More than technology: The best labor strategies for independent living


It’s no secret that our nation is facing a direct support workforce crisis. In 2017, the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities (PCPID) issued a report to the President outlining this important issue. The intended outcome of this Report was to ensure the Administration is fully aware of and understand the effects of the direct support workforce crisis.  Furthermore, to outline the opportunities to address it in ways that strengthen the ability of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) to both participate in and contribute to their communities.  

Laser-focused on workforce solutions
GoodLife is laser-focused on labor solutions to help people live as independently as possible. So is Dee Nighswonger, director of Sedgwick County Developmental Disability Organization (SCDDO).

“Dee is a forward-thinker with the vision to integrate technology within service providers she serves in order to leverage the coming labor crisis,” says Megan Todd, Director of Strategic Planning and Development at GoodLife.

SCDDO has been a longtime partner of GoodLife. When individuals seek services through Kansas medicaid programming they utilize the resources of the CDDO to find resources. For many years, GoodLife has been a shared living provider in Sedgwick County, and Dee’s innovative thinking matches well with ours. 

“We are able to serve more people and serve people better if we have a capable and competent workforce,” shares Dee. “We learned from our annual capacity assessments that our community service provider network struggles with recruiting and retaining qualified Direct Support Professional (DSP) staff.  We realized this isn’t just a Sedgwick County issue, but a statewide and nationwide crisis.”

Finding promise amidst the problem
It’s then that Dee and her team focused on the idea of leveraging SCDDO’s resources around the DSP crisis within their community. The report to the President identified the promising practice of using and enabling technology to support those in long-term support service roles. 

“The idea I latched onto was that technology could provide support and empower individuals with I/DD to be as independent as possible without the direct intervention from a DSP or hands-on support,” says Dee. “I knew then we needed to look for technology solutions that could fill in that gap for the workforce.” 

Dee and her team launched a request for proposal to find a partner to fill that gap, and they chose GoodLife. Over the next year, GoodLife will work with the CDDO and with providers in their network that are interested in implementing strategies to address the workforce crisis and help people with I/DD live as independently as possible.  

More than a technology partner
As a provider ourselves, and an innovator in non-traditional service models and approaches, GoodLife is perfectly poised to help other provider agencies reimagine their approach to labor and direct support staffing models. They too can save money across the agency, pay staff better, have lower turnover, provide higher quality care and really cultivate a culture of human touch. 

What we are working on with Sedgwick County is so much more than a technology solution. The real problem they face is deploying labor, yet simply fitting off-the-shelf devices inside a home creates a disconnect between the technology and the person served. We don’t want to lose the human connection, which is why we focus on building a technology solution from the ground up that includes human care across an agency-wide infrastructure within our service model.  

GoodLife’s solution to the labor crisis is getting the right people in the right place at the right time to save money. The joy for us is that with technology we can detect needs and deploy help so staff can be utilized when and where required. This is much more cost-effective than paying someone to wait around for a need to arise. 

Sedgwick County asked for solutions, and the real benefit will be the combination of our labor strategies and technology. We are already seeing providers engaged in the process, utilizing our consultations to pivot and make changes at the institutional level that will benefit their direct support staff. 

Purposeful recruiting
There are many things we admire about Dee–one is that she’s never done. In tandem with the workforce project, Dee launched a media campaign seeking to hire professionals who will assist people with I/DD, including videos capturing the work of direct support professionals. Through several research projects, Dee’s team discovered that DSP’s have high levels of compassion satisfaction in the workplace. As a result, the SCDDO tailored their recruiting campaign around the idea of loving the work you do and feeling like you are adding value to your world and community. For more information about these job opportunities, please visit

Learn how you can partner with GoodLife to unlock and implement labor solutions within your agency.

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