Minnesota Utilizes College of Direct Support for Statewide DSP Training


Last year, the State of Minnesota entered a contract with DirectCourse to make the College of Direct Support curriculum available to all county, tribal and Department of Human Services staff for training purposes. In doing so, the State has also made this valuable training tool available to providers as well—organizations who serve less than ten people are able to use CDS absolutely free; providers with more than ten clients may access the curriculum at a greatly reduced cost.

In addition, families and people with disabilities who direct their own supports, Department of Human Services staff, county staff, county boards, advisory groups to counties, and tribal authorities can access CDS for free as well.

Nancy McCulloh, MS is the Lead Learning Administrator with DirectCourse Minnesota. She has been at the forefront of the effort to encourage the State to purchase the CDS contract, and make it available to nearly everyone with an interest in direct support training.

“[Purchasing this contract] creates an opportunity to use this training resource not only to meet some regulations for training staff,” McCulloh explains, “but also to create a profession around the workforce, building careers and a culture of professionalism, which is part of what the DHS wants to support.”

However, having the State of Minnesota offer CDS is just the first of many steps. “Once the contract was signed,” McCulloh says, “I began working closely with the DHS to do some marketing and outreach.”

McCulloh already speaks with numerous families, individuals, and representatives from various agencies in Minnesota about CDS. “We visit with them about their needs, ask if they want to able to choose and assign training to their learners, or have us manage this for them,” she notes. “We try to look at their situations, customizing the support and training in order to meet their needs.”

The State of Minnesota has about 6,000 licensed providers—which doesn’t include families or people who self-direct. Approximately 3,700 of these are developmental disability providers—and about 60% of those support less than 10 people, meaning a huge number who could take advantage of the free training. As of December 2014, there were just over 13,000 learners taking advantage of the State’s CDS option.

This is encouraging news. “The real goal of DirectCourse is to increase the skills of the direct support workforce,” McCulloh observes. “We know that when direct support professionals (DSPs) are trained, they become more confident and have the skills to support people in achieving their life goals and dreams.”

Trained and confident staff is also a benefit for organizations and the people they support. Recently in Minnesota, the case of Jensen vs. Minnesota Department of Human Services resulted in a settlement mandating training for DHS staff, which includes positive behavioral support and requiring regular reporting over the next two years.

In this case, a young man with autism named Bradley Jensen had been restrained over 250 times by an organization in Minnesota, traumatizing him. The organization was closed, but according to his mother, Lori Jensen, Bradley remains traumatized and has significant trust issues.

Unfortunately, there are too many instances of DSPs taking advantage of, or abusing, the people they support. Low pay and high turnover (often thanks to the meager income and long hours) mean that quality care often takes a backseat to simply finding anyone to do the work, whether they’re capable or not.

McCulloh notes that the quality of the training is paramount. Regarding the Jensen case, she observed that the staff might have been trained, but trained poorly. “Maybe the training didn’t support best practices, and person-centeredness, and positive supports. Maybe it was about control and compliance with requests.”


“I want to believe that people don’t do bad things to others intentionally. It happens out of ignorance, misinformation, and the DirectCourse training really helps to inform workers in the field that it’s not okay to put someone in a basket-hold, it’s not okay to put someone in seclusion. It’s about getting to know the person, it’s about understanding them, their choices, their dreams, and helping them attain those choices and dreams that’s beneficial and safe.”

Statewide, uniform training is a good step in the right direction, and Minnesota’s commitment to DSPs is especially noteworthy. “If I look at the crystal ball in the future,” McCulloh says, “I see being a DSP as a career, a profession. There’s a long-term effect that a direct support professional can have on someone’s life.”

If you’re in Minnesota and would like more information about how  you can integrate DirectCourse into your organization, please contact:

Olivia Sellars, Customer Account Specialist
Office:  860-432-1485  | Email: o.sellars@elsevier.com


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