The Forgotten Essential Worker: Recognizing Direct Support Professionals on Our Frontlines

On left, Direct Support Professional (DSP) Ciasia Martin assists Cheryl Robinson, an individual served by Allies, Inc., to complete a word search. DSPs provide assistance with self-care, daily living skills such as preparing meals or cleaning, and monitor the health and safety of those they serve daily. They may also accompany an individual to work or recreational activities.

Hamilton, New Jersey, May 18, 2020 – Allies, Inc. proudly joined the nation on May 6, to celebrate nurses for the kickoff of National Nurses Week. As an agency that provides housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs throughout New Jersey, nurses are a vital part of the agency’s commitment to quality care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). As we reflect on the dedication of our nursing team, and nurses around the world, we’d like to share an important reminder of another essential worker that is sometimes “forgotten” in national observances – the direct support professional.

Direct support professionals (DSPs) work directly with people with physical disabilities and/or intellectual disabilities with the goal of helping the individual to become integrated into his or her community and lead a self-directed life. The types of support a DSP offers is customized and depends on the person they are serving. They may provide assistance with self-care skills such as dressing and brushing teeth; daily living skills such as preparing meals or cleaning; or they may transport and accompany an individual to work or join them as they partake in recreational activities.  

In addition to providing support with daily tasks, a DSP also has the huge responsibility of ensuring the health and safety of those they care for throughout the entire day – from the moment they wake up, to the time they go to sleep. This includes administering medication, monitoring their health conditions, observing their interactions with others, providing guidance as needed, and overseeing their general well-being and happiness.

Elise Tretola, CEO and Founder of Allies, Inc. remarks, “We are deeply grateful to our direct support professionals. They give people with special needs the opportunity to live with greater dignity and independence; and lead more fulfilling and enriching lives. They possess tremendous energy, an unwavering commitment to excellence, and compassionate hearts that truly care about those they serve. Moreover, I’m inspired by the amazing courage and self-sacrifice they’ve shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Allies, Inc. is also very thankful for the support that they’ve received from the public, elected officials and corporations during this difficult time. The pandemic caused an immediate and increased need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other medical supplies that are not covered by state funding.

Don Tretola, Chief Public Affairs & Program Development Officer at Allies Inc., stated, “We appreciate that Governor Phil Murphy and Senator Stephen M. Sweeney have highlighted the hard work of DSPs as essential workers. Offices of Emergency Management in 21 counties in New Jersey stepped up to provide PPE that we desperately needed. We were also humbled by monetary donations for PPE received from the public, the Princeton Area Community Foundation, and companies such as Primepoint HRMS & Payroll. Keeping staff and those we serve safe and healthy is our top priority, and this support has allowed us to continue honoring that commitment.”

To explore opportunities to make a positive difference as a direct support professional visit

Allies, Inc. is a nonprofit agency dedicated to providing housing, healthcare, meaningful employment and recreational activities to people with special needs in the communities of their choice. To learn more, visit

“A world where limitation does not distinguish nor define.”

Contact: Nicole Zamerovsky, Director of Communications, Allies, Inc.
Cell: 609-508-6181