Governor Hochul Announces $5 Million Partnership to Expand Direct Support Professional Credentialing

February 24, 2023

From the office of Governor Hochul

State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities and the State University of New York to Offer Microcredentials for Direct Support Professionals 

Partnership Builds on Efforts to Expand Existing Direct Support Workforce and Support New Yorkers with Developmental Disabilities 

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the New York State Office for People With Developmental Disabilities has entered into a $5 million agreement with the State University of New York to expand a program that will enable direct support professionals to secure national certification and college credit toward a certificate, associate or bachelor's degree. Known commonly as a microcredential, this program is designed to provide in-demand and workforce-ready skills and experience to support those already working in the profession and others new to the developmental disabilities field.

"New Yorkers with developmental disabilities deserve to have the right people with the right training supporting them so they can thrive in their day-to-day lives," Governor Hochul said. "This partnership will further strengthen and professionalize New York's direct support workforce and is yet another example of the actions we are taking to offer career advancement and growth opportunities in this crucial field."

Supported through $5 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act, the microcredential program is aimed at helping individuals already working in the profession and those new to the developmental disabilities field in earning college credits that meet requirements for certification from the National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals (NADSP). Successful completion of the program will result in a SUNY microcredential, a national certification, and college credit toward a certificate, associate, or bachelor's degree.

The program will provide a $750 stipend to eligible students who successfully complete a microcredential and earn a certification. In addition, grant funding will cover tuition, books, course materials, NADSP credentialing for students, and educational supports. The partnership significantly expands the microcredential program at SUNY, which was first established at Corning Community College. With the federal funding, SUNY anticipates supporting up to 400 students.

The partnership is aimed at encouraging students to pursue professions that provide direct support for people with developmental disabilities and to further professionalize the developmental disabilities workforce. The microcredential program will prepare participants to deliver high-quality supports to people with developmental disabilities, provide opportunities to the existing workforce, and create a pipeline of qualified candidates who are trained and certified in the field.

Enrolled students not yet working in the developmental disabilities field will be offered work-based learning opportunities with OPWDD or OPWDD-certified service providers. In addition, the Regional Centers for Workforce Transformation - the state's leading resource and support system for OPWDD-provider agencies and support professionals - will offer training, coaching and mentoring supports to providers participating in the program.

Office for People With Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Kerri E. Neifeld said, "This investment helps to address our current staffing crisis and in particular the shrinking field of available direct support staff that is adversely affecting people with developmental disabilities and their ability to live fulfilling lives. By providing needed training, we'll be better able to retain staff and draw from a steady stream of new, highly qualified candidates who are ready to work in direct support and provide the expert services people with developmental disabilities need and depend on." 

SUNY Chancellor John B. King, Jr. said, "SUNY is proud to partner with OPWDD and National Alliance for Direct Support Professionals to support New York State Direct Support Professionals. Through our suite of microcredentials, adult learners have access to high-quality education and training, coupled with access to tutoring and other resources to succeed. We recognize the invaluable work our direct support providers do every day, and we are pleased to create new pathways to enter the field, advance careers, and help realize academic goals."

Participating SUNY campuses include SUNY Corning, Dutchess Community College, SUNY Empire State College, Finger Lakes Community College, Jefferson Community College, Mohawk Valley Community College, SUNY Morrisville, Niagara County Community College, Onondaga Community College, SUNY Schenectady and Tompkins Cortland Community College. For more information, please visit SUNY's microcredentials website or contact OPWDD.

The microcredential program builds on Governor Hochul's efforts to build the direct service professional workforce and address worker shortages. Last fall, OPWDD entered a three-year, $10 million partnership with the National Alliance to offer three levels of direct support professionals credentialing and frontline supervisor certification through its E-Badge Academy.

Representative Yvette Clarke said, "It's no secret that direct support professionals are the critical lifeline within our communities for patients requiring specialized and informed care. I am proud to witness today's new chapter in the long history of partnership between SUNY Schools and Albany that will ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of their disabilities, have the care they need and deserve." 

State Senator and Chair of the Senate Disabilities Committee John Mannion said, "Investing in the Direct Support Professional workforce is essential to ensure individuals with developmental disabilities receive the care they need to live with dignity and respect. The $5 million agreement between the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities and SUNY to expand the microcredential program will provide in-demand skills and experience to support those working in the field and create a pipeline of qualified candidates. This investment helps address the staffing crisis and aims to professionalize the developmental disabilities workforce. It's an invaluable opportunity for staff and those interested in joining this critical profession."

Assemblymember and Chair of the Assembly Committee on People with Disabilities Rebecca Seawright said, "I commend Governor Hochul and Commissioner Neifeld for this $5 Million partnership to invest in our Direct Support Professionals workforce.  This workforce is a lifeline to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.  A SUNY partnership will establish a pipeline of new talent and inspire a new generation of dedicated professionals." 

Upstate Cerebral Palsy Executive Director Geno DeCondo said, "We are very interested in working with SUNY, our local partner, Mohawk Valley Community College, and OPWDD on this initiative. Microcredentials allow students to approach their education in smaller pieces that build toward a degree. It's a program that builds learner confidence and needed skills. To be able to earn their national accreditation and college credits toward a degree is a terrific opportunity for our dedicated staff and those interested in joining this critically important profession." 

SUNY Corning Community College President Dr. Bill Mullaney said, "National certification formally recognizes the unique responsibilities of the Direct Support Professional profession and creates important career pathways that will support retention and advancement. SUNY Corning is incorporating these microcredentials into its Human Services degree program and our dedicated faculty, with support from Associate Professor and Department Chair Eric A. Smith and Associate Dean of Instruction Deborah A. Beall, have already piloted implementation for high school students and incumbent workers." 

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the country’s oldest school of maritime, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2023, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit suny.edu.


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