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The Ohio Department of Aging

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CONNECT TO | Programs & Benefits
January 2011

Recommendations to build Ohio's direct service workforce
Developing educational and training opportunities across settings

Ohio is facing a growing challenge: How best to provide needed long-term services and supports to a growing population of Ohioans. The number of Ohioans of all ages who will need long-term services and supports will increase by 14 percent between now and 2020 - an increase of 43,600 consumers, according to a report from the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University.

Direct service workforce

The Unified Long-Term Care System (ULTCS) Workgroup submitted 26 recommendations to state officials on how Ohio's long-term services and supports system can best meet the needs of its growing population of elders and adults living with disabilities. The Workforce Subcommittee generated several recommendations to address the increased demand for a highly skilled direct service workforce.

The direct services occupations are among the fastest growing jobs in Ohio and currently require little or no classroom training. Direct service workers form the foundation of Ohio's long-term services and supports system. They are the primary providers of paid hands-on assistance with activities of daily living, supervision and emotional support. There are multiple occupational titles, including nurse aides, home health aides, direct support professionals and others, across sectors such as developmental disabilities, aging, physical disabilities and behavioral health. Duties and training vary by setting.

The subcommittee recommended a two-pronged approach to address direct service workforce issues. One focuses on the quality of care and life for individuals of all ages with disabilities, and the other focuses on the economic necessity for the workers and our state.

Policymakers are paying close attention to the training of direct service workers, given the anticipated increase in demand for services and the complex needs of consumers as Ohioans live longer with multiple chronic diseases and recurring conditions. Because of this increasingly diverse and complex work, one of the subcommittee's recommendations focused on creating a flexible education and training system for the workforce.

"Our team realizes the need to address not only the current workforce, but also future workers," said Tiffany Dixon, workforce policy and program administrator at the Ohio Department of Aging, and co-chair of the Workforce Subcommittee. "Technological advancements, like telehealth, are already impacting the nature of direct services jobs."

The subcommittee took a modular approach to the education of workers by identifying core skills across workforce subgroups and acknowledging their differences through specialization. The group proposed identifying courses within Ohio's university system that match these core and specialized skills and creating an infrastructure where workers can easily find courses related to their jobs. Many of these courses will be for credit, and workers will be able to apply their direct service coursework to health and human service degree programs, helping them move into other occupations.

The full text of the report is available on the Ohio Department of Aging website.

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