History and Background
In the late 1980’s, human service agencies met regularly to discuss strategies for improving staff recruitment and retention, specifically in direct support. Agencies were faced with high turnover rates, low retention, and fierce competition for a shrinking pool of potential employees. There was deep concern over the ability of agencies to deliver quality services with an unreliable and ever-changing direct care workforce. At the same time, state licensing agencies were increasing their demands for greater accountability and quality assurance
In 1989, several agencies held a press conference at the Anderson School, now Anderson Center for Autism, to publicly declare their desperate need for a reliable, educated, and well-compensated direct support workforce. Led by MHC founder, Frank Mulhern, this pioneer group outlined a formula for improving and strengthening the workforce. This formula established a four-prong strategy (education, agency development, informing government and the public, and self-advocacy) that still guides the MHC today. The concept of a coalition of agencies in shared collaboration with local colleges was proposed and adopted. This new coalition would take on the shared responsibility of supporting workforce development through the establishment of college programs, support of worker education and public declaration of the connection between a reliable workforce and quality care for consumers. This conference essentially launched the MHC, with a founding board consisting of Margaret Calista (Marist College), Regis Obijiski (New Horizons), Frank Dwyer (Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie), Carl Denti (Dutchess Community College), Hal Jacobs (SUNY New Paltz), and Carolyn Harris (Office of Workforce Planning, OMR/DD). Ten years later, the MHC is renowned locally and nationally for its many accomplishments and enduring support of worker education. Comprised of 30 human service agencies, the MHC is still growing and serves as a model for other regional initiatives to develop their direct support workforce. In present day the conditions for direct support professionals are slowly improving with the help of organization like the MHC, Direct Support Professional Alliance of New York State (DSPANYS) and others. Few would argue that recruiting and retaining a competent workforce is the number one crisis facing human service agencies. More than ever, the need for collaboration among agencies, public entities, colleges, and communities is evident.
The history of the MHC is filled with exciting events and milestones, but the mission is not yet complete. The MHC is determined to strategically shape the future of human services and quality care through the professionalization of the Direct Support Professional workforce.