MSS caregiver named ANCOR 'DSP of the Year' for Minnesota

ANCOR DSP of the Year for Minnesota Lisa Riley with MSS and Dan Stallsworth, who has made great strides using assistive technology.

With a love for direct care and assistive technology to help people communicate, Service Coordinator Lisa Riley with MSS is the 2019 Direct Support Professional (DSP) of the Year for Minnesota.

The award, from the American Network of Community Options and Resources (ANCOR), recognizes outstanding professionals who provide long-term supports and services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“I often describe DSPs as ‘community navigators.’ Far more than just caregivers, DSPs do it all. From navigating civic life to supporting individuals to create a sense of community around them, DSPs make magic in their communities every single day,” said ANCOR’s Chief Executive Officer Barbara Merrill.

A mom and special ed para

Riley’s magic comes from a background as homemaker and Shakopee schools special ed paraprofessional. She’s been with MSS for nearly five years. The top DSP was named MSS “Employee of the Year” in 2018.

“We need tools to give everybody the opportunity to communicate what they want first,” said Riley. “I really like inspiring my coworkers, too, when it comes to thinking about caring for the individual and what they may be needing.”

There are 73 participants at the MSS site in Eagan. Riley covers different program activities, does direct care and some office work.

Inspiration found in serving others

She finds joy and inspiration in participant Dan Stallsworth, who uses assistive technology to share his needs and preferences. His life has improved substantially since using the equipment. “He’s a 68-year old guy and he had to wait so long,” said Riley.

The DSP of the Year began attending an assistive technology committee earlier at MSS, and has since become coordinator of assistive technology for the sizable nonprofit. She also helps new employees get up to speed on current equipment at all of the company’s sites.

Better communication gives more opportunities for people who can’t communicate verbally, she said. Riley and other staff want to know where a person wants to go to work, when they would like to have lunch, what hurts,what kind of outings are their favorite and more.

“Not only do I want people to be able to communicate, but I want staff to attend to it, to prioritize that,” she said.

“MSS is overwhelmingly proud of Lisa for her award of recognition, but more importantly for her dedication and commitment to true community inclusion for the individuals we support,” said MSS President and CEO Julie Johnson.

Watch Dan and Lisa in this ARRM video