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What is a Direct Support Professional?

A Direct Support Professional (DSP) is trained to assist adults with developmental or intellectual disabilities by helping them with everyday tasks. This includes assisting with personal hygiene, meal preparation, housekeeping, ambulation, safety, and healthcare-related tasks. A DSP also helps maintain a safe living environment, provides transportation to appointments and social activities, and maintains daily behavior, medical needs, and activities.

Where does a DSP work?

In Maine, the families of people in need of direct support services apply through the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to receive what is known as a Section 21 or 29 Waiver. This program allows them to have services paid for through a Medicare program.

The DHHS then provides the name of direct support service agencies that have been licensed and certified by the State to provide direct care services through a residential home or in the client’s home.  A direct care professional usually works for one of these agencies.

Is a career as a DSP right for you?

“The simple act of caring is heroic” -- Edward Albert

Providing direct care services can be a rewarding career path.  Your actions help make the lives of people with autism, brain injuries, or intellectual disabilities more fulfilling, independent, and happier.

At the same time, working in this field can be challenging and stressful.  Most successful people are compassionate and show attention to detail and patience. Those who are most successful have received proper training and certification. 

Wages for direct support professionals can range depending on your education, experience, and certification levels.


What are the requirements to be a DSP?

In Maine, a direct support professional must usually have a high school diploma and undergo a background check.  Individuals convicted of serious crimes cannot work as a DSP.  In addition to these basic requirements, some or all of the following certifications may be required.

Required Certification

Anyone working as a DSP must complete a Maine Department of Health and Human Services approved direct support professional training program and earn a Maine College of Direct Support Certificate, or ME CDS.  To learn more about this entry-level requirement and to sign up for our classes to complete this certification, please visit our ME CDS page

Certification to Pass Medications

Direct Support Professionals can also be certified to pass medication to their clients by completing a Certified Medical Residential Aide certificate.  Having this certification can help you advance in your career and is required by the State of Maine if you pass medication to a client.

Other Certifications

Many agencies require that their workers be certified in CPR and First Aid.  You may also be required to take classes and become certified in Non-violent crises prevention

Are you new to Maine and the United States? Click here for more information.

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