. They are supporting people who need assistance with basic hygiene, health and nutrition, connecting with loved ones, building and maintaining life skills, accessing employment and so much more. DSPs arrive for each shift willing to put themselves, and their own families, at-risk doing a job they are committed to as they see those they support more like family than anything else.

As valued, necessary members of the community, Medicaid-funded disability service providers like Hills & Dales are reliant on government funding streams to provide robust wages for those who support some of the most vulnerable members in our communities. We and other providers around the country are working to advocate and inform our legislators to assure we and the DSPs we employ are a part of the incentives or appropriations that are being considered in the federal CARES Act.

Hills & Dales will continue to remain committed to building meaningful lives for individuals with disabilities from 26 counties throughout Iowa.

Marilyn Althoff is the CEO of Hills & Dales.