Over the last decade, many people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) in Georgia have moved away from living in state-run institutions and have increasingly begun living in their own homes, family homes or in small group settings. In fact, 48% of people ​with IDD in Georgia live in the home of a family member. ​People living with IDD are active members of our communities throughout Georgia. 

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) ​have played a meaningful role in this shift by assisting individuals with their activities of daily living so they can actively engage in employment and other meaningful daytime activities. DSPs in Georgia have been pivotal in this enriching and enhanced quality of life for those with IDD​.

Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) work directly with people with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities with the goal of assisting the individual to become fully included in his/her community and to achieve and maintain optimal independence. Professions that fall under the DSP umbrella include nursing assistants, personal care aides and home health aides. 

Despite the life-changing work and impact DSPs provide to the wonderful people they serve, the pay rate for DSPs hasn’t increased with demand, inflation or the move away from institutionalizing individuals. These caregivers are integral in supporting individuals with disabilities to live successfully in their communities, avoid more costly institutional care and enable Georgia to comply with the integration mandate of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They are providing a highly valuable service that used to be fulfilled by government institutions, yet they still aren’t making a living wage.

In Georgia, this pay discrepancy causes many wonderful DSPs to leave for other opportunities with higher pay so they can support their own families.









A 2015 forecast projected that the demand for DSPs would grow by 62% by 2022.

Considering individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities require some amount of support for a lifetime and are living longer, fuller lives—the demand for DSPs will only continue to increase as will the complexity of their job.

Although DSPs enjoy the work they do because they feel like they make a difference in the lives of people they support, they often have to work more than one job to make ends meet. This not only reduces job satisfaction and impacts the lives of caregivers and their families, but little to no rest in between shifts can severely affect the quality of their job performance and therefore risking the health and safety of the individual supported.

The critical shortage of DSPs is threatening the ability of nonprofit community providers to meet the needs of thousands of Georgia residents that require caregiving services.

People with disabilities deserve the opportunity to lead a full and meaningful life, but they must have support for everything from eating, bathing and administering medication to job and life-skills training. Any family in Georgia may feel the impact of this DSP labor emergency. All children are one serious illness or accident away from becoming a child with a disability requiring the support of a DSP.

They Deserve More works to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout the state get the services they fighting for better wages for DSPs who care for them.

For every dollar DSPs are paid, 33 cents come from the State of Georgia and 66 cents come from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Anticipated minimum wage increases, which are important and necessary, will make the problem even more challenging – when you can make $15 an hour at Amazon, it’s sadly an easy choice. Caring, compassionate people who want to do this important work simply cannot afford to.


Children and adults with disabilities and their families now face constant change and uncertainty. And worse – it can be dangerous, even life-threatening, when there isn’t enough staff. More and more providers are forced to shut down programs and turn people away who need and deserve support.

The absence of supportive services for these individuals impede on working parents’ ability to maintain employment and financially support their families. Losing supportive services, such as DSPs, would result in more families becoming reliant on social service resources.


DSP wages are low across the US, but Georgia ranks number 40 out of 50 states nationwide for DSP salaries.

We call on state leaders to make the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities a top priority. People with disabilities deserve more – they need caregivers who earn at least a living wage.



They Deserve More

3300 Northeast Expy NE, Bldg. 9
Atlanta, GA 30341